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CRISPR/Cas9 in plant biotechnology: applications and challenges

CRISPR – clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats

Cas9 – CRISPR-associated protein 9

GMO – genetically modified organism

PBT – plant biotechnology

SSN – sequence-specific nucleases

TALENs – transcription activator-like effector nucleases

ZFNs – Zinc finger nucleases

The application of plant biotechnology to enhance beneficial traits in crops is now indispensable because of food insecurity due to increasing global population and climate change. The recent biotechnological development of the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated system 9 (Cas9) allows for a more simple and precise method of gene editing, which is now preferred compared to Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs) and Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALENs). In this review, recent progress in utilizing CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in plants to enhance certain traits in beneficial crops, including rice, soybean, and oilseed rape, is discussed. In addition, novel methods of applying the CRISPR/Cas9 system in live cell imaging are also extensively reviewed. Despite all the applications, the existing delivery methods of CRISPR/Cas9 fail to provide consistent results and are inefficient for in planta transformation. Hence, research should be focused on improving current delivery methods or developing novel ones to facilitate CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing studies. Strict regulations on the sale and commercial growth of gene-edited crops have restricted more efforts in applying CRISPR/Cas9 technology in plant species. Therefore, a shift in public viewpoint toward gene editing would help to propel scientific progress rapidly.

Introduction

With the rising demand of food security due to the ever-increasing population growth coupled with a looming threat of climate change (Haque et al. 2018 ; United Nations 2019 ), the urgency to develop reliable and efficient methods to secure a steady and sufficient nutrition to the global population is higher than ever. Hence, the role and application of plant biotechnology to engineer plants to suit global agricultural demands are now indispensable. Plant biotechnology (PBT), in essence, comprises the set of scientific methods and techniques used to identify and manipulate plant genes in order to develop desired traits or specific products in plants (Kalia, 2018 ). By using the methods available in PBT, beneficial traits of crops can be expressed and amplified, while undesirable traits and components such as allergens in rice, peanuts, or soybeans can be eliminated (Fuchs and Mackey, 2003 ; Barh and Azevedo, 2018 ).

The emergence of Sequence-Specific Nucleases (SSNs) such as Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs), Transcriptional Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALENs), and the more recently developed Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) are among the advanced methods that allowed a less sporadic and more precise means of genetic modifications in plants (Baltes et al., 2014 ; Fauser et al., 2014 ; Endo et al., 2016 ; Li et al., 2016 ; Sun et al., 2016a ; Sun et al., 2016b ). A detailed review on the comparison between the abovementioned three methods was done by Sun et al. ( 2016a ). The CRISPR/Cas9 system is generally preferred over the other methods because of its precision, efficiency, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness. Hence, it has gained attention in the genome editing community (Haque et al., 2018 ; Wang et al., 2018 ). Since the discovery of the first CRISPR locus by Ishino et al. ( 1987 ) and the pioneering extensive study on the CRISPR/Cas system by Jansen et al. ( 2002 ), the technology has been further studied for genome editing of various organisms.

In essence, CRISPR/Cas9 technology exploits the adaptive immunity system of the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes in DNA repair to modify the genetic sequences or even edit the genome of the targeted organism. This is achieved by constructing a single guide RNA (sgRNA) specific to the target DNA sequence, which forms a complex with the Cas9 protein, thereby initiating specific doublestranded breaks in the target DNA, as shown in Fig. 1 (Costa et al., 2017 ). The double-stranded breaks enable further gene editing as shown in Figure 1D and Figure 1E . Many studies have been conducted to describe the mechanism of the CRISPR/Cas9 system, as were extensively reviewed by researchers (Sander and Joung, 2014 ; Westra et al., 2014 ; Bortesi and Fischer, 2015 ; Ma et al., 2015 ; Ma et al., 2016 ; Musunuru, 2017 ; Adhikari and Poudel, 2020 ). Hence, to follow suit, this review discusses 1) the recent advances in utilizing the CRISPR/Cas9 system in a diverse range of plant species for crop enhancement and facilitate plant cell imaging, 2) the current challenges faced regarding the delivery methods of CRISPR/Cas9 reagents into plant cells, and 3) the regulatory systems of gene edited crops compared to those for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

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Mechanism of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. A) The constructed target-specific single guide RNA (sgRNA) forms a complex with the Cas9 protein; B) The CRISPR/Cas9 complex binds to the target DNA; C) The CRISPR/Cas9 cleaves the target DNA at specific sequences, leading to further gene editing; D) Gene knock-in through homology-directed repair (HDR); E) Gene knock-out through non-homologous end joining (NHEJ)

Applications of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in plant species

Certain phenotypes or traits that are expressed by plants, or in this case crops, can be tweaked and adjusted through the manipulation of their genes. In doing so, the expected outcome would be to produce an enhanced version of the crop, which can be beneficial to the general population from certain aspects. The precision of CRISPR/Cas9 technology ensures a highly reliable method in genome editing that does not randomly produce unforeseen alterations elsewhere in the genome (Schiml et al., 2016 ). The efforts in trying to apply CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in plants have been widespread since the discovery of the technology. Prior to applying the genome editing technology to crops, much of the research was conducted on Arabidopsis thaliana as a model plant organism because of its convenience and usefulness in genetic experiments (Koornneef and Meinke, 2010 ; Lee et al., 2018 ).

