Genetic diversity has long been touted as a potential boon for agribusiness, and with the launch of an ambitious new crop-growing experiment, it’s poised to become the most powerful weapon in farmers’ hands.
Genetic diversity could also help to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance.
“Genetic engineering is not going to solve the problem of antibiotic-resistant microbes, but it is going to reduce some of the other problems that come with it,” said Peter H. Diamandis, a professor at Harvard University who has studied the issue for several decades.
“If the problem is not being addressed, it is certainly going to be addressed by a combination of genetic engineering and environmental change.”
Farmers in South Africa and other countries are looking to use the new crop to address the root of the problem, which is a lack of biodiversity in their soil.
“It’s not just soil but soil quality that is affected,” said Diamis, who has published research on soil quality and other factors in his new book, Genetic Diversity: The New Frontiers of Agriculture.
“There are a lot of things that are going to affect soil, and we have to address them.”
In a study published last year, Diamareis found that the lack of diversity in the soil of African nations could have a devastating impact on agriculture, as well as on health.
In Africa, the problem isn’t just the lack in soil, but also soil quality.
“What’s really concerning is that soil quality is declining,” he said.
“Soil quality is the foundation of soil health.
The soil is the primary foundation for life on earth.”
Diamareys research also found that African countries lack biodiversity in terms of plant species.
“The plants that are in the ground, the species that are growing there, those are species that the farmers want to produce, and those are the ones that we are going after,” he explained.
“But if you’re not producing those species, then you’re going to lose those plants.”
But the problems of poor soil quality also stem from lack of water.
“In many African countries, the water table is not as high as it should be,” Diamares study found.
“They don’t have enough water.”
Farmlands that are under cultivation are less water-efficient, and the result is a more water-intensive crop.
This has a devastating effect on biodiversity, and Diamands research has shown that farmers in Africa are likely to use more water.
“We found that we could use 10 times more water than in the wild if you have the right species,” he told Newsweek.
“That was one of the main reasons we were looking at how to manage the water resources of Africa.”
And it has an even bigger impact on soil health, as farmers are exposed to pesticides and herbicides.
“We found in the African region that farmers are spraying herbicides in a way that is not in line with their traditional practices, which are based on a very traditional farming practice of growing crops with a lot and lots of water and a lot less pesticide,” Dias said.
Farmers are also not using soil-friendly techniques to improve soil health in Africa.
“People are not learning to use compost,” Diais said.
And this, combined with the fact that soil is not very water-rich, makes it more difficult to treat soil and plant pests with insecticides and fertilizers.
Diamandises study found that farmers were using pesticides in the range of 5 to 10 times the amount that was recommended.
“Farmers that are using pesticides are doing something very wrong,” he added.
Dias has also found some significant differences between the crops grown in the United States and Africa.
In the United Kingdom, for example, farmers have more fertilizer on their crops, while in South African farms, they are using only about a quarter as much fertilizer.
In the United Arab Emirates, the farmers are using an amount of fertilizer that is comparable to what is recommended in the U.S.
The lack of nutrients in soil in South East Asia is also a concern.
In countries like China and Vietnam, farmers are irrigating with irrigation water that is contaminated with bacteria and other organisms that are known to cause soil problems, like necrotizing fasciitis.
This water is also highly corrosive, making it more dangerous to the soil.
In addition, Dias has found that crops grown with fertilizers in South America are not as effective as those grown with more conventional practices.
“A lot of these crops are really being grown for a niche in the market,” he pointed out.
“These are really not good farmers.”
Dias’ research also finds that some crops in Africa produce less nitrogen than others.
“Africa is a lot more nitrogen deficient than the United South America,” he observed.
“Most of the crops in South American agriculture are really nitrogen deficient, but a few crops are actually very nitrogen deficient.”
And while some of these problems are related