New Horizons in Science

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Food security and climate: Attacking problems at the roots

Topic: Biology: Agriculture
Monday, October 28, 2019 -
3:10pm to 4:10pm

How will we feed ourselves in 2050? The linked challenges of world food security and climate change, Jonathan Lynch notes, confront both rich and poor countries. U.S. food production is dependent on the costly, polluting use of nitrogen fertilizers and has a huge carbon footprint, while farmers in Africa and elsewhere struggle with poor soils and droughts. Lynch hopes the solutions to these problems can be found at their roots, a part of the plant that's been hard to include in breeding programs because it's unseen. His Roots Lab is working on ways to substantially improve crop yields, reduce fertilizer and irrigation use, and capture carbon through deeper, more efficient root systems. Their work combines new imaging technology, genomics, and phenomics for a sophisticated understanding of root traits. The hope is to breed high-yielding crop varieties that can also reduce carbon in the atmosphere.


Cross-section of a corn root, 100x magnification. Image: Fayette A. Reynolds (CC0 1.0)


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