For example, A. thaliana was used as a model plant in implementing a sequential transformation method, which improved CRISPR gene targeting (Miki et al., 2018 ). The efficiency of pKAMA-ITACHI Red vector in CRISPR/Cas9 was also first investigated in A. thaliana when a study involving genes such as PDS3, AG , and DUO1 , was conducted by Tsutsui and Higashiyama ( 2017 ). After the initial validation on A. thaliana , the potentials of the technology are being further explored in other plant species. Some examples of plants and crops that have been successfully manipulated using CRISPR/Cas9 technology during the recent years are outlined in Table 1 .

Examples of successful genome editing of plant species

PlantGene(s) targetedTraitsMethodReferences
AppleMdDIPM4disease resistancegene inactivationPompili et al.
Maize
flowering time/plant heightgene knockout
& overexpression
Li et al.
Muskmelon albinism (CRISPR trial)gene knockoutHooghvorst et al.
Oil palm
disease resistancebase editingBudiani et al.
Oilseed rape herbicide resistancebase editingWu et al.

plant floweringgene knockout/downJiang et al. 2018
Rice



disease resistance
thermotolerance

grain length salt tolerance
gene knockou
gene knockout & overexpression
site directed mutagenesis
gene knockout
& overexpression
Kim et al.
Guo et al.

Usman et al.
X. Zhang et al. 2020
Soybean
flowering time & regional adaptabilitysite directed mutagenesisCai et al., 2018; Cai et al., ;
Wang et al.,


disease resistancemultiplex gene knockoutP. Zhang et al., 2020
Tobacco hybrid lethalityframeshift mutationMa et al.,
Watermelon albinism (CRISPR trial)gene knockoutTian et al.,

Improvement on quality of crops

One of the more impactful applications of CRISPR/Cas9 technology from the sustainability aspect is the ability of the genome editing tool to enhance the quality of agricultural products. Rice, a major food source for the global population (Fukagawa and Ziska, 2019 ), was first successfully manipulated using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology by Miao et al. ( 2013 ), who demonstrated the possibility of applying the system for targeted mutations in rice. Since this finding, many efforts have been channeled to elucidate the functions of individual genes and observe the effect of gene alterations in rice in the hope to apply the findings practically. An example would be a study by Guo et al. ( 2020 ), who used CRISPR/Cas9 to both induce overexpression and knockout the OsProDH gene in rice. The OsProDH gene encodes for a mitochondrial enzyme, proline dehydrogenase, which is responsible for the degradation of proline in rice. Proline plays a significant role in protecting plants from various biotic and abiotic stresses by inducing diverse physiological responses of the plants and by scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) (Hayat et al., 2012 ). It was found that mutation in OsProDH in rice resulted in the accumulation of proline, which in turn led to lower levels of ROS (Guo et al., 2020 ). Hence, by manipulating the OsProDH gene and subsequently the metabolism of proline, higher thermotolerance could be conferred onto rice (Guo et al., 2020 ).

On the other hand, salt-tolerant rice can be potentially achieved through the manipulation of the OsNAC45 gene (Yu et al., 2018 ; Zhang et al., 2020b ). Through the regulation of several other plant stress response genes ( OsCYP89G1 , OsDREB1F , OsEREBP2 , OsERF104 , OsPM1 , OsSAMDC2 , OsSIK1 ), OsNAC45 may be significant in regulating abscisic acid signal responses in rice, which could be the key to produce rice with increased salt tolerance (Zhang et al., 2020b ). In another study, CRISPR/Cas9 was used to elucidate the role of polygalacturonase in regulating the cell wall immune response through the gene OsPG1 (Cao et al., 2021 ). This not only deepens understanding of the role of cell wall integrity in plant immune response but also highlights the potential to exploit the cell wall physiology in conferring bacterial resistance. Other research studies used CRISPR/Cas9 in a similar manner with the aim of producing an observable effect either through gene overexpression or gene knockout in rice. Through these methods, various genes have been identified and successfully manipulated, for example, genes responsible for traits such as pigment (anthocyanin) content (Zheng et al., 2019 ; Hu et al., 2020 ), resistance to disease (bacterial blight and blast disease) (Zhou et al., 2015 ; Wang et al., 2016 ; Kim et al., 2019 ), and grain length (Li et al., 2020a; Usman et al., 2021 ). These findings prove that CRISPR/Cas9 technology is undoubtedly effective in manipulating traits in rice, and it is expected that these methods can be applied to generate more resilient, robust, and nutritious rice, which can drive global sustainability.

CRISPR/Cas9-based mutagenesis has also been successfully performed on other impactful plant species with significant mutation efficiency. The first application of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in soybean was conducted by Jacobs et al. (2015) where gene knockout was performed on the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. This pioneer work kickstarted numerous efforts in applying CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in soybean. Han et al. ( 2019 ) utilized CRISPR/Cas9 to induce a targeted mutation in the E1 gene in controlling soybean flowering and found that the truncation of the E1 protein prevented the inhibition of the GmFT2a/5a gene, increased its expression, and led to an earlier flowering time under long-day (LD) conditions. This transformation led to the development of a photo-insensitive soybean variant, which is potentially suitable for the introduction of soybean in higher latitudes (Han et al., 2019 ).

