Agricultural biotechnology (AgBiotech) provides alternative strategies to improve crop yield, quality, and resilience towards biotic and abiotic stresses with rapid innovations, developments, and faster time-to-market. AgBiotech includes traditional practices such as selective breeding techniques and embraces modern advanced technologies such as -omics strategies, molecular breeding, and genetic engineering. The rapid evolution of molecular biology techniques led to new scientific fields, resulting in an explosion of biotechnological applications across industries. The information generated through these tools and technologies helps accelerate breeding programs and generate stress-resistant, high-yielding, and nutritious crop varieties.
Some of the most promising technologies that will strengthen the future of AgBiotech are indicated below.
Marker-Assisted Breeding: Marker-assisted selection (MAS) is a smart breeding or fast-track plant breeding technology. Breeding companies and research institutes utilize this tool for the fast development of improved varieties, giving the possibility to select desirable traits more directly using DNA markers. It can assist the conventional breeding for traits laborious to manage, especially for certain biotic and abiotic traits.
CRISPR and Gene Editing: Gene editing is the most prominent technology driving innovation and discovery in the AgBiotech market. It is perhaps the most important development in crop breeding based on the versatile CRISPR/Cas9 system for developing high-yielding and climate-resilient crops. Much progress is being made in this field and encouraging other countries, including India, to use CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) in plant breeding. However, despite significant contributions toward developing the crops, potential risks and ethical issues on the commercial release and consumption of gene-edited foods are still being debated. Recently, the Indian government has exempted SDN1/SDN2 category genome-edited plants from cumbersome GMO regulations. This will incentivize breeders and researchers to harness the power of gene editing for the welfare of the farming community and allow smaller seed companies to improve crops quickly and precisely by gene editing. Smallholder farmers will benefit from high-quality seed development, resulting in higher economic returns.
RNA interference: RNA technologies have exciting potential. Scientists worldwide have exploited the tool to contribute to sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management. RNAi is a potential Agri biotechnology tool to solve the burning issue of agricultural wastage caused by pests and pathogens. The tool is relevant in today’s CRISPR-dominated world regarding the exogenous application of dsRNAs. Several biotech companies are developing RNAi pesticides, including Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, and others, while basic research is ongoing at universities.
BioSensors: Biosensors are becoming a hot topic for analytical applications. Nano biosensing technologies and devices are replacing conventional diagnostic tools. By optimizing these tools for a range of environments, the use and validation of these affordable, fast, sensitive, and specific tools for plant pathogen detection in the field will become widely adopted in the near future.
3D Bioprinting: 3D printing solutions have enhanced everything from structural operations of the farm to equipment parts and day-to-day activities carried out by the farmers. Most irrigation and water management equipment could be manufactured using 3D printing.
Biologicals: Agriculture biologicals such as biopesticides, biofertilizers, and biostimulants are gaining attention to achieve sustainable agriculture. The trend to shift to agriculture with less environmental impact is strong, and policy support is being considered for finding solutions. The smart agriculture business will enable to develop best bio formulations for each farm and crop. This allows for the future development of new businesses and more efficient agricultural biologicals.
Omics: -Omics technologies provide scientists with methods to decipher the underlying mechanisms controlling plant growth, structure, and composition in relation to their environment. Integrating multi-omics (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, phenomics) with systems biology can facilitate the development of models to predict agronomically essential traits to improve crops through precision breeding.
Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality: The scope of AR, VR, and MR in agriculture is bringing a revolution for farmers to enhance different steps and procedures between sowing and harvesting. It’s time to leverage Extended Reality for agriculture to enhance the capabilities of the procedures within the field. Integrating AR with other technologies such as sensors, networking, and machine learning will bring a beneficial impact.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine learning (ML): Many businesses are increasingly employing deep learning algorithms and technologies in various agricultural applications. To develop practical AI solutions, companies need high-quality data. However, the data collection, preparation, and benchmarking gap make modelling challenging.
Overall, AgBiotech has transformed agricultural research worldwide, especially in developed countries, benefiting farmers. A lot of investment is pouring in to develop new cutting-edge tools and technologies to improve this sector. These technologies can revolutionize the seed industry by making it possible to breed seeds for various growing conditions such as drought, salinity, and other biotic and abiotic stresses. Taking a holistic view by combining the datasets can keep researchers ahead of the curve and, ultimately, drive forward advances in agriculture. Those Agri input companies that integrate new technologies in the R & D programs will be positioned to serve the needs of farmers and society.
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