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Faster, Faster: Jun 18, 2019

To cope with a growing population and shifting climates, researchers are turning toward speed breeding and gene editing to develop new crops, the New York Times reports.

Speed breeding entails growing crops at certain temperatures under certain lights to trick them into growing faster, the Times says. And now it notes that researchers like the University of Queensland's Lee Hickey are combining this approach with gene-editing and other tools to quickly develop new crops to improve food security. He and his colleagues wrote yesterday in a review in Nature Biotechnology that breeders are under pressure to develop crops that "higher yielding, more nutritious, pest- and disease-resistant, and climate-smart."

They themselves are trying to use CRISPR to alter barley and sorghum, according to the Times.

But Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf's Benjamin Stich tells it that there's only so much of a boost that speed breeding and gene-editing can provide, and that he and his team are working on using genome prediction to determine which plants will have the desired combination of traits.

"One technology alone is not going to solve our problems," Hickey tells the Times. "We're going to need all the tools in the shed."