The processes involved in agriculture mean farming activity will always generate some greenhouse gas emissions. But plant science technologies help minimize those emissions. Crops designed to resist certain herbicides make weed control much more efficient because using them helps farmers till their soil less often, which keeps carbon in the soil. Conservation or no-till practices also limit the number of times farmers have to pass over their fields with tractors, which reduces emissions and fuel use.
In the next few decades nearly half of the world could experience water scarcity. Plant scientists are developing new drought-tolerant varieties of crops that use water more efficiently. Pesticides also play an important role by destroying weeds that steal water from growing plants. The combination of herbicide-tolerant crops and pest control products helps farmers adopt conservation tillage practices, which leads to better moisture retention in soil.
If trends continue, in fewer than 40 years more than half the land we use to grow food could become unusable because of degradation caused by drought, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture practices in some parts of the world. Thanks in part to pesticides and herbicide-tolerant crops, farmers can adopt conservation tillage practices that reduce soil erosion, minimize soil compaction, improve soil structure and increase moisture penetration and retention.
Advances in plant science technologies are helping the agriculture community mitigate and adapt to climate change — enabling the development of plants that better tolerate heat, drought, flooding and salinity. Both pesticides and new crops developed through modern plant breeding are also helping to improve the efficiency of crop production, which eases agriculture’s impact on the environment.
If Canadian farmers stopped using pesticides and herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops, we’d need 35 million more acres of land to grow the same amount of food we do today — more than the total combined area of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. With pesticides and plant biotechnology, farmers can produce more on the county’s current farmland without having to turn our valuable forests, wetlands, grasslands and other wildlife habitats into agricultural land.
Public green spaces help filter our air and reduce ambient temperatures, so these spaces — parks, sports fields, roadsides, etc. — need protection from weeds like thistles and poison ivy, from diseases and from invasive species. Plant science offers innovative solutions to these threats so our green spaces stay healthy and pristine.