Similarly, a study conducted by Cai et al. ( 2020 ) demonstrated the role of the GmFT2a/5a gene in soybean in regulating flowering times and yield under different photoperiods by comparing double-knockouts and overexpression of the gene using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. These findings collectively established the involvement of certain genes in soybean that may contribute to its adaptability in different environments and conditions. Furthermore, the GmFT2a/5a double-knockout mutants were found to produce a significantly higher amount of pods and seeds per plants as compared to the wild-type plant, despite having a longer flowering time (Cai et al., 2020 ). In addition, the overexpression of GmPRR37 was found to lengthen flowering time under LD conditions and was involved in downregulating the aforementioned GmFT2a/5a , which promotes flowering, and in upregulating GmFT1a that inhibits flowering, thereby contributing to the regional adaptability of soybean (Wang et al., 2020 ). From these results, soybean variants with a higher productivity can be bred and adapted to a more diverse environment. Triple knockouts of GmF3H1 , GmF3H2 , and GmFNSII-1 were effectively performed using a multiplex CRISPR/Cas9 system in soybean and resulted in an increase in isoflavone content within the plants that at the same time conferred enhanced resistance to the soybean mosaic virus (SMV) (Zhang et al., 2020a ). Several genome edits in soybean were successfully inherited to subsequent generations (Han et al., 2019 ; Zhang et al., 2020a ), indicating that selective breeding of CRISPR/Cas9-edited soybean could potentially generate beneficial novel crop variants. However, the inheritance of CRISPR/Cas9 mutations requires further studies as the efficiency of its occurrence is still rather sporadic.

Oilseed rape

Oilseed rape ( Brassica napus ), also known as rapeseed, is another impactful crop that is notable for the production of edible oils (Cartea et al., 2019 ). The success in CRISPR/Cas9-mediated mutagenesis of rapeseed was first reported by Yang et al. ( 2017 ) where 12 genes from four gene families ( BnaA9.RGA , BnaC9.RGA , BnaA6.RGA , and BnaC7.RGA from the BnaRGA family; BnaA9.FUL , BnaC2.FUL , and BnaC7FUL from the BnaFUL family; and BnaA2.DA2.1 , BnaA2.DA2.2 , BnaC6.DA2 , BnaC5.DA1 , and BnaA6.DA1 from the BnaDA2 and BnaDA1 families) were tested in the study. Subsequently, stable inheritance of the induced mutations by the following progeny was observed in the study, indicating the effectiveness of CRISPR/Cas9 in producing an enhanced variant of oilseed rape (Yang et al., 2017 ). Following this study, Jiang et al. (2018) successfully identified the role of the BnaSDG8.A and BnaSGD8.C genes in promoting the expression of histone 3 lysine 36 (H3K36) methyltransferase, consequently influencing floral transition in oilseed rape as well as mutating the aforementioned genes to produce an early flowering phenotype. In addition, silencing the BnSFAR4 and BnSFAR5 genes in CRISPR/Cas9-mediated double gene knockout could increase the seed oil content (SOC) in oilseed rape without affecting seed germination, vigor, and oil mobilization, as demonstrated by Karunarathna et al. ( 2020 ). In another study, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated cytosine base-editing (CBE) was used in mutating the BnALS1 gene by introducing a C to T conversion at the specific region (Wu et al., 2020 ). This mutation produced a mutant oilseed rape that could resist tribenuron-methyl, a herbicide commonly used against weeds (Wu et al., 2020 ). Hence, the development of herbicide resistance in oilseed rape will help farmers in weed management. Taken together, these findings help to drive the productivity and to simplify the management of oilseed rape crop.

Other crop species

Currently, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing has been demonstrated to be successful on a number of influential crops such as maize (Liu et al., 2020 ; Li et al., 2020b), wheat (Hayta et al., 2019 ; Liu et al., 2020 ), and apples (Pompili et al., 2020 ), with a relatively high transformation efficiency (Haque et al., 2018 ; Adhikari and Poudel, 2020 ). The sequencing of novel plant genomes had widened the applications of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in testing higher number of genes in various plant species. CRISPR/Cas9 was recently reported to be effective in knocking out the phytoene desaturase gene in muskmelon ( CmPDS ), which is the first reported study to apply CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing on the species (Hooghvorst et al., 2019 ). The same PDS gene was also successfully knocked out to produce an albino phenotype in CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing pioneering studies on watermelon and apples (Nishitani et al., 2016 ; Tian et al., 2017 ). However, the rate of inheritance by the subsequent generations of transgenic plants could not be investigated through PDS gene knockout as the albino variants had low in vitro survival rates (Hooghvorst et al., 2019 ); hence, other genes should be targeted to determine the rate of inheritance of mutations in these plant species.

Targeted mutagenesis in sweet orange was achieved by Jia and Nian ( 2014 ), where a novel tool for delivering the CRISPR/Cas9 reagents was developed for citrus plants through the Xcc-facilitated agroinfiltration, and involved the use of Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri (Xcc) to infect the citrus plant. Knockout of the CsWRKY22 gene in Wanjincheng orange using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing exhibited enhanced resistance toward citrus canker, a destructive disease in citrus plants caused by Xcc, thereby further establishing the efficacy of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in citrus (Wang et al., 2019 ). Similar enhancement of disease resistance was observed in apples where the successful CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knockout of MdDIPM4 conferred increased resistance to Erwinia amylovora , a bacterium that causes fire blight disease in apples (Pompili et al., 2020 ). Pompili et al. ( 2020 ) could successfully clear CRISPR/Cas9 reagents from the genome by using T-DNA removal, which reduced the chances of occurrence of unnecessary or off-target mutations. As a conclusion, CRISPR/Cas9 technology can be applied to a diverse range of plant species and can produce a multitude of effects expressed by the plants. It is expected that the benefits of CRISPR/Cas9-edited crops and products would be able to reach the consumers. This, however, comes with its own set of challenges, one of which will be discussed in the later sections.

