GENTECH archive


Some ideas on genetically engineered plants

A query recently posted to sanet, the susainable ag list:

What if some enterprising young scientists in one of the large seed
companies came up with plants that just stop growing at a predetermined
point in their life?

Farmers could have hairy vetch and rye that stopped growing at flowering.
 These could be used as cover crops that the farmer would not have to
 worry about controlling in the spring.  Perhaps in dryer areas, where you
wanted to control the cover crops before flowering, the plants could be
engineered to die when exposed to a harmless plentiful substance (what, I
don't know) that the farmer would spray on the crop.

In row crops these plants could be used as planned designer weeds.  Sown
between the rows or as a mixture with the main crop these weeds would cover
the soil for awhile, add diversity to the field for awhile, and then die.
 They would have to be competitive like weeds, provide high leaf area, and
then have some allelopathic effect when they died.  The point when they
died could be controlled genetically or through a trigger substance that
the farmer would apply.

Would this be a good thing to have?  The genetically altered plants would
not become food, at least for humans.  They would not be able to spread
their genetic alterations if they were killed before pollination.  And they
would serve, in the case of cover crops, to improve soil fertility, and in
the case of planned weeds, to decrease herbicide use.

This is just an idea I had and I have not thought long and hard about it.
 I was wondering what everyone else thought.  A few months ago I sent the
idea to a large seed company asking them if they thought it was possible
but received no response.  Maybe they thought it was silly.  Maybe they are
working on it?

Andy McGuire

  Andy McGuire, Extension Educator
  P.O. Box 736                   office  402-254-2280
  Hartington  NE  68739      fax     402-254-6891
  University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension

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