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  •  GM crops aren't all bad. (3+ / 0-)
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    tomhodukavich, the fan man, plf515

    In fact, GM could be used to create crops that are very specifically adapted.  Want a corn strain that produces lower, but more reliable yields under drought conditions?  Want soybeans that tolerate occasional standing water?  Want apples that are highly disease resistant?  Want spinach with a lower oxalate content?

    Do you want all this without having to carefully breed generation after generation for years or decades?

    Once we tease out the correct genes, we could either splice them in directly, or map out the genes of known seed strains to determine which strains are most likely to pass (and express) the desired genes in a breeding program.  Knowledge is power.  If climate change is likely, then having the power to create the best adapted crops for the new climate reality is going to be very powerful indeed.

    Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

    by Fabian on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 08:51:00 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  As you likely know, there's a pretty vocal (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian, the fan man, plf515

      anti-GM-for-any-reason-its-all-horrible-frankenfood contingent here. I used to farm a bit; I'm not a part of that crowd.

      •  Talked a bit to an apple farmer (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tomhodukavich

        who gave it up mostly because he didn't want to use all the chemicals - and without chemicals, he couldn't get a salable crop.  Cider isn't profitable enough by itself.

        Disease resistance isn't enough in itself - you still need to produce a high quality fruit.  Just looking at a detailed catalog of apple strains makes my head spin: there's literally dozens of factors to consider when breeding from growth type to disease and pest resistance to bloom time to various fruit qualities.  Imagine the amount of study it would take to create even a modestly successful breeding program!  Now imagine having the genetic profiles mapped and at your fingertips.  Do you want a fruit sturdy enough to handle shipping?  Do you want a tree that flowers late, to avoid frost damage?  Do you want a tree with low chilling hour requirements?  

        Most of all, would you like to be able to screen seedlings for desirable and undesirable genes?  Instead of planting one thousand and waiting for years, you could plant one thousand, cull the ones that do/don't have certain genes, and end up with a much higher success rate.

        Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

        by Fabian on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 11:19:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Apples are extremely difficult to grow (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, tomhodukavich

          organically on the east coast. Too much disease and insect pressure. They are usually smaller and almost always pitmarked. Those guys on the west coast plant apples in the desert, no indigenous insect pests, no fungal diseases. They irrigate and viola, an organic apple.

          •  Yeah, that's easy enough. (0+ / 0-)

            Take an orchard.  Plant it in an area without an endemic pest population.  Plant it in an area with humidity so low that it suppresses any bacterial and fungal diseases.  Drip irrigate.

            It works, but I wonder how much you could scale that up.

            It's always better to breed a better whatever than to have to constantly deal with innate problems.  High maintenance doesn't appeal to me because it means the design is bad.  I loathe bad design.

            Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

            by Fabian on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 03:05:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Could you scale it up? Try all of eastern (0+ / 0-)

              Washington, Idaho, Arizona, etc.

              Here I am in the Hudson Valley, the historic home of apple production. Breeding better apples is a long term project, either through selective breeding or genetic engineering. To date, pest resistant apples have been less than spectacular. If you can breed a pest resistant "Fuji", you can retire.

              •  Sometimes I wonder (0+ / 0-)

                if we should just scrap apples and do something else instead.

                My one pie cherry tree is very easy to deal with.  No spraying.  I get one pest and that's a fly that only attacks ripe cherries, so all I need to do is pick them promptly.  I prune once a year.  I pick three times a year.  I'll clean the tree tomorrow.

                I would love to grow apples, but I know they are a real PITA.  Just too damn much work.  It would be nice if we didn't have literally centuries of bad breeding to correct.  All those disease susceptibilities to breed out.

                Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

                by Fabian on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 04:15:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Cherries make good eating! Our season is short, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Fabian

                  about three weeks. Cornell is working on controlled atmosphere storage which should lengthen the season to two months. I honestly don't mind the pesticide use on apples, most farmers use IPM, spray only when necessary. The EPA is also slowly taking away the worst chemical offenders. As far as traditional varieties and disease/insect damage, I haven't looked into that lately. Maybe "Sheepnose" or "Nonesuch" apples aren't as easy to damage.

                  Hope your cherry pie is delicious!

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