Utah State University plant and animal scientists gave young farmers from across the nation a startling look at 21st century agriculture Wednesday during the second day of the five-day National Young Farmers Educational Institute in the Marriott Hotel in Salt Lake City.
Space farming and what the well-fed resident of the moon might eat, extraterrestrial crop production and wheat yields nearly 10 times that of the typical earth production, amazing plant growth, disease-free animals and 10 times the normal purebred cow production were just some of the scientific advances that have already been charted in the laboratory or are probable in the near future, the young farmers were told.Thomas D. Bunch of USU's department of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences, said genetic engineering has already produced mice twice the size of ordinary animals, a patented sheep-goat animal called a geep that looks like a goat with sheep's wool, and super-lean pigs with only 4 percent body fat.
Bunch told about advances in microsurgery that are helping animal scientists transfer embryos from purebred cows to common herd cows that act as hosts. He said test-tube fertilizations and multiple births, identical twins and long-term storage of frozen embryos are becoming common.
A variety of hormones have been and are being isolated and used to improve leaness, overall size and meat production, spur early maturity and increased milk production and produce other valuable traits in milk cows and steers, sheep and pigs.
"We are becoming more adept at isolating particular genes and particular hormones. Through gene targeting, scientists can, for instance, concentrate on the udder of a cow to produce living factories in which insulin, human growth hormones and other products can be developed," Bunch told the young farmers.
Not only have these experiments led to better control of disease in animals, but to advances in human disease control, he said.
"Many of our animal experiments have been and continue to be helpful to the advance of human science and medicine."
John Carmen and graduate student Charlie Barns, who are working in the university's Controlled Environment Life Support System laboratory, said they have been able to grow wheat under 24-hour-long light conditions, in approximately zero gravity and with controls on atmospheric conditions.
They said they are getting wheat yields equivalent to 900 bushels per acre whereas typical field yields are only 95 bushels per acre and world record yields are only 200 bushels per acre.
Wheat, they said, could be a staple aboard space ships or on moon colonies because it can be made into so many food items.
Among the menu items on a table at Luna City might be fresh strawberries, cooked wheat cereal and a hot beverage with a cereal or soybean base for breakfast; stuffed tomato with onion, celery, corn, mushrooms, cooked wheat and lettuces, bran muffins and oatmeal cookies for lunch; and oriental stir-fried vegetables, celery, broccoli, bean sprouts, fresh mushrooms, pea pods, cabbage, peanuts, brown rice and raspberry cobbler for dinner.
Everything would have been grown on the moon.
Other crops that could be grown on the moon and that could show up on the dinner table are spinach, mustard greens, sorghum, sugar beets, sugar cane, filbert nuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, rice, rye, barley, bananas, canteloupe, grapes, pineapple and watermelons.
Carmen said scientists are developing plants that employ apomixis, the ability to propagate themselves, as clones, indefinitely without the normal male-female regenerative processes; plants that produce their own bug repellent; and plants that produce six times the normal number of seeds per acre.