It took decades of painstaking work, but research geneticist Ram Singh managed to cross a popular soybean variety (“Dwight” Glycine max) with a related wild perennial plant that grows like a weed in Australia, producing the first fertile soybean plants that are resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode and other pathogens of soy.
While different sustainability indicators have been developed at an aggregate level, less attention has been paid to farm-level sustainability measures. A study from a University of Illinois expert in production economics and efficiency analysis has developed technical and environmental efficiency indices for agriculture that can be used to assess sustainability at the farm level.
Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in the journal Cell.
A genetic study of papaya sex chromosomes reveals that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which is of most use to growers, arose as a result of human selection, most likely by the ancient Maya some 4,000 years ago.
Subsistence farmers in Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean are learning how to construct raised planting beds and install drip irrigation systems to boost their agricultural productivity, conserve water and perhaps even halt the rapid advance of desertification in some drought-prone regions.