HOW IMPORTANT IS RESEARCH IN AGRICULTURE?

Blog, ICT4Agriculture, Youth-in-Agribusiness

How are things invented or discovered? Do people just stumble upon new discoveries? Sometimes they do. More often, however, discoveries are made through well-thought-out research that can involve years of work. What has research done for you and agriculture? Research has altered our world in big ways. The standard of living we enjoy today is much higher than it was for previous generations.

New discoveries will continue to be made, and it is expected that future generations will have even higher living standards. It is estimated that the amount of knowledge humans possess doubles in less than seven months. In other words, in less than seven months from the time you read this, our society will have twice as much knowledge of the world around us as it has today.

This new scientific knowledge will be applied to technologies, which are the outcomes and applications of scientific concepts and principles. In agriculture, scientists actively seek to discover procedures that will increase livestock and crop yields, improve farmland productivity, reduce loss due to disease and insects, develop more efficient equipment, and increase overall food quality. Researchers look for ways to increase farmers’ profits and to protect the environment. Consumers pay less for their food and fiber products, which allows them to spend their money on other things.

Increasing agricultural productivity remains a central concern of developing countries. This is because it is a major factor determining the level of income of the farming sector, in meeting the food requirements of continually expanding populations, in generating foreign exchange to finance domestic programmes, amongst others. Agricultural research has an important role to play in meeting these targets, since many of the new technologies, inputs, and techniques of production that increase agricultural productivity are developed through agricultural research.

A transformed agricultural research system helps to achieve sustainable food and income security for all agricultural producers and consumers, particularly for resource-poor households, whether they are in rural or urban areas. Sustainable agricultural intensification itself means producing more food and agricultural products from the same overall resources (such as land, labor and water), while reducing the negative environmental impacts and at the same time increasing contributions to natural capital and the flow of environmental services. The problems of research in Africa include low and unpredictable research budgets, shortages of well-trained scientific and technical staff and lack of clearly defined research priorities and I personally think lack of follow up affects too.

It is no longer news that Agriculture can help reduce poverty, raise incomes and improve food security for 80% of the world’s poor, who live in rural areas and work mainly in farming. However, some of the Research Institutes in Nigeria apart from IITA have bad data storage systems, they don’t do continuous follow up on research, they do projects just to get paid and afterwards discontinue the project maybe due to embezzlement of funds or lack of them therein.

For example, in Nigerian tertiary Institutions, every final year student is mandated to do a research work which is called “project”, write the paper, present it to a committee of judges usually a team of lecturers within and an external one (this is called project defense) and they will judge the student’s performance, content of the research and guess what? The project work is stored for a while in the supervisor’s office and thrown away after a while and the lucky ones have their body of research sold to groundnut sellers or those who sell fish, etc by the road side.

What if sustainability was the approach to research?

What if we all had this mindset about research? What if research bodies had someone (people actually) like the “continuity manager” as they have in the movie industry; Someone who keeps the twist and turns in the story line going(they are the reason for season movies and continuous Avengers movies). What if we didn’t dump projects half way?

Areas where Agricultural researches are important and why.

 Through the help of agricultural research and continued testing, the standard of living we enjoy today can be expected to improve.

  • Animal immunization—Historically, diseases have been devastating to livestock production enterprises. The introduction of vaccines and medicines has improved the health of livestock. Animal immunization, the process of giving animals resistance to disease through vaccination or inoculation, has reduced diseases. Animals in a disease-free environment can be raised at a much lower cost to producers, and the savings are passed on to consumers.
Image source: Farm Health Online
  • Biological control—Pests greatly reduce agricultural productivity. One means of pest management is biological control. Some methods of pest management through biological control involve predatory insects, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The introduction of parasitic wasps into the greenhouse environment to control white flies is an example of biological control. The adult wasps lay their eggs on white fly larvae. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae devour the white fly larvae.Also, the use of the bacterium Bacillus thurengiensis to control insect pests of field and vegetable crops.
  • Computer technology— Computers have Scientists discuss methods of biological weed and disease control for a crop, work more rapidly than ever before. Data that once took days or even weeks to analyze can now be analyzed in seconds. In animal science, the selection of superior sires and dams can be made easily through computerized production records of progeny. Results of feed formulation data can be used to help determine the best mix of feed grains and supplements. In plant science, computers are used to help determine the optimal time for irrigation and the amount of water to be delivered to the crop. They are also used to determine fertility levels and to adjust application rates. Food scientists rely heavily on computers to analyze the chemistry of foods.
  • Embryo transfer— Whereas artificial insemination capitalizes on the genetic attributes of the sire, embryo transfer focuses on the dam, or female parent. Typically, improving herds through the use of superior dams is slow because of the gestation period of the female. Embryo transfer is the process of moving embryos from one female, called the donor female, to the reproductive tract of another female, called the recipient female. cation of embryo transfer allows the production of many offspring each year from one superior female.
Embryo Transfer
  • Genetic engineering— Breeding practices for plants and animals are being dramatically changed with new discoveries in biotechnology and genetic engineering. Scientists have learned techniques to select and move genetic material from one plant or animal to another. This process, called genetic engineering, holds great potential for improving crops and livestock. Desired results can be obtained more quickly than with traditional breeding methods, and there is greater control over what characteristics will be expressed in the offspring. Some goals of genetic engineering include improved nutritional content of the food we eat, faster growth rates of plants and animals, and greater resistance to diseases, insects, herbicides, and environmental stresses.
Image source: Wikipedia.org
  • Growth and yield regulation—Researchers in agronomy identify the plant genes regulating processes that limit photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and other important metabolic pathways. With that knowledge, they can use genetic engineering to insert genes or to express the desirable genes. The result is more efficient crop plants. Use of plant growth regulators on certain crops is also receiving greater attention. Researchers are looking for ways to develop corn plants with more ears per plant. Growth regulators may also be used on golf courses and lawns to reduce the growth rate of grasses and thus cut down of the frequency of mowing.
  • Hydroponics—Hydroponics is the growing of plants with their roots in a medium other than soil. Sometimes, hydroponics is called soilless culture, because soil is not used. Nutrients essential for plant growth and development are dissolved in water, and the solution is delivered directly to the roots in a variety of ways. This technique can provide a year-round supply of fresh vegetables in regions that experience cold weather. Adoption of hydroponics reduces the transportation costs normally required to move fresh vegetables over long distances.
Lettuce growing in deep flow hydroponics (Photo courtesy of David Wees)
  • Precision technologies—The Global Positioning System (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), microcomputers, and machinery controllers are precision technologies that have improved the efficiency of farming. Satellites orbiting the earth are connected to a ground receiver in a field or on equipment. The system locates exact points on GIS grid maps to control machinery operations in the field. The technology is particularly useful for applying fertilizer and obtaining harvest data.
  • Specialized crop production—Researchers are working on developing crops that are specialized for particular commercial uses. Examples include crops with specific traits, such as high protein, oil, or starch content. Some corn hybrids have been developed specifically for ethanol production. In addition, work is being performed on producing crops with higher nutritional value.

In Agriculture, scientists actively seek to discover procedures and continue the work if this is sustained in Nigeria,I believe the future of Agriculture is bright

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