Biotechnology in agriculture:
Production of enough food to meet the demands of an ever-increasing population in the world is a major task and a challenge to agricultural scientists. The conventional agricultural methods can no longer cope with the situation. In recent years, biotechnology has emerged as an important discipline which may offer solutions to many problems presently being faced by agriculture. Before we proceed any further, let us first understand what we mean by biotechnology. It deals with the use of biological systems or their products in large-scale industrial processes. Today, agricultural biot&hnology has progressed to a stage that plants with several improved characters can be produced. The examples of these improved characters are high yields, resistance to diseases, improved nutritional quality, and adaptation to adverse environmental conditions. An important aspect in the production of improved piants, is the breeding process. This enables one to combine, one or more, favourable characters of the parents to be passed on to their progeny. For this purpose, scientists use several methods for raising the plants. The most common methods are:
(i) the traditional method, in which seeds and root stocks have been used as basic materials for raising plants,
(ii) the other method that makes use of the important quality of plant cells. bat is, any plant cell can give rise to a complete plant. Based on this fact, any cell or a group of cells, or part of a plant such as a piece of stem, leaf etc. can be grown on a nutrient medium under suitably controlled bonditions in the laboratory. This method is commonly known as tissue culture. It, however, enables us to get true breeding types without going through the stages of flowering, production of seeds and their germination.
This technique has a great potential in our crop improvement programmes, and it has already been used in the improvement of varieties of wheat, rice, com and several other plants. This method is useful not only for the improvement of present-day crops, but also for the creation of novel plants and new crops,
which are of short duration, high-yielding-type, and resistant to diseases and other adverse environmental conditions. One of the problems faced by the agricultural scientists engaged in crop improvement is that the embryos of many new crops developed abort, i.e., they do not survive in nature. Therefore, one is not able to obtain their adult plants. This difficulty, however, has been overcome by the application of tissue culture, whereby, these embryos are grown on a nutrient medium, under controlled conditions in the laborato,g and later planted in the field.