Space Farming is Science FICTION

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The future of agriculture? Photo: NASA It said on the screen, “Bioregenerating Soil-Based Space Agriculture.” The title of the talk was “Beyond Intensification.” The speaker, a prominent researcher and prolific author, is someone who I thought would present clear thinking on how, in addition to intensification of current agriculture, we can go about producing enough food for the earth’s growing population. I glanced around to see if anyone else was astonished. Space farming, he said, was the next step after agricultural intensification with food coming from the Moon and Mars. “Has it come to that?” I thought. I am a

Deathmatch: Conventional Breeding vs Transgenesis

Layla's mad photoshopping skills were put to the test in the making of this graphic.

“Mutation. It is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.” – Professor Xavier I love that quote from X-Men. Other than the last sentence, it’s true. Mutations happen at a fairly constant rate and can occur every time a cell divides. Although we tend to think of mutations as negative events associated with genetic diseases or cancer, some mutations are beneficial: in our species, mutations

What makes honeybee colonies Collapse?

Frank likes bees too.

Frank explores a bee hive. Credit: KJHvM. See the whole album here. Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder has always interested me, because I’m interested in insect pathology – and this is probably the most important insect-pathology related event we’ll see in our lifetimes. I’ve written about CCD here at Biofortified, first in my post Colony Collapse Disorder: an Introduction. I followed this up with Are Neonicotinoids the Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, where I talked about why the pesticide topic was a lot more complicated than neonicotinoid topic alone. I’ve not been happy with media narratives which focus exclusively on neonicotinoids,

Gene Editing and GMOs

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Gene editing has been getting a lot of attention lately, with an increasing number of articles about this method in the media. In this post, I’ll provide a very high level overview of the method (please note that many molecules and enzymes will be omitted for the sake of simplicity). Most of the information here is from a 2014 review entitled “Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering” from the journal Cell (unfortunately behind a paywall). As you can imagine, gene editing is somewhat of a holy grail. To erase undesired mutations in DNA would be a dream for

Why do we need pest management?

Damage to raspberry by D. suzukii. Arrows indicate maggots. Image from here.

Everybody needs to eat. Agriculture is the cornerstone of civilization, and by 2100 we’ll need to be a lot better at agriculture because there may be as many as 11 billion people on this planet. Unfortunately, agriculture is also extremely inefficient. For every 100 lbs of food which could potentially be harvested, only about 30 lbs is used by consumers. Some of this is waste, but a lot of this is pest damage. This is the main challenge for an agricultural scientist: Of 100 lbs of food grown around the world, 70 lbs of it is lost along the way