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August 3rd, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

The last several decades have witnessed a remarkable increase in crop yields — doubling major grain crops since the 1950s. But a significant part of the world still suffers from malnutrition, and these gains in grains and other crops probably won’t be enough to feed a growing global population.

These facts have put farmers and agricultural scientists on a quest to squeeze more yield from plants (and livestock), and how to make these yield increases more sustainable. The best land is already taken and could be altered by climate changes, so new crops may have to be grown in less hospitable locations, and the soils and nutrition in existing lands need to be better preserved.

Several methods are being used to boost yields with less fertilizer or pesticides, including traditional combination techniques, marker-assisted breeding, and, of course, trans- and cis-genic modifications.

One way to get more food from a plant is through another genetic switch. It may be possible to genetically, either through hybridization, mutagenesis, or genetic engineering to alter a plant so that it transforms from an annual (one you have to replant every year) to a perennial (which you plant once and can thrive for many years). Read more