Plant biotechnology is a set of techniques used to adapt plants for specific needs or opportunities. Situations that combine multiple needs and opportunities are common. For example, a single crop may be required to provide sustainable food and healthful nutrition, protection of the environment, and opportunities for jobs and income. Finding or developing suitable plants is typically a highly complex challenge.
Plant biotechnologies that assist in meeting the challenge include genomics, molecular-assisted selection, and transgenic crops (genetic engineering). These biotechnologies allow researchers to detect and map genes, discover their functions, select for specific genes in genetic resources and breeding, and transfer genes for specific traits into plants where they are needed. NIFA funds research, training, and extension for developing and using biotechnologies for food and agriculture. Areas of work include:
- Genetic structures and mechanisms
- Methods for transgenic biotechnology (also known as genetic engineering or bioengineering)
- Identification of traits and genes that can contribute to national and global goals for agriculture
- Plant genome sequences; molecular markers, and bioinformatics
Most public research on transgenic crops focuses in some way on two general objectives:
- Better understanding of all aspects of the transgenic/genetic engineering process, for enhancing efficiency, precision, and proper expression of the added genes or nucleic acid molecules.
- A wider range of useful and valuable traits, including complex traits.