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TA: Zara Tabi (ztabi@ucsd.edu) BICD 120: Dr.

Crawford
AIM: ztabi06 OH: By email Appt. Week 9
Plants, Population, and the Environment!
-The human population is growing at an extremely fast rate!
• There are many ways we can go from here
- Leveling off of the population
- Continue to grow larger
- Population Crash
• BUT: How will we feed them all?
- Why can’t we simply increase land used for agriculture?
 Current agricultural practices already consuming 70% of
earth’s H2O and 40% land
• Cannot afford to use more—want to increase yields
without increasing land use

The Green Revolution (1940’s) and Industrial Agriculture


- In response to famines in Asia
- Key Person: Norman Borlaug  Won Nobel peace prize because of his
achievements
- Breeders developed super cultivars through traditional-style breeding
• Characteristics of super cultivars:
1) Disease Resistance
2) Dwarf plants (GA mutants)  More sturdy, easy to harvest by
machine
3) Polyploidy  Larger, More vigor, higher yield
4) Hybrid Vigor  Crossing two different varieties of the same plant
will produce more sturdy plants with better yield (in F1
Generation)

- Inputs of Industrial agriculture


• Irrigation
• Use of fertilizers
• Mechanization

- Although yields have increased tremendously such methods of agriculture has its
flaws:
1) Loss of Biodiversity  only plant monocultures of supervarieties
- What 6 crops provide 80% of our calorie intake?
2) High energy input  Increased 4x since 1945
- Agriculture a major CO2 contributor and major oil consumer (150
gal/acre)
- Modern agricultural production system not as efficient as other
methods
• (cal out/cal in) ratio very low  using more energy than we are
getting out of it
-ex. Corn Farming (0.1-2)
• Most productive system: manual labor farming and irrigation
(50)
3) High use of inorganic fertilizers (N, P, K)
- Requires high amounts of energy to mine and produce
- Pollutes underground water systems  Leeches out of soil
- Creates large algal blooms in the oceans which leads to dead zones
• Regions of low O2
4) Increased Use of Pesticides  toxic for people as well as the environment

-From these flaws we realize that industrial agriculture is NOT sustainable


• What solutions do we have?
Genetic Engineering Standpoint
- Aims for increased yield and decreased pesticide and fertilizer use through
genetic engineering of plants
- Herbicide resistance  produce plants that will not die when exposed to
herbicides  kill weeds only!
• Avoid soil erosion
- Insect Resistance  Produce plants that have built in insect toxin  less pesticide
use
• Bt-toxin (aka Cry9, starlink)  transform plants to produce this toxin
- When moths and their caterpillars eat the plant, they will shortly die
after

- What do we need to include with the coding region and selectable marker to
introduce a foreign gene into a plant?
• Promoter region (ex. 35S promoter— Strong, universal plant promoter)
• Terminal region
WHY?  If we want to express the gene in a specific part of the plant
(leaves, flowers, etc)

Sustainable and Organic Practices


Aims to use practices that respect the local ecosystem, which includes:
- Growing food more locally
- Natural composting instead of fertilizer
- Improving soil health
- Increase biodiversity
- “Smart” Farming
• Joel Salatin’s farm in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dillema