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Plant breeding promotes harmony between agriculture and the environment

Published April 2, 2012
Can we feed and clothe the growing world population while simultaneously preserving or improving ecosystem services and the natural environment? A recent study found that with the right partnerships, plant breeding will be essential for addressing challenges in agriculture.

Wes Barber, a U of I plant breeding graduate student, said the study aimed to highlight the advances and possibilities in various aspects of plant breeding. He said by developing crop varieties that not only meet end-use targets but that also use resources more efficiently, plant breeders can continue to improve the sustainability of agriculture as well as urban and forest ecosystems.

Varieties that require application of fewer off-farm inputs decrease the cost of production, lower fossil fuel energy use, and reduce contamination of water systems, which help to improve public health and stabilize rural economies.

"Plant breeders objectives aren't just focused on yield," Barber said. "Through this study we hope to show groups not traditionally associated with plant breeding, or even agriculture, that they have much to gain by interacting with and supporting plant breeding. It's a powerful tool for meeting today's environmental challenges because it can develop plants that simultaneously improve food production and the natural environment."

This study "Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment" was published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Researchers included E. Charles Brummer, Wesley Barber, Sarah Collier, Thomas Cox, Randy Johnson, Seth Murray, Richard Olsen, Richard Pratt and Ann Marie Thro.