Agricultural biotechnology, also known as agritech, is an area of agricultural science involving the use of scientific tools and techniques, including genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines, and tissue culture, to modify living organisms: plants, animals, and microorganisms. Crop biotechnology is one aspect of agricultural biotechnology which has been greatly developed upon in recent times. Desired trait are exported from a particular species of Crop to an entirely different species. These transgene crops possess desirable characteristics in terms of flavor, color of flowers, growth rate, size of harvested products and resistance to diseases and pests.
Crop modification techniques
Traditional crossbreeding has been used for centuries to improve crop quality and quantity. Crossbreeding mates two sexually compatible species to create a new and special variety with the desired traits of the parents. For example, the honeycrisp apple exhibits a specific texture and flavor due to the crossbreeding of its parents. In traditional practices, pollen from one plant is placed on the female part of another, which leads to a hybrid that contains genetic information from both parent plants. Plant breeders select the plants with the traits they're looking to pass on and continue to breed those plants. Note that crossbreeding can only be utilized within the same or closely related species.
Mutations can occur randomly in the DNA of any organism. In order to create variety within crops, scientists can randomly induce mutations within plants. Mutagenesis uses radioactivity to induce random mutations in the hopes of stumbling upon the desired trait. Scientists can use mutating chemicals such as ethyl methane sulfonate, or radioactivity to create random mutations within the DNA. Atomic gardens are used to mutate crops. A radioactive core is located in the center of a circular garden and raised out of the ground to radiate the surrounding crops, generating mutations within a certain radius. Mutagenesis through radiation was the process used to produce ruby red grapefruits.
Polyploidy can be induced to modify the number of chromosomes in a crop in order to influence its fertility or size. Usually, organisms have two sets of chromosomes, otherwise known as a diploidy. However, either naturally or through the use of chemicals, that number of chromosomes can change, resulting in fertility changes or size modification within the crop. Seedless watermelons are created in this manner; a 4-set chromosome watermelon is crossed with a 2-set chromosome watermelon to create a sterile (seedless) watermelon with three sets of chromosomes.
Protoplast fusion is the joining of cells or cell components to transfer traits between species. For example, the trait of male sterility is transferred from radishes to red cabbages by protoplast fusion. This male sterility helps plant breeders make hybrid crops.
RNA interference (RNAIi) is the process in which a cell's RNA to protein mechanism is turned down or off in order to suppress genes. This method of genetic modification works by interfering with messenger RNA to stop the synthesis of proteins, effectively silencing a gene.
Transgenics involves the insertion of one piece of DNA into another organism's DNA in order to introduce new genes into the original organism. This addition of genes into an organism's genetic material creates a new variety with desired traits. The DNA must be prepared and packaged in a test tube and then inserted into the new organism. New genetic information can be inserted with biolistics. An example of transgenics is the rainbow papaya, which is modified with a gene that gives it resistance to the papaya ringspot virus.
Genome editing is the use of an enzyme system to modify the DNA directly within the cell. Genome editing is used to develop herbicide resistant canola to help farmers control weeds.