Five examples of how life sciences is revolutionising farming

Agriculture has always been a key sector for Scotland, and life sciences developments have helped this crucial industry continue to anchor rural life and contribute to the wider Scottish economy.
Life sciences studies are changing farming.  Picture: ContributedLife sciences studies are changing farming.  Picture: Contributed
Life sciences studies are changing farming. Picture: Contributed

Georgina Keys, R&D Technical Consultant at Leyton, writes about advances in life sciences that are helping to revolutionise farming.

Advances in life sciences in Scotland allow us to better understand intricate biochemical interplay in Scottish crops and livestock.

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With this greater understanding, farmers can then conduct experiments and undertake R&D projects to improve the quality of their crops and livestock.

This places Scotland at the forefront of the market, as we are able to develop a strong agricultural industry with the corresponding biological knowledge.

We are better able to understand the unique circumstances that improve crop yields, as well as genetic factors that can impact livestock through the work of Scottish biologists and chemists.

Five current/recent developments in Life Sciences that have benefited the Agricultural Industry:

Through genetic manipulation, scientists create crops that are nutritionally superior to previous crop. The Golden Rice Project is a good example of such advances. Scientists have used genetic engineering to produce rice rich in Vitamin A.

Although rice contains Vitamin A, the genes that cue production of Vitamin A are turned off during growth. Scientists have genetically engineered this process to allow the growth of Vitamin A for longer.

Through the cross breeding of plants, agricultural biotechnology has given plants the ability to grow in a wide range of environments. Land that has been rendered unsuitable for crop growth now has the ability to be used.

Scientists can genetically manipulate plants to make them more resistant to diseases and toxins, while maintaining the plants safety for human consumption. Genetic engineering of plants to improve disease resistance means that produce for human consumption has less pesticide residue, reduce the amount of harmful toxins seeping into groundwater and minimise exposure to farm workers.

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Through these developments, biotechnology has improved the agricultural industry and the environment.

Advances in veterinary science and new medical techniques help provide an increased level of care for animals and are therefore able to cure diseases in a quicker and more efficient manner. This is highly beneficial for the farming industry.

Scientists are able to improve fertility of their livestock, leading to larger herd sizes.

This is achieved through feeding trails that can help increase the health of the livestock and through selective breeding regimes.

The unique work undertaken by the Scottish life sciences sector, improves the knowledge of the biological and chemical underpinnings of the agricultural industry, thus providing Scotland with a strong agricultural market position.

By understanding these biological processes, farmers and agricultural experts are able to change current farming techniques as advancements in life sciences are achieved.

Below are examples of some of the work our customers have undertaken within this sector:

Trialling and testing growth of new varieties in different media

Undertaking projects to increase their crop yield

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Trials with various fungicides and pesticides either through cessation of use or changing the type

Undertaking feeding trials to improve the overall quality of their meat, cheese or dairy product

Undertaking feeding trials to improve the fat to muscle ratio in livestock, thereby improving the quality of meat

Trials to reduce soya content in their feed

As farmers are able to secure monetary investment into their research and development projects, they are able to feed this information back to the scientists themselves, achieving the twin benefits of further deepening scientific knowledge and strengthening the agricultural market.

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