Bolstering new frontiers: Bt crops
The horizon of excellence was visible as Chandrayaan — 2 lifted off successfully to explore the moon, representing the scientific exuberance that India has in its armour.
More interestingly the passion for scientific excellence has spread to many Indians and in the spectrum of areas available, Biotechnology is one that is booming. The aspirations of people are many and one of them is the development of insect-resistant crops.
The hard work of a farmer is at risk of loss when insects and pests attack a crop. The dedication with which crops are cultivated has now been supported robustly by the utilization of Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium.
This bacterium which has a size of one or few microns i.e. one thousand of a millimetre has been effective in battling insects that spoil crops. This bacterium is abbreviated as Bt. It has been applied for the betterment of crop productivity by expressing its biological trait as well.
The bacterium could be used as an inhabitant of the soil. First discovered in Japan in 1901 and subsequently in Germany in 1911, the bacterium has been used for a century.
These bacteria can be used as a liquid spray or their genes can be introduced into a plant for expressing proteins that help a plant to survive. This microorganism has a gene, Cry1Ac, that produces a protein that targets the digestive tract of harmful Lepidoptera moths and caterpillars but is not derogatory for humans or harmless animals.
The gene that produces such a protein has been cloned in seeds of crops, making them resistant to attack by insects that feed on them. Bt cotton in India and Australia have been blockbuster success frontiers that have caused the good output of the product.
Before the inception of Bt cotton, the pink bollworm wreaked havoc in Indian fields but now that problem has been countered. Corn borers caused so much damage to corn in the 1960s, that they were labelled “ billion-dollar pest”. Bt has been the tool of choice to evade this menace.
The other advantage is that this technique reduces the use of other topical insecticides that are harmful to human health. To summarize, Biotechnology has been a great provider of protection to agriculture and in boosting productivity.