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Darwinian AgricultureHow Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture$
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R. Ford Denison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139500

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139500.001.0001

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What Won’t Work

What Won’t Work

Tradeof-Blind Biotechnology

(p.54) 5 What Won’t Work
Darwinian Agriculture

R. Ford Denison

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the challenge of improving crop resource-use efficiency using biotechnology or traditional plant breeding. It argues that some of biotechnology's stated goals, such as more efficient use of water by crops, are unlikely to be achieved without tradeoffs. After providing an overview of crop genetic improvement via traditional plant breeding or biotechnology, the chapter discusses the importance of greater resource-use efficiency and increasing yield potential. It then explains how natural selection has improved the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as water-use efficiency and how tradeoffs limit biotechnology improvement of crop water use. It also assesses the potential of genetic engineering to improve nutrient-use efficiency and asserts that near-term benefits of biotechnology have been exaggerated. The chapter concludes with a review of biotechnology's possible benefits and risks.

Keywords:   resource-use efficiency, biotechnology, plant breeding, crops, tradeoffs, natural selection, photosynthesis, water-use efficiency, genetic engineering, nutrient-use efficiency

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