June 16, 2024

Agrigenomics Industry: Unlocking Potential of Genomics to Support Sustainable Agriculture

Emergence and Advancement of Agrigenomics Industry

Agrigenomics first emerged in the late 20th century as genomics and molecular biology techniques advanced to allow characterization and manipulation of plant and animal genomes. Early research focused on developing genomic tools and resources like genetic maps, DNA markers, and sequencing plant and livestock genomes. This allowed identification of genes controlling traits of agricultural importance like yield, quality, stress tolerance, and disease resistance.

Whole Genome Sequencing Revolutionizes the Field

The completion of the human genome project in early 2000s drove down sequencing costs and enabled application of next generation sequencing technologies to crops and livestock. Whole genome sequences are now available for major crops like maize, rice, wheat, soybean, potato as well as livestock species. Comparative genomics approaches leveraging multiple genome sequences have enhanced understanding of plant and animal genomes at an unprecedented scale and resolution. This genomic information is powering modern plant and animal breeding approaches.

Harnessing Genomics for Sustainable Food Production

Agrigenomics Industry  population is projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 putting unsustainable pressure on natural resources if food demand is met through conventional agriculture. Rising temperatures and erratic rainfall due to climate change further threaten global food security. Agrigenomics research is focused on developing crops and livestock with enhanced yields, superior nutrition, tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses for sustainable intensification of agriculture. Marker assisted selection and genomic selection accelerate genetic gains in breeding programs. Gene editing tools precisely modify genomes to impart desired traits. Multi-omics approaches integrating genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics provide holistic insights for trait discovery and improvement.

Addressing Nutritional Security through Agrigenomics Industry

Over two billion people globally suffer from micronutrient deficiencies especially lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets. Agrigenomics enables biofortification of staple crops through conventional breeding or biotechnology to combat ‘hidden hunger’. Genes and pathways involved in biosynthesis of provitamin A, iron and zinc have been characterized and introgressed into crops consumed by vulnerable populations. Biofortified varieties with higher levels of provitamin A carotenoids in maize, cassava and sweet potato, and iron and zinc in rice, wheat and pearl millet have been developed and promoted in developing countries through national programs. Nutrigenomics research also investigates genetic and molecular basis of variability in human utilization of nutrients from foods to tailor crop biofortification strategies.

Harnessing Livestock Genomics for Sustainable Meat and Dairy Production

Livestock sector contributes 40% of global agricultural GDP but accounts for 14.5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Agrigenomics applications in livestock aim to breed animals that require less feed and produce less methane for environmentally sustainable meat and dairy production. Genome wide association and genomic selection accelerate genetic improvement for feed efficiency, thermotolerance, disease and parasite resistance. Genomic information also informs management practices for reduced enteric methane emission from ruminants through tailored diets. Reproductive and growth traits are prioritized for genetic enhancement to satisfy growing demand for animal proteins from stable or reduced herd sizes. Genomics integrated with nutrition, health and welfare strategies can transition livestock systems towards sustainability.

Challenges and Potential of Agrigenomics in Developing Economies

While developed nations lead in agrigenomics research and applications, developing economies stand to gain immensely through locally relevant innovations. However, lack of genomics infrastructure, skilled manpower, and coherent policies limit impact. Participatory approaches engaging farmers, recognition of indigenous knowledge and building local capacity are prerequisites for equitable outcomes. South-South collaborations can aid technology and knowledge transfers. Public private partnerships are instrumental in translating research into products and impact at scale. With holistic strategies for infrastructure and skills development, developing world can leverage agrigenomics to ensure food and nutritional security of their growing populations in a changing climate.

Agrigenomics is poised to revolutionize agriculture and contribute significantly to meeting the formidable challenge of sustainably feeding over nine billion people by 2050. Continued advances in genomics and associated ‘omics’ technologies will accelerate genetic gains and drive precision in crop and livestock improvement. Multi-sectoral frameworks optimally integrating genetics, agronomy, nutrition and socio-economic factors can mainstream agrigenomics for food and nutritional security especially in the developing world. With prudent policies and investments, this nascent field holds immense promise to transform global agriculture on a sustainable trajectory.

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1.Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it