How does Bioinformatics support modern agriculture?
The global population is expected to hit 9 billion in the coming decades. As the number of people on the planet increases, the amount of resources consumed will also increase. Resources that are basic necessities of every human on the planet such as water and food will be critical to ensure that human life can be sustained. Modern agriculture with its innovative and visionary techniques is becoming indispensible to help feed the billions of people on the planet.
Innovation itself is often an outcome of knowledge generated across multiple different scientific domains. It would have not been possible to build the modern computers without advances in semi conductors. It would not have been possible to develop the mobile phone without advances in wireless communications. In essence, innovation is an outcome of multi-disciplinary contribution. Why would innovative agricultural techniques be any different? After all, agriculture is science, too.
Agriculture needs as much mathematics as it needs biology or even geology. Yes, it does sound odd but it is true. Modern agricultural practices such as hybrid variety development, farming using insect-resistant/herbicide-tolerant genetically modified seeds have been possible only through numerous contributions from multiple scientific disciplines. As a bioinformatics analyst, I couldn’t be any more near this truth.
After all those years of wondering why calculus was important or why should anybody care about polynomials/binomials, it has come to my understanding that what was being tested was not only a grasp of fundamentals but an aptitude for problem solving. And today, as a bioinformatician analyzing multiple Giga bases of DNA, those problem solving skills are innately handy. Bioinformatics helps agriculture in multiple ways, including but not limited to:
- Understanding the biology of plants and utilizing this deep knowledge to discover novel phenotypic characteristics;
- Collaborating with leading computer scientists, database specialists and statisticians to store, manage and retrieve knowledge essential to aid agricultural research;
- Developing algorithms that can predict yields of crops based on environmental conditions and genetic makeup;
- Accelerating the development of better varieties of seeds.
Thus, bioinformatics is closely tied to advances in agriculture and contributes to acceleration of these advances. Being a bioinformatician and specializing in the plant world delivers a sense of satisfaction. Knowing that your work has a purpose and that purpose makes a difference to numerous lives on the planet creates a sense of belonging.
If computers, biology and plants can help feed billions, why would we wait? Let’s innovate.