Live cell CRISPR imaging

Conventional cellular imaging methods applied in subnuclear dynamics studies such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) (Langer-Safer et al., 1982 ; Schwarzacher and Heslop-Harrison, 1994 ; Wu et al., 2019 ) are limited by the need of cellular fixation and the heat denaturation step that influence chromatin structure and organization, consequently impeding temporal studies in plant cells (Kozubek et al., 2000 ; Boettiger et al., 2016 ; Dreissig et al., 2017 ). Live cell imaging in plants allows spatiotemporal organization of chromatin to be studied in greater detail, which may potentially deepen the understanding of various gene expression patterns. Novel approaches in live cellular imaging tend to use Zinc Fingers (ZFs) or Transcription Activator-like Effectors (TALEs), which are proteins that can be programmed to bind to specific DNA sequences (Qin et al., 2017 ; Wu et al., 2019 ). Even though ZFs and TALEs are more flexible than FISH, there are technical challenges that one has to face as complicated processes are involved in constructing a large array of ZFs and TALEs proteins (Qin et al., 2017 ) and in constructing their expression vectors capable of targeting multiple DNA sequences (Wu et al., 2019 ). The necessity of re-engineering TALEs in targeting to a new gene sequence is also time-consuming and labor-intensive (Khosravi et al., 2020 ).

In view of the limitations of ZFs, TALEs, and FISH, researchers are utilizing the CRISPR/Cas system to achieve a live cell imaging method with greater flexibility and to overcome the limitations of visualizing non-repetitive regions (Dreissig et al., 2017 ). In this most recent approach, the nuclease activity-deficient dead Cas9 (dCas9), which was shown to possess specific DNA binding ability without DNA alterations (Qi et al., 2013 ; Dominguez et al., 2016 ), is combined with a fluorescence protein (FP) to visualize telomeric repeats in live leaf cells of Nicotiana benthamiana . The study proved the usefulness of this method to observe DNA-protein interactions in live plant cells (Dreissig et al., 2017 ). Telomere repeats in Nicotiana tabacum were also successfully labeled by transiently expressing dCas9-FP, mediated by an Agrobacterium vector (Fujimoto and Matsunaga, 2017 ). A protocol on conducting live plant cell imaging using CRISPR/Cas9 from S. pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus was developed by Khosravi et al. ( 2020 ), where a telomere-specific guide RNA was used to target the telomeric sequences in N. benthamiana . Through these initial findings, the CRISPR/Cas9 imaging system shows potential for further development in visualizing gene sequences with low repetition or low abundance. Simple and reliable imaging of chromatin spatiotemporal organization would also ease further research on gene expression at various stages of the plant cell cycle. dCas9 can also be applied in gene expression inhibition, transcriptional regulation, gene promoter activation and for monitoring spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression in plants (Bikard and Marraffini, 2013 ; Yang, 2015 ; Arora and Narula, 2017 ). This shows that studies on a single system may potentially yield outcomes that can be beneficial and applied to multiple areas of interest. The potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 system has barely been explored, and more is yet to come.

Challenges in applying CRISPR/Cas9 technology in plants

As a relatively novel toolbox for genome editing, there are certainly some obstacles to be resolved when trying to apply CRISPR/Cas9 technology in plants. First, before any manipulation can be performed on the genome, the specific gene responsible for the intended function must be identified to enable precise editing. Despite the efforts conducted to sequence the genomes of many relevant plant species, there is still insufficient knowledge on the function of sequenced genes within the plants’ genome, which impedes efforts in precision editing to produce intended effects (Haque et al., 2018 ; Adhikari and Poudel, 2020 ). Fortunately, by conducting Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS), gene functions can be effectively predicted with accuracy, which can drive further research on necessary manipulations in plants. For instance, Zheng et al. ( 2019 ) discovered the genes OsC1 and OsRb that are involved in regulating anthocyanins in rice leaf. This enabled Hu et al. ( 2020 ) to further use the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in manipulating anthocyanin levels in rice. A similar approach was also undertaken to study the RDP1 gene of A. thaliana (Tsuchimatsu et al., 2020 ). Just as how GWAS can propel CRISPR/Cas9 plant editing, CRISPR/Cas9 technology is also used as an alternative method for cross population validation (Alseekh et al., 2021 ), such as to validate GWAS findings in rice ( Oryza sativa ) (Lu et al., 2017 ; Meng et al., 2017 ) and maize ( Zea mays ) (Liu et al., 2020 ). This provides an insight into the importance of establishing the causal relationships and interactions between genes that can further drive the development of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in plants (Yin et al., 2017 ).

