Super Seeds No Substitute for Soil Quality
The article ``Budget Cuts Jeopardize Discovery of Better Seeds,'' June 29, gives the incorrect impression that the adequacy of food supplies to meet ever-higher global demands due to continuing population increases is dependent on research and development of the ``various strains of grains to achieve the yields needed.''
This view reflects what I consider to be the greatest deficiency in agricultural research: The overemphasis on the search for ever higher-yielding strains of grain crops.
Regardless of the genetic potential of the most-superlative grain varieties, the actual yields obtained at locations to which they are suited are determined by the soil quality and soil management of the location. And fertilizers are only one component of soil management.
Soil deterioration (or degradation) occurs under most current grain-production methods, therefore making them unsustainable practices. This fact will not ultimately be reversed by plant-breeding research on grains.
Sustainable agriculture is dependent on soil-management practices that maintain or enhance soil quality. The practices should also be acceptable to and within the capabilities of ordinary farmers.
Lack of sufficient and appropriate applied soil-management research conducted on farmland in cooperation with the farmer clients is the greatest deficiency in global agricultural research. C. F. Bentley, Edmonton, Alberta