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Title: Ecological and genetic systems underlying sustainable horticulture

item Mattoo, Autar
item Teasdale, John

Submitted to: Horticultural Reviews
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2008
Publication Date: 3/1/2010
Citation: Mattoo, A.K., Teasdale, J.R. 2010. Ecological and genetic systems underlying sustainable horticulture. Horticultural Reviews. 37:331-362.

Interpretive Summary: Sustainable agricultural systems have generated interest because they strive to achieve the general goals of productivity, profitability, and resource conservation. Research has shown higher tomato yields and net returns when plants were grown on the residue of a leguminous cover crop, hairy vetch, compared to conventional black polyethylene. The phenotype of hairy vetch-tomato paradigm for sustainable agriculture, characterized by longer life, delayed leaf senescence, and more tolerance to diseases, was related to expression of specific and select classes of genes. In this invited review, we present futuristic view and a model based on research findings thus far in the literature. We advocate that multidisciplinary research between crop ecologists and molecular biologists are needed to better understand linkages between molecular mechanisms and whole plant function within the context of the agroecosystem. Resulting information will serve to refine agroecosystem management and to direct development of improved crop genetics. We expect advances in these areas will form the basis for improving agricultural sustainability in the 21st century. This review should interest agriculture scientists, plant molecular biologists, farmers, extension agents, and industry devoted to sustainable agricultural practices.

Technical Abstract: Agriculture in the 21st century will face unprecedented challenges due to rising energy costs, global climate change, and increasingly scarce production resources. It will become imperative for producers to adopt sustainable systems that rely on natural system processes and use inputs as efficiently as possible. There are many approaches to achieving sustainability that can range from organic farming with no synthetic inputs to conventional farming with the latest genetic and technological inputs. In this review we highlight the development of production systems based on sound ecological principles as well as on molecular and genetic principles that hold the most promise for addressing the challenges of the 21st century. In the first section we focus on organic farming because the systems approach that relies on ecological processes is most developed and clearly articulated by practitioners and researchers of this form of agriculture. In the second section, the focus is on molecular systems and how these underlie and can supplement ecological approaches to defining improved agricultural systems.