Delivery and disposal of CRISPR/Cas9 reagents in plants

The delivery process of the necessary CRISPR/Cas9 components into intended cells remains a challenge to its application in plant and animal cells alike, especially in an in vivo setting (Li et al., 2015 ). Agrobacterium -mediated delivery using A. tumefaciens or A. rhizogenes is a commonly used method for plant transformation in various species (Ron et al., 2014 ; Mikami et al., 2015 ; Budiani et al., 2018 ; Hooghvorst et al., 2019 ; Mao et al., 2019 ; Pompili et al., 2020 ; Li et al., 2020b). Despite its popularity, there is still a degree of uncertainty when utilizing this method as its success depends on the choice of the plasmid and the cultivar used (Mangena et al., 2017 ). Various studies have reported that the A. rhizogenes -mediated transformation system could have been the cause of low transformation efficiency observed in soybean (Li et al., 2019 ; Bai et al., 2020 ; Zhang et al., 2020a ), rice (Butt et al., 2017 ; Usman et al., 2021 ), and tomato (Ron et al., 2014 ) genome editing. Varying culture conditions can also influence the infection and regeneration rates of the Agrobacterium- infected explants, which affects the reproducibility of the results obtained (Hamada et al., 2018 ) as observed in soybean (Li et al., 2017; Hada, 2018 ; Mangena, 2018 ), clover ( Trifolium subterraneum L.) (Rojo, 2021 ), and cassava (Nyaboga et al., 2015 ). This further showed inconsistencies observed in transformation efficiency through Agrobacterium mediated delivery. In addition, while a high degree of success was observed in A. thaliana , the feasibility of Agrobacterium -mediated transformation in other plant species such as soybean (Mangena et al., 2017 ), melon (Hooghvorst et al., 2019 ), and wheat (Zhang et al., 2018 ) is still questionable, where the regeneration of transgenic plants would require the use of explant-derived calluses (Mao et al., 2019 ). Hence, further studies are required to enhance the Agrobacterium -mediated delivery method to increase its transformation efficiency, effectiveness in diverse plant species, and its success for in planta transformation.

An alternative to the Agrobacterium -mediated delivery system is biolistic delivery (Carter and Shieh, 2015 ). Biolistic delivery is the direct delivery of DNA material into plant cells, where DNA is coated onto heavy metal particles such as gold or tungsten (Baltes et al., 2017 ). As the DNA-coated metal particles penetrate and get trapped inside plant cells, DNA can dissociate from the particles and become integrated into the host genome (Baltes et al., 2017 ). Although recent success in inducing in planta genome manipulation was observed in wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.), the mutation efficiency that was reported using the biolistic method remains very low, less than 6% of samples being mutated and less than 2% of samples with the mutations inherited (Hamada et al., 2018 ).

Another alternative involves the use of viral vectors as a delivery system for the CRISPR/Cas9 components. A study by Ma et al. ( 2020 ) utilizing the sonchus yellow net rhabdovirus (SYNV) to infect tobacco plants reported relatively high mutation efficiency with minimal costs, but the disadvantage of using viral vectors lies in the range of infectivity of the proposed virus. Nonetheless, reverse genetic tools can aid in expanding the range of infectivity for other rhabdoviruses (Ma et al., 2020 ). Hence, in planta genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 is currently limited by the availability of effective delivery systems, and further studies and development of conventional and novel delivery methods would contribute to efficient research of CRISPR/Cas9 in plants.

CRISPR/Cas9-edited crop regulation

The ultimate goal of developing novel methods and innovations in applying the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in PBT is to enhance the quality of life of consumers through the production of transgenic plants or crops. Gene-edited organisms such as the ones edited using CRISPR/Cas9 technology involve mutagenesis of their genomes through either deletions, substitutions, or insertions of base pairs, while GMOs involve the introduction of a foreign genetic material or transgene into the organism that may or may not be integrated into the genome (Callaway, 2018 ). Despite this fundamental difference, gene-edited organisms are often governed by the same set of rules and regulations as those for GMOs in many countries (El-Mounadi et al., 2020 ). For instance, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) had recently ruled that gene-edited crops are not exempted by laws and regulations governing GM crops (Callaway, 2018 ; Confédération paysanne and others v. Premier ministre and Ministre de l’Agriculture de l’Agroalimentaire et de la Forêt, 2018 ). This implies that the high hurdles that were put in place in developing GM crops also apply to CRISPR/Cas9-edited crops, which may drive funding and investment away from future research on CRISPR/Cas9 as a viable plant breeding technology. The EU’s unchanging definition of GMOs as “not naturally altered” further impacted the public perception toward CRISPR technology and genetic modification as a whole (Plan and Eede, 2010 ). The road to gain public confidence toward GMOs on their safety, efficacy, and benefits is already riddled with various aspects of social, economic, and legal challenges (Zimny et al., 2019 ). However, shifting the public perspective toward gene technology is the key to trigger much needed changes across the board.

In contrast to the EU, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) ruled out regulation of genome-edited plants, provided its production does not involve plant pests (USDA, 2018 ). In addition to highlighting the safety and the lack of risks involved with genome-edited plants, this new ruling would promote further progress in the development of the technology (Hoffman, 2021 ). The first of the genome-edited crops allowed to bypass USDA regulations is a CRISPR/Cas9-edited white button mushroom resistant to browning (Waltz, 2016 ). The USDA has also been continuously funding research involving CRISPR-edited plants such as rice ( O. sativa ) (Lee et al., 2019 ), pennycress ( Thlaspi arvense L.) (Jarvis et al., 2021 ), and cocoa ( Theobroma cacao ) (Fister et al., 2018 ). Integrating modern technological approaches into regulations that were designed for older technology cannot possibly be the way forward. In contrast, law and regulations require modernization to keep up with the transformative power of innovation. Hence, rather than treating old GMO regulations as an umbrella that cannot continuously cover new and upcoming technologies such as CRISPR, regulations need to be amended as necessary.

