News / USA

Gene-Modified Corn Designed to Resist Drought

SUTTON, Nebraska — Walking through Bruce Trautman's cornfields near drought-hit Sutton, Nebraska, you could walk right by Monsanto's genetically-modified, drought-tolerant varieties and not notice a difference.
 
With about a third less rainfall this season, the leaves are turning brown just like their conventional neighbors.
 
But Trautman peels back the husks to show ears of modified corn that look bigger, with more kernels than the others.
 
With a month or so to go before harvest, more hot, dry weather may still take its toll, but, Trautman says, "to see this much difference at this point in time is exceptional."
 
Risk of drought growing
Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
x
Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
Bruce Trautman grows conventional and genetically modified drought-tolerant corn near Sutton, Nebraska, August 2012 (S. Baragona / VOA).
While other researchers and companies are using conventional techniques to improve drought tolerance, Monsanto expects to be the first company on the market with genetically-modified varieties of corn better able to handle the dry weather.

This year's drought across the corn-growing region of the United States has been the worst in decades. But experts say intense droughts are becoming more likely worldwide with climate change.
 
Trautman is one of about 250 U.S. farmers field-testing Monsanto's new corn. The main difference, according to Monsanto's Mark Edge, comes down to one gene.
 
Cellular jam resistance
 
"The gene is actually found in soil bacteria," Edge says. "It's a common soil bacteria. And what it does for the bacteria is help it survive through that stress."
 
Added to the corn plant, the gene helps it through drought by keeping its cellular machinery from jamming. The strings of chemical code that carry instructions to the cell's protein-building machines can get tangled up under stress. Adding the bacterial gene helps keep those strings untangled and the machinery running smoothly.
 
It seems to be helping Bruce Trautman's corn. But that is just one field, and the season is not over yet, so Edge is cautious.
 
"Growers are very excited about it, but we need to wait until the yields come in to get a better evaluation of that," he says.
 
A modest step forward
 
Skeptics, such as Doug Gurian-Sherman with the Union of Concerned Scientists, do not expect big improvements from the genetically-modified corn.
 
"It's a step forward, but it's very, very modest," he says. And in severe droughts, the added gene may not help much.
 
"There are more cost-effective and more reliable, at this point, ways of improving things like drought tolerance," Gurian-Sherman says, such as conventional crop breeding and better soil management. "And I think we need to put more of our effort into those areas."
 
Although he does not have any immediate safety concerns, he says testing should be more rigorous.
 
'A very powerful tool'
 
Edge says the crops have been tested and regulators have approved them, and he agrees conventional breeding and soil management are important.
 
"There isn't one thing that's going to address drought," he says. "It's a combination of things. And this is a very powerful tool."
 
Farmers will see just how powerful when the harvest comes in this fall.
 

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More