Climate change is real, no if, ands, or buts. Fields now have greater susceptibility to weeds and diseases and lesser predictability in the weather. As a result, yield reliability is decreasing and that makes the lack of agriculture production diversification in the United States problematic. Just to scare you a little more, corn and soy already represent more than $100 billion dollars and more than 70 percent of U.S. food production.
As stated in the article below, the USDA National Agriculture Statistics show that 44 percent of the total agriculture production in the United States sits within a 500-mile radius of St. Louis. Many crops grown in this area have been neglected because of the high cost in research and development for getting a trait to market. This is why diversification in agriculture production is necessary, regardless of how easy it is or isn’t to achieve it.
To hinder decreasing reliability, we need to:
- Find new ways to understand soil health
- Optimize decisions around what to plant and how to grow it, based on the transparency of seed performance.
- Create cheaper and faster research and development methods to select or develop new seeds
- Reduce and reuse the 1.3 billion tons of food that gets wasted each year
These following courses of action all pertain to the health of the fields and crop yield. The article suggests that to improve the reliability of farming, it begins with genetics and soil. Costs of genomic sequencing have decreased and as a result have opened a a lot of opportunities that include improving seed breeding, finding new plant traits and understanding our soil.
As stated in the article, “Genetically engineering microbes is a key example of foundational technology that will help address this very issue/challenge of reliability.” One company that is already practicing combining microbe science with computation and automation technologies is Zymergen.
I won’t bore you with the specifics as to how their technology works, but I will tell you this. Their technology scales quickly due to the fact that it’s automated.
In conclusion, AgTech is coming to the rescue again with hindering the decrease in reliability.