However, despite periodic updates in GMO regulations and the development of novel guidelines, Malaysia is yet to approve the commercial growth of genome-edited crops (Singh et al., 2019 ). Similar to EU, Malaysia’s regulatory system classified genome-edited crops under GMOs; hence, any plant or crops would be difficult to gain approval by the system (El-Mounadi et al., 2020 ). Although Malaysia is relatively reserved in approving gene-edited crop propagation in the open field, it allowed more than 30 cases of import of transgenic products, albeit solely for the purpose of consumption or processing, in addition to approving confined field tests of transgenic plants such as rubber and papaya (Singh et al., 2019 ).

To be fair, crops produced by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and other gene editing methods utilized globally challenge the conventional perspectives and definition of gene modification and GMOs. Hence, there is no doubt that the regulatory bodies worldwide are still adapting to the rapid development of this technology. Therefore, despite legal hurdles, researchers, investors, and consumers alike should retain their interests in the development and research of more beneficial crops so that the supply would be able to cope with the rise in food demand.

Conclusions

CRISPR/Cas9 has received much attention in recent years as a revolutionary technology to genetically manipulate organisms to suit our demands. While initial research and development studied were focused on animal cell lines, the utilization of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing has now been expanded to be inclusive of a diverse range of plant species, specifically beneficial and important crops. Through the enhancement of agricultural crops, agricultural and nutrition demands are expected to be met in an effort to improve the global quality of life. It has also been shown that the potential of CRISPR/Cas9 is not limited to the improvement of phenotypical traits, as this technology can also be used in live plant cell imaging to facilitate scientific research. There could be additional new methods to exploit CRISPR/Cas9 in the coming years, and this development should be anticipated in the fast-paced modernized era of scientific innovation. Therefore, scientific progress should not be discouraged or even impeded by issues concerning outdated regulation systems. This, coupled with low public acceptance and valuation of GMOs and CRISPR in general (Shew et al., 2018 ), indirectly influence the availability of funding toward further research. However, with patience and collaborative efforts from scientific community in sharing the knowledge and presenting advances in practical aspects of science, a shift in public perspective toward not just CRISPR/Cas9 but gene editing as a whole, would help to propel rapidly scientific progress in genome editing.

This review did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Prof. Hoe I. Ling of Columbia University (New York, USA) for his editorial input.

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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Recent Advances in Plant Biotechnology

  • © 2009
  • Ara Kirakosyan 0 ,
  • Peter B. Kaufman 1

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S.A.

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  • Presents a full overview of plant biotechnology from the history to applications
  • Approach includes associated risks and the effects of plant biotechnology on global warming, alternative energy initiatives, food production, and medicine
  • Includes supplementary material: sn.pub/extras

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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

History of Plant Biotechnology Development

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Creating Products and Services in Plant Biotechnology

  • agriculture
  • alternative energy
  • bioremediation
  • biotechnology
  • genetically modified plants
  • herbal medicine
  • herbal products
  • plant biotechnology
  • transgenic plants

Table of contents (16 chapters)

Front matter, plant biotechnology from inception to the present, overview of plant biotechnology from its early roots to the present.

  • Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman, Leland J. Cseke

The Use of Plant Cell Biotechnology for the Production of Phytochemicals

  • Ara Kirakosyan, Leland J. Cseke, Peter B. Kaufman

Molecular Farming of Antibodies in Plants

  • Rainer Fischer, Stefan Schillberg, Richard M. Twyman

Use of Cyanobacterial Proteins to Engineer New Crops

  • Matias D. Zurbriggen, Néstor Carrillo, Mohammad-Reza Hajirezaei

Molecular Biology of Secondary Metabolism: Case Study for Glycyrrhiza Plants

  • Hiroaki Hayashi

Applications of Plant Biotechnology in Agriculture and Industry

New developments in agricultural and industrial plant biotechnology, phytoremediation: the wave of the future.

  • Jerry S. Succuro, Steven S. McDonald, Casey R. Lu

Biotechnology of the Rhizosphere

  • Beatriz Ramos Solano, Jorge Barriuso Maicas, Javier Gutierrez Mañero

Plants as Sources of Energy

  • Leland J. Cseke, Gopi K. Podila, Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman

Use of Plant Secondary Metabolites in Medicine and Nutrition

Interactions of bioactive plant metabolites: synergism, antagonism, and additivity.

  • John Boik, Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman, E. Mitchell Seymour, Kevin Spelman

The Use of Selected Medicinal Herbs for Chemoprevention and Treatment of Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, Heart Disease, and Depression

  • Maureen McKenzie, Carl Li, Peter B. Kaufman, E. Mitchell Seymour, Ara Kirakosyan

Regulating Phytonutrient Levels in Plants – Toward Modification of Plant Metabolism for Human Health

Risks and benefits associated with plant biotechnology, risks and benefits associated with genetically modified (gm) plants.

