Transgenic plants for improved production. Increases in plant yield, disease control, drought tolerance, and many other characteristics will be obtained by constructing transgenic plants. A major research effort will be required to identify new genes with useful characteristics, and to construct and test transgenic plants that carry these genes.
Mechanisms of pest-plant and beneficial-plant interactions. Major advances in the understanding of disease mechanisms and in development of disease-control measures will be stimulated over the next few years by ground-breaking basic research now under way. In addition, there will be increased interest in the direct use of modified beneficial organisms and in identifying the relevant genes for beneficial organisms and transferring them into plants.
Knowledge base for facilitating a new generation of biologically based materials. These would replace such natural products as petroleum, such structural materials as steel, and synthetic textiles. Current trends indicate that it will be possible soon to replace these environmentally sensitive commodities with plant-produced materials that are environmentally safe and renewable. It will be of great consequence to the planet if means can be devised whereby commodities produced by higher plants are coupled with plants that have greater ability to reduce the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere.
Engineering of plant biosynthetic and metabolic pathways. With the rapidly expanding pool of genes with known functions, it is possible to consider making radical changes in biochemical pathways by introducing new genes and mutating existing genes. It is widely expected that research in this field will yield major returns in development and production of pharmaceuticals and improved plant disease and pest resistance, yield, and other characteristics.
Gene and genome interactions and bioinformatics. Mechanisms of interactions of genes and organisms will be understood over the next several years and will provide the basis of improved farm-animal growth, metabolism, development, behavior, and adaptation. These findings will permit assessment of future disease potentials in animals and humans and will allow development of diets to avoid them.
Future major progress in the production of livestock species that are important to the US economy will be attainable only if we are able to map animal genomes. This information will provide the basis of regulating various aspects of animal health, growth and development, metabolism, reproduction, and behavior. For example, the ability to identify specific marker genes associated with or predictive of such traits as rate of gain, fecundity, milk production, egg production, and ovulation rate would enable the selection of superior sires and dams in a shorter time than the many years now required