When you drive around the countryside right now you see farmers harvesting one of the best looking crop in years.
In spite of a spring which seemed to threaten the very idea of getting a crop in the ground, things have come together thanks to Mother Nature to produce what has the appearance of a better than average crop.
And harvest so far has been a time of sunny skies and warm weather allowing farmers to put a lot of acres through the combines already.
But as I drive around I wonder what a harvest a decade from now might look like.
In past columns I’ve talked about the likelihood we will see more soybeans and even potentially seed corner inching ever northward across the Canadian Prairies as new varieties make the crops viable in cooler, shorter daylight areas.
We are also likely to see varieties of existing crops which we can not even imagine today.
Genetic modification might be seen by some as a dark shadow over agriculture, it will not be going away.
The ability to continue to grow crops effectively will demand changes to the plants we grow.
Whether it’s club root in canola, or fusarium in wheat, or bugs and disease today barely seen but which will grow in their impact on crops, many of the crop varieties of today will not be viable into the future.
History tells us as much. Rust was once a major issue in cereal crops, and it was plant breeders selecting for resistance which made the problem all but a distant memory.
Lodging is another in-crop issue which new varieties over the years have helped lessen in many crops.
While those advancements were made through individual plant selection, GM technology looks to speed the process of development.
GM also broadens options by opening plant breeding to traits borrowed from one plant and placed in another to offer the desired result.
But what makes me wonder as I look out across a field of golden wheat is what technologies will arrive on the scene in the coming years to again alter what farmers grow?
As sometimes happens when one is contemplating such things you pick up a magazine and gain a glance at a little of what is to come.
The magazine is The agAdvance, which is subtitled ‘Journal of Growing Innovations’, so it often shows glimpses of new technology.
“In a small settlement in southern Israel, a group of scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are fine-tuning a new method for delivering disease-resistant traits to seeds without genetically modifying the plant. The process is similar to a vaccination, which protects a person from a disease by injecting them with a small sample of the neutralized virus. The virus triggers the development of antibodies that protect the subject from beinf infected,” starts the story in question.
While the concept is still very much still that — a concept, the potential of such a technique is intriguing to say the least.
Limited at present by the fact the benefits do not transfer to subsequent crops, that barrier might well be over come in time too.
And this is technology that has at least advanced to the stage it is in the public eye.
What of the research still so much in its infancy it is but a dream? Remembering rust resistance was once just a dream, we can only imagine what crops science will give farmers in the years ahead.
The results will be seen in the fields a decade and more from now, varieties and crops today barely imagined today.