  • Peter B. Kaufman, Soo Chul Chang, Ara Kirakosyan

Risks Involved in the Use of Herbal Products

  • Peter B. Kaufman, Maureen McKenzie, Ara Kirakosyan

Risks Associated with Overcollection of Medicinal Plants in Natural Habitats

  • Maureen McKenzie, Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman

Authors and Affiliations

Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman

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Book Title : Recent Advances in Plant Biotechnology

Authors : Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0194-1

Publisher : Springer New York, NY

eBook Packages : Biomedical and Life Sciences , Biomedical and Life Sciences (R0)

Copyright Information : The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2009

Hardcover ISBN : 978-1-4419-0193-4 Published: 30 July 2009

Softcover ISBN : 978-1-4899-7916-2 Published: 23 August 2016

eBook ISBN : 978-1-4419-0194-1 Published: 15 August 2009

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XIV, 405

Topics : Plant Genetics and Genomics , Plant Sciences

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  • Published: 15 July 2022

Bioinformatics approaches and applications in plant biotechnology

  • Yung Cheng Tan 1 ,
  • Asqwin Uthaya Kumar   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-8785-6260 1 , 2 ,
  • Ying Pei Wong 1 &
  • Anna Pick Kiong Ling   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-0930-0619 1  

Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology volume  20 , Article number:  106 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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In recent years, major advance in molecular biology and genomic technologies have led to an exponential growth in biological information. As the deluge of genomic information, there is a parallel growth in the demands of tools in the storage and management of data, and the development of software for analysis, visualization, modelling, and prediction of large data set.

Particularly in plant biotechnology, the amount of information has multiplied exponentially with a large number of databases available from many individual plant species. Efficient bioinformatics tools and methodologies are also developed to allow rapid genome sequence and the study of plant genome in the ‘omics’ approach. This review focuses on the various bioinformatic applications in plant biotechnology, and their advantages in improving the outcome in agriculture. The challenges or limitations faced in plant biotechnology in the aspect of bioinformatics approach that explained the low progression in plant genomics than in animal genomics are also reviewed and assessed.

There is a critical need for effective bioinformatic tools, which are able to provide longer reads with unbiased coverage in order to overcome the complexity of the plant’s genome. The advancement in bioinformatics is not only beneficial to the field of plant biotechnology and agriculture sectors, but will also contribute enormously to the future of humanity.

Over the past decades, the term ‘bioinformatics’ has become a buzzword in all areas of research in biological science. With the continuous development and advancement in molecular biology, the explosive growth of biological information required a more organized, computerized system to collect, store, manage, and analyse the vast amount of biological data generated in the experiments from all fields [ 1 ]. Bioinformatics, as a new emerging interdisciplinary field for the past few decades, has many tools and techniques that are essential for efficient sorting and organizing of biological data into databases [ 1 , 2 ]. Bioinformatics can be referred as a computer-based scientific field which applies mathematics, biology, and computer science to form into a single discipline for the analyses and interpretation of genomics and proteomics data [ 2 , 3 ]. In short, the main components of bioinformatics are (a) the collection and analysis of database and (b) the development of software tools and algorithm as a tool for interpretation of biological data [ 2 ]. Bioinformatics played a crucial role in many areas of biology as its applications provide various types of data, including nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein domains and structure as well as expression patterns from various organisms [ 3 ]. Similarly, the field of plant biotechnology has also taken advantages of bioinformatics, which provides full genomic information of various plant species to allow for efficient exploration into plants as biological resource to humans [ 1 , 3 , 4 ]. The intention of this article is to describe some of the key concepts, tools, and its applications in bioinformatics that are relevant to plant biotechnologies. The current challenges and limitations for improvement and continuous development of bioinformatics in plant science are also described.

Applications of bioinformatics in plant biotechnology

The introduction of bioinformatics and computational biology into the area of plant biology is drastically accelerating scientific invention in life science. With the aid of sequencing technology, scientists in plant biology have revealed the genetic architecture of various plant and microorganism species, such as proteome, transcriptome, metabolome, and even their metabolic pathway [ 1 ]. Sequence analysis is the most fundamental approach to obtain the whole genome sequence such as DNA, RNA, and protein sequence from an organism’s genome in modern science. The sequencing of whole genome permits the determination of organization of different species and provides a starting point to understand their functionality. A complete sequence data consists of coding and non-coding regions, which can act as a necessary precursor for any functional gene that determines the unique traits possessed by organisms. The resulting sequence includes all regions such as exons, introns, regulator, and promoter, which often leads to a vastly large amount of genome information [ 5 ]. With the emergence of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and some other omics technologies used to examine plants genomics, more and more sequenced plants genome will be revealed [ 1 , 6 , 7 , 8 ]. To deal with these vast amounts of data, the development and implementation of bioinformatics allow scientists to capture, store, and organize them in a systematic database [ 1 , 5 ].

Bioinformatics databases and tools for plant biotechnology

In the field of bioinformatics, there are a variety of options of databases and tools that are available to perform analysis related to plant biotechnology. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics analysis on the plant genomes over the years have generated a large amount of data. All these data are submitted to various and multiple databases that are publicly available online. Each database is unique and has its focus. For instance, CottonGen, database is solely dedicated to obtaining genomics and breeding information of any cotton species of interest [ 9 ]. The establishment of such database eases the researchers who are working on cotton genomic studies by focussing on using just one database instead of searching through other available databases. However, some databases are established and designed to cater not only to one specific species or genus, but focus on all the plant species, such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ ) database, which as of 2021 possesses almost 21,000 plant genomes that are available for access [ 10 ]. Such a database is useful for studies that do not focus on one specific genus or species. This eases the researchers in accessing to all kinds of genomic data in one database. This section will briefly discuss some of the available plant genome databases, which are publicly accessible and not designated for one genus or species alone.

