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Facilitating Conservation Farming Practices and Enhancing Environmental Sustainability with Agricultural Biotechnology.

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Download at http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/BiotechSustainability/

CTIC's new publication explores the breadth of the environmental benefits of conservation tillage practices, which are facilitated significantly by biotechnology crops. Access the full document or executive summary to learn about the dramatic improvements in environmental sustainability and productivity over the past several years.
Agricultural biotechnology delivers more than just streamlined pest management options or the promise of healthier, higher quality crops. Biotech-derived crops allow growers to adopt sustainable farming practices ranging from conservation tillage to integrated pest management. Those practices protect soil, water and air quality and allow producers to sustain our natural resources as well as our lives and lifestyles.

No other options have been identified with the potential to improve crop yields and safeguard the environment as well as genetically modified (GM) crops farmed with sustainable practices, concludes this new report from researchers at Purdue University in the U.S. The report says that farmers are in a "race against time" to increase agricultural productivity as demand for food rises. It says, for example, that to meet the projected soybean demand of 2030, farmers would have to add 168 million acres of soybeans to existing production if global yields remained the same as today, or double those yields to 59.5 bushels per acre to harvest enough soybeans on today's acreage.

GM crops are important, the report says, because they show promise to double or triple the current rate of yield increase in corn, and match or exceed the average 0.5-bushel-per-acre annual increase in soybean yields. The report predicts that the next generation of GM or "biotech" crops will feature new input traits such as tolerance of more herbicides and insects and more efficient use of water and nitrogen. The next generation will also introduce valuable output traits, such as crops with improved health profiles, the report predicts.

With regard to the environment, the report says the environmental benefits from GM input traits add up quickly in pounds of herbicides and insecticides eliminated from the production system. It says, for example, that: 1) herbicide-tolerant soybeans and cotton reduced U.S. herbicide usage in 2007 by 47.4 million pounds of active ingredient; and 2) insect-resistant cotton and corn varieties decreased insecticide applications that year by 8.67 million pounds of active ingredient. In addition, the adoption in the U.S. of GM crops – especially soybeans - closely tracks the expansion of environmentally-beneficial conservation tillage and no-till production, the report says. (Via Meridian)