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Ever think that you could be no-tilling record yields in every field on your farm? Researchers at Texas A&M University say harvesting the equivalent of record yields every year from every field will not only be possible in the future, but they believe the means of doing so are already being developed.
“There are all kinds of restraints such as environmental stress, temperature extremes, droughts, insects, weeds and disease that keep a crop from reaching maximum production,” says John Mullet. “So there is a significant opportunity to increase plant yields if we can somehow identify the constraints and make crops better adapted to the environment.”
The director of the Norman Borlaug Center for Southern Crop Improvement in College Station, Texas, says identifying the constraints means developing DNA chip diagnostics that can detect problems long before they are visible to no-tillers who are scouting fields. It means understanding plant adaptation at the DNA level.
“The reason that plants are not more productive is that the environment is so complex and the number of genes required to make a plant adapted to the environment is very large,” indicates Mullet. “Until now, we haven’t had the tools to make significant improvement in the environmental stress tolerance of crops.”
Mullet and a team of scientists are building a complex genetic and physical map of the grain sorghum genome. As this project continues, the team will locate the code for a specific function or trait in individual sorghum genes.