First would be the globally known and recognized database by all the researchers and biologists, which is the NCBI database. NCBI has been dedicated for gathering and analysing information about molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. In the NCBI database, one can download the genome information of the plant species of interest from either gene expression omnibus (GEO) ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/ ) or sequence read archive (SRA) ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sra ) by simply stating the scientific name of the plant in the search bar and the entire genomic information of the plant can then be obtained. The GEO and SRA comprise processed or raw gene expression data or RNA sequencing of plants that are reposited in the repository. For instance, to obtain the genomics of Rosa chinensis (Rose plant), by inputting the name in the search bar, it will direct to the search result page where the researcher can select the most recent or suitable datasets with specific accession number. Depending on the profiling platform used in each dataset, researchers could retrieve either gene symbols, Ensemble ID, open reading frame, chromosomal location, regulatory elements, etc. The information allows researcher to further analyse the subject of study using bioinformatics tools such as gene ontology ( http://geneontology.org/ ), Database for Annotation, Visualization and integration Discovery (DAVID) ( https://david.ncifcrf.gov/ ), Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) ( https://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi ), and others that is relevant for the study.

Another database that is available for accessing plant genome database is EnsemblPlants ( https://plants.ensembl.org/index.html ). Unlike the NCBI database, which is not only dedicated to plant genomes, EnsemblPlants is specifically dedicated to accessing plant genomes. EnsemblPlant is part of the Ensembl project that started in 1999, where the project aimed to automatically annotate the genome and integrate the outcome of the annotation with other publicly available biological data and establish an open access archive or database online for the use of the research community [ 11 ]. Ensembl project later launched the taxonomic specific websites designated for each taxon under their project that also includes the plants. The database is a user-friendly integrative platform, where it is continuously updated with the new addition of plant species every time a plant genome is completely sequenced. Compared to the NCBI database mentioned earlier, EnsemblPlant not only provides genome sequence, gene models, and functional annotation of the plant species of interest, but also includes the polymorphic loci, population structure, genotype, linkage, and phenotype information [ 11 , 12 ]. Unlike, NCBI, EnsemblPlant does also provide comparative genomics data of the plant species of interest. This indicates that the platform does not only offer genome sequence data but provide additional analytical data about the plant species of interest and help the researchers who are working on plant bioinformatics to save a lot of time by reducing the tedious work in running the analysis. Yet, the researchers could re-assess the data if necessary, depending on the stringency of their work.

Aside from the abovementioned databases that are widely used for retrieving plant genome sequence, there are still other plant databases such as PlantGDB, MaizeDIG, and Phytozome that can also be considered. Table 1 lists the available database and tools that are widely applied in plant biotechnology.

Biotechnology and bioinformatics for plant breeding

Plant breeding can be defined as the changing or improvement of desired traits in plants to produce improved new crop cultivars for the benefits of humankind [ 8 ]. Jhansi and Usha [ 13 ] mentioned a few benefits brought by genetically engineered plants such as improved quality, enhanced nutritional value, and maximized yield. The revolution of life science in molecular biology and genomics has enabled the leaps forward in plant breeding by applying the knowledge and biological data obtained in genomics research on crops [ 6 , 8 , 13 ]. In modern agriculture, transgenic technology on plants refers to genetic modification, which is done on plants or crops by altering or introducing foreign genes into the plant, to make them useful and productive and enhance their characteristic [ 13 , 14 ]. As mentioned above, the evolution of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and other sequencing technologies produces a large size of biological data which require databases to store the information. The accessibility of whole genome sequences in databases allows free association across genomes with respect to gene sequence, putative function, or genetic map position. With the aid of software, it is possible to formulate predictive hypothesis and incorporate the desired phenotypes from a complex combination into plants by looking at those genetic markers which score well and gives a higher reliability in breeding [ 2 , 15 ]. Other than genome sequence information, databases which store the information of metabolites also play a crucial role in the study of interaction with proteomics and genomics to reflect the changes in phenotype and specific function of an organism [ 1 ]. Some of the most widely used metabolomics databases for plants and crops such as Metlin ( http://metlin.scripps.edu ), provides multiple metabolite searching and about 240,000 metabolites, nearly 72,000 high-resolution MS/MS spectra, and PlantCyc ( https://plantcyc.org/ ), a database which stores information about biochemical pathway and their catalytic enzyme and genes from plants [ 1 , 16 ]. Moreover, single-nucleotide polymorphism markers also benefit from the revolution of NGS and other sequencing technologies. By using NGS, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) allows direct measure of mRNA profile in order to identify known single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) [ 1 ]. SNP is the unique allelic variation within a genome of same species, which can be used as biological markers to locate the genes associated with desired traits in plants [ 17 , 18 ]. Besides, transcriptome resequencing using NGS allows rapid and inexpensive SNP discovery within a large, complex gene with highly repetitive regions of a genome such as wheat, maize, sugarcane, avocado, and black currant [ 17 ]. Figure 1 illustrates briefly the process involved in plant breeding using NGS and bioinformatics.

figure 1

Brief process of plant breeding involving NGS and bioinformatics

Ever since the first transgenic rice production in 2000, there has been a significant revolution in crop genome sequencing projects, along with the advancement in technologies, rapidly increasing the pace in genetically modified organism (GMO) [ 2 , 13 , 19 ]. Among all the products in rice biotechnology, one of the most widely known GM rice is golden rice. Golden rice is a