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Removing constraints to sustainable food production: new ways to exploit secondary metabolism from companion planting and GM

Pickett, John A ORCID:, Midega, Charles A O, Pittchar, Jimmy and Khan, Zeyaur R 2019. Removing constraints to sustainable food production: new ways to exploit secondary metabolism from companion planting and GM. Pest Management Science 75 (9) , pp. 2346-2352. 10.1002/ps.5508

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The entire process of agricultural and horticultural food production is unsustainable as practiced by current highly intensive industrial systems. Energy consumption is particularly intensive for cultivation, and for fertilizer production and its incorporation into soil. Provision of nitrogen contributes a major source of the greenhouse gas, N2O. All losses due to pests, diseases and weeds are of food for which the carbon footprint has already been committed and so crop protection becomes an even greater concern. The rapidly increasing global need for food, and the aggravation of associated problems by the effects of climate change, create a need for new and sustainable crop protection. The overall requirement for sustainability is to remove seasonal inputs, and consequently all crop protection will need to be delivered via the seed or other planting material. Although genetic modification (GM) has transformed the prospects of sustainable crop protection, considerably more development is essential for the realisation of the full potential of GM and thereby consumer acceptability. Secondary plant metabolism offers wider and perhaps more robust new crop protection via GM and can be accomplished without associated yield loss because of the low level of photosynthate diverted for plant defence by secondary metabolism. Toxic mechanisms can continue to be targeted but exploiting non‐toxic regulatory and signalling mechanisms should be the ultimate objective. There are many problems facing these proposals, both technical and social, and these are discussed but it is certainly not possible to stay where we are in terms of sustainability. The evidence for success is mounting and the technical opportunities from secondary plant metabolism are discussed here.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Chemistry
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1526-498X
Funders: BBSRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 July 2019
Date of Acceptance: 4 June 2019
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 10:51

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