7-Days Crop: Is It Truly Possible?
In 1971, the population of Bangladesh was 75 million and there was a scarcity of food. Currently the population is over 175 million but there has been a boom in the food production industry. Along with rice and wheat, there has been an augmentation in the production of fruits and vegetables. However, the arable land area has dwindled over the years. An increased production of crops within this diminishing land area is now possible with the advent of modern technology in agriculture. This includes the development of high-yielding and short-duration varieties, proper usage of soil and fertilizers, and the usage of IPM and other superior technology, which have all facilitated higher production within smaller areas. By 2030, the world population is likely to double. Consequently a major food crisis is inevitable and it can only be overcome with exponential increases in yield.
In the 1970s, monoculture was practised widely in Bangladesh, where only one type of crop was cultivated all year round on each field. But now farmers have begun implementing crop rotation, a practice that involves growing unrelated types of crops on the same field in sequential seasons. It takes about three months between sowing the seeds and harvesting the crop. Red spinach and lettuce are among the fastest crops to reach maturity. The impending food crisis of 2030 can only be defeated if rice and other crops required for staple diet can be harvested as early as spinach and lettuce, that is, by converting them into short duration crops.
The Hadith mentions such an instance, 1400 years ago, during the times of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In this excerpt, Salman al-Farsi (RA), a convert to Islam, recounts the story of his abject livelihood with his tormenting kafir employer to the Prophet. Upon hearing his story, the Prophet, along with his disciple Hazrat Ali (RA), pay a visit to the kafir employer and demand for the emancipation of Salman al-Farsi. The kafir does not consent but rather gives them a condition that the Prophet will have to create a garden of dates for him and when the first fruit appears on one of the date trees, Salman al-Farsi will be released. The Prophet agrees and asks for the date seeds. He sows the seeds and asks Ali to cover the seeds with soil and Salman to water the soil. After he was done sowing, everyone turns around to find the date plants already fruiting. All praise be to Allah! The holy Quran states that for the prudent observer there is substantial evidence on earth about how the universe was created and how day turns to night.
The story of the dates insinuates the possibility of creation of short duration crops. Similarly, when a banana tree or a bamboo shoot is severed, the central part of the plant grows about one to two inches in under five hours! Likewise, pruned rose plants start re-growing their branches rapidly in just two to three days; jujube trees are the same. A few plants have been identified with genes that promote rapid growth and regeneration. These genes can be screened and isolated, and used to transform crops to induce rapid growth. State of the art recombinant DNA technology can be used to insert these genes into the rice genome. GM rice and other valuable GMOs can be created to reduce the cultivation period from three months to just seven to eight days, ensuring the food and crop security required for 2030. Recombinant DNA technology has already enabled the creation of the blue rose and vitamin-A fortified Golden Rice. Biotechnologists are still in the preliminary stages of identifying the genes responsible for short duration, but their isolation and use to create GMOs is imminent. As such, the Master’s Students of Department of Horticulture, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University and ASRBC, ACI Ltd are jointly working towards this goal as well. With sufficient molecular biology lab facilities it is only a matter of time that they will be able to produce short duration crops that can be harvested in just 7 days!
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