Crops are plants which are cultivated by humans for food, fodder, fiber, flowers, timber, etc.
There are about 2000 plant species which are cultivated for eating purposes that keep us strong and healthy. Population explosion has led to greater demand for basic requirements such as food, shelter, clothing, etc. and has impacted food crops production through land exploitation. Thus, cultivation has been limited to a small area. So, to meet the demands with limited resources, greater effort need to be applied to improve food crop production.
Crop production is more like a business in many countries and this requires that the strains developed to be economically profitable. The new varieties should be able to produce maximum quality and quantity under different conditions and regions. This can be done by being very selective about seeds for its acceptance.
The three major efforts are in the form of
Crop variety improvement,
Crop production improvement and
Crop protection management.
CROP VARIETY IMPROVEMENT
The primary step to improve food crop production is crop variety improvement which aims at development of crop variety with desirable traits.
Desirable traits include high yields, disease resistance, quality product and response to fertilizers.
Different strains of food crops with desirable traits can be raised naturally as well as scientifically.
Two methods are as follows:
Hybridisation: Hybridisation refers to crossing between genetically dissimilar plants. Hybridization may take place between different varieties (intervarietal), between two different species of the same genus (interspecific) or between different genera (inter generic).
Gene Incorporation: This process introduces a gene that would provide desired characteristics to the plants. This results in genetically modified crops.
WHY VARIETY IMPROVEMENT?
Higher yield: The main goal of crop variety improvement is to increase the productivity of the crop and develop high yielding variety.
Improved quality product: The quality of crop depends on the type of crop. Pulses and grains must have good baking quality. Similarly, oil crops should give a quality oil.
Biotic and Abiotic Resistance:Crops should be resistant to both living and non-living factors. Biotic or living factors include insects, parasites, diseases, etc. and abiotic or non-living factors include conditions like hot, cold, drought, salinity, etc. that affect the crop production. Resistant variety can withstand these factors and give a high yield.
Change in maturity period:Crop variety improvement aims to shorten and to develop uniform maturity period. The short maturity period of crops helps farmers in multiple rounds of cultivation in less expenditure during a short period while, the uniform maturity of crops helps in easy harvesting. Thus, overall variety improvement makes the situation more profitable.
Wider adaptation:Variety improvement of crops is also done to develop tolerance and make crops more adaptable to different conditions so that the crops can be grown even in diverse conditions like high salinity soil.
Desirable agronomic characteristics: Crop variety improvement is also done to develop desired agronomic characters in crops so that it gives a higher yield in less expenditure. For example, dwarfness in cereals helps to reduce the nutrient consumption without affecting the yield.