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Crops

Improving quality and yield of grain

Grain crops are some of Australia’s most important and valued crops. This makes the need to continually improve the yield and quality all the more necessary. Improvements could be across several areas.

First is the scaling challenge of helping grain crops to survive amidst plant diseases and climate change. In this respect, robust research would help develop new grain varieties that would be more disease resistant, acid soil tolerant, and water use efficient. All of this would help increase the resilience of grain crops to extreme conditions, thereby improving yield.

Furthermore, grains could be made healthier for consumers through the development of grains with higher fibre and several other health benefits. This development would ultimately have a greater impact not just for consumers, but also for farmers as well as Australia as a whole.

Protecting crops from pests and diseases

Crops contribute so much to Australia’s exports and are yet, very vulnerable to the challenges of crop pests and diseases. These challenges often result in a substantial loss of value if left unmanaged but require millions of dollars every year to control.

This problem is, however, not recent. Pests and diseases have always plagued from the early practice of agriculture with humans battling to come up with effective ways of controlling their damage. In modern times, the most widespread method of controlling pests are biological and chemical ones.

Biological control involves the use of natural predators and parasites to suppress pests. These natural enemies are usually imported into the crop site and released in small numbers. This method has proven to be effective in the long term. Similarly, micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi have proven helpful in improving plant health through the production of antibiotics or elimination of harmful organisms.

Chemical control on the other hand is simply the use of toxic chemical substances to control pests and diseases.

Even these widely adopted approaches have required significant investment. Thankfully, with adequate research, more cost-effective methods with minimal risks are being developed, such as use of genetically modified crop variants to constantly stay ahead of ever evolving pests and diseases.

Increasing productivity in oil crops

Oil crops are, no doubt, of great value to Australia and the world as a whole with their several nutritional and industrial uses. These crops contribute a lot nutritionally to the human diet as they contain high quality protein and energy. They are also used as industrial raw materials and could, sometimes, substitute for petrochemicals.

Given their evident importance, improving the productivity in oil crops would have a general positive impact. And this can be done through use of biotechnology to expand plant oil production capacity as well as to tailor their composition towards specific uses.

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