While the green lobby pushes for electric cars and carbon-trading schemes, a group of scientists and agriculture experts are quietly making serious progress that could reap dividends for the environment. A group of agricultural engineers, including employees of agribusiness companies like Monsanto, are experimenting with techniques to help crops thrive with minimal water. Farmers who have struggled during one of the worst droughts in recent memory will welcome the news. The Washington Post reports:
A slew of drought-tolerant hybrids are hitting the market. In 2011, DuPont’s Pioneer released eight versions of AquaMax corn, which was found to boost yields by up to 7 percent. The company is introducing 17 varieties this year.Then there’s genetic engineering. Seed companies such as Monsanto have taken crop science to a new level by manipulating a plant’s genes directly or transplanting genes from unrelated organisms. DroughtGard, for instance, contains a bacterial gene that enables it to retain water. It’s the only genetically engineered crop bred for drought tolerance that has been approved by the Agriculture Department.
Research into both genetic modification and better farming techniques is beneficial in its own right, to assist farmers in poor countries and to raise crop yields more broadly. But it will become even more important if climate change comes to have a larger impact on farming and food prices.
These scientists and agriculture experts are the real environmentalists, helping humanity adapt to our changing earth.