This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
Scientists 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 and test soybeans
that can grow well under dry conditions.
Tommy 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.
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.
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.
Tommy Carter 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.
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 have been developing
corn with reduced water needs. Monsanto expects to be ready in a few years to
market its first corn seeds genetically engineered to resist drought.
And that's the VOA Special English Development
Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts
of our reports -- and write comments -- at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve