This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
are working to develop crop plants that can reduce the amount of water used for
agriculture. Almost sixty percent of the world's freshwater withdrawals from
rivers, lakes and other water resources go toward irrigating fields.
Scientists are using biotechnology as
well as traditional breeding methods to develop water-saving crops to feed a
"Tommy" Carter is a plant scientist in North Carolina. He works for
the Agricultural Research Service in the United States Department of
Agriculture. He leads Team Drought, a group of researchers at five universities.
They have been using conventional breeding methods to develop soybeans that can
grow well under dry conditions.
Carter started working on drought-resistant soybeans in nineteen eighty-one. His
research has taken him as far as China, where soybeans have been grown for
thousands of years.
Farmers in the United States, however, have grown
soybeans for only about a century. Tommy Carter says the soybeans they grow are
for the most part genetically similar. More differences, or diversification, could
better protect crops against climate changes that can reduce production. Those
changes include water shortages which could increase from global warming.
The Agriculture Department has a soybean
germplasm collection, a collection of
genetic material passed from one generation to the next. Members of Team
Drought studied more than two thousand five hundred examples from the
looked at ones from the ancestral home of soybeans, Asia. They searched for
germplasms that could keep plants from weakening and wilting during hot, dry
summers in the United States.
says they found only five. But these slow-wilting lines, he says, produce four
to eight bushels more than normal soybeans under drought conditions. The yield
depends on location and environment.
team is now doing field tests. The first breeding line is expected to be
released next year for use by private seed companies and public soybean
are also working on other plants that either use less water or use it better,
or both. For example, companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta are developing
corn with reduced water needs. Monsanto expects to be ready in four years to
market its first corn seeds genetically engineered to resist drought.
that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Doug Johnson.