Understanding Evolution

Relevance of evolution: agriculture
by the Understanding Evolution team

It would seem that with the advent of fertilizers, pesticides and biotechnology, our ability to produce crops should be limitless. What chance do insects and plant diseases stand against mighty modern agricultural technology?

But biological systems evolve. Insects and diseases evolve as new technologies are introduced. Variables change, because evolution is change over time through descent with modification. So in the fields of agriculture and economics, just as in medical science and conservation, history matters.

Grain harvest Red onions at market
The mass production of genetically-similar foods (like the grain being harvested here, and these red onions) makes our groceries inexpensive, but leaves them vulnerable to diseases and pests.



In this section we will explore these key questions:
  • How does evolution affect the world's food supply?

  • How can a lack of genetic variation harm crops?

  • Why is it important to understand the evolutionary history of domestic crops?

  • How do pests evolve to resist pesticides?

 

View this article online at:
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/agriculture_01

Grain combine photo courtesy of USDA, photo by Gene Alexander; Onions in grocery store photo courtesy of USDA, photo by Ken Hammond.

Understanding Evolution © 2015 by The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California