Man’s role in improving crops and livestock

Several thousand years ago, our forefathers survived almost like all the other creatures in the wild. They hunted and gathered their food.
The crops we feed on today, the animals we keep for milk and meat and the birds we rear for eggs and meat lived in the wild. With the passing of time, mankind found ways of domesticating some of the animals and birds, and growing some plants for food.

He had to observe the feeding habits of the animals and birds, their reproductive cycles and the illnesses that attacked them. The plants had to be well selected and continuously improved upon through propagation, breeding and other means to ensure that they had the desired characteristics.
The animals would be selected and sustained or crossbred to come up with better breeds.
The animals were often valued for such characteristics as high milk production, and large body size. The crop varieties were mainly valued for their high productivity and good taste.

“Over time, our domestic plants have been bent more and more to our will nature is being moulded to our tastes, desires and needs.” (Noel Kingsbury in The History and Science of Plant Breeding). Due to centuries of continuous improvement, crops such as tomatoes and maize that we eat today are different in appearance and in taste from their wild ancestors. Nearly everywhere one sees new crop varieties and new animal breeds which farmers are encouraged to turn to for increased agricultural production.
Some of the new crop varieties are preferred for more characteristics than just taste and high yields.

Mankind’s engagement in crop breeding has sometimes been based on existing challenges such as drought and pests and disease attack. Today we have drought tolerant crops and pest-resistant crops.
The practice has in recent decades taken on a new aspect described as biotechnology. What seems difficult to understand, however, is that a section of our people, due to lack of correct information, want to stop the ancient practice of agricultural improvement citing excuses such as the use of modern technologies like genetic engineering.


SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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