Maybe another Green Revolution
June 15th, 2017 | Hafiz Muhammad Arslan | No Comments
Nowadays, the agriculture sector is facing a lot of problems like climate change, urbanization, reduction of agricultural lands, rapidly increasing population etc. Moreover, the excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides are polluting our environment. The demand for food would drastically increase as for the population of 6-9 billion in 2050. Our energy resources like petroleum, gas, and diesel oil are also decreasing rapidly day by day. Although agriculture has been contributing to the production of energy like electricity from the plant residues yet it is not enough on a commercial scale.
As agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan, we can go even to the extent of saying that the world cannot exist in the absence of agriculture. The problems faced by agriculture should be resolved in a sophisticated way in revolutionary levels to increase the production, to decrease the environmental hazards, and to ensure the availability of food for a long time. Today, there is a dire need of food security and to reduce the environmental problems which are affecting our climate and ultimately to our agriculture.
In 1960s, farm mechanization and high input responsive gene crops brought the Green Revolution. But today, technology is more advanced than earlier it has been. If we use this technology more efficiently, there will be another green revolution. Here I will introduce some recent technologies which are being used or tested for their use in agriculture to increase more input responsive crops, to decrease the environmental hazards, to extend the shelf life of processed food for food security. Nanotechnology, sensors, artificial plant and animal production techniques, automation, and engineering are some of the recent innovations of science which are being successfully used in the agriculture sector.
Nanotechnology is very recent and advanced technology which uses nanomaterial, size ranging from 1-100nm, for the welfare of human beings. Most of the developed countries like China and USA are working on their applications in the agricultural fields. But the success of nanotechnology will depend on its feasibility, availability, profit margin, environmental benefits, and risk assessment. Here I will discuss some of its applications which have been developed or are under the process of research work and will be introduced in the next few years in agricultural fields and for the food security purpose.
Nanoscale carriers are used for the efficient delivery of fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and growth regulators by different mechanisms like encapsulation, entrapment, surface ionic, clay tubes and weak bond attachments for the efficient storage and controlled release of active material. They help in proper uptake, reduce the input of insecticides and pesticides to about 70-80%, and minimum wastage of active material. Microfabricated xylem vessels are being used for the proper identification of diseases, caused by different pathogens in xylem vessels, and their mechanism of blockage of vessels and their overall effects on the plants.
Photocatalysts, a catalyst which when exposed to UV light, its electrons gets excited, making it a powerful oxidizing agent for heavy metal oxides and the most efficient disinfectants and very helpful in the degradation of metals. These catalysts are used for the treatment of elements present in pesticides which cannot be degraded for years in normal conditions. Some Nanoparticles of this type are also used for the disinfection of food in the food industries and the water treatment. The emitted light from the nanoparticles pass through the bacteria and kill them and food becomes free from bacteria. Smart dust technology can be used for monitoring the different parameters of an environment like temperature humidity and also insect and disease infestation in the fields.
Most of the agricultural products (vegetable, fruits, eggs, meat, dairy products, and various processed foods) are perishable. Research and development in Nanotechnology can be helpful in the food storage and disinfection for a long time.
Wireless sensors are developed for the monitoring soil, nutrients, temperature, humidity and all those factors which are essential for the maximum output. Applications of these sensors have been classified into three different spheres of agricultural factors which are environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, and traceability systems (Radio Frequency Identification Device, RFID). Environmental monitors are used for measuring the environmental variability like weather data and water quality in the fields. In precision agriculture, sensors monitor and collect the date of soil nutrients, soil compactness, soil fertility, leaf temperature etc. Traceability systems use the RFID which ensures the safety of food from the fields to the point of sale by the tracking system. There are also some optical sensors or drones in the form of flies which can collect all types of data from the field.
Scientists are working on the production of genetically designed food. Genetic engineering can be used for plants, animals, and micro-organisms. Scientists have produced animals and plants by this technique like dogs of different varieties from Poodles to Great Danes and roses of long lasting scent containing flower. This technique is also used for the development of crop varieties by manipulating the genes of crops
In automation technique, agricultural robots are used to make the automatic process of agricultural practices like sowing, weeding, soil nutrients maintenance, ploughing, fruit picking, and harvesting crops. These robots can be connected to the monitoring sensors to collect the data from the field and to cultivate fields precisely.
Engineering helps us to develop the closed ecological systems in which nothing will enter in that system and system converts the waste products into oxygen, food, and water for the inhabiting organisms in the system.
Due to urbanization, cultivated land is reducing rapidly. To compensate this loss, science has introduced the idea of vertical farming. In this farming system, vertical farms are developed in which agricultural commodities are grown. It has numerous advantages like a year round crop production, reduces transport cost and protection from bad weather.
If these technologies are used efficiently, there would be another green revolution exactly in the agriculture sector. These are the most precious gift for our future nation. But we must be careful about the harmful effects of these technologies on our society and human beings. To make them secure and harmless for the society, we should train and teach the people to make them fully understand these technologies. Our most of the landholders are illiterate and cannot understand mechanization easily. To make the rapid adoption of these technologies, seminars should be held and knowledge should be disseminated in these technologies related to their benefits, cost efficiency, usefulness, and the methods for using them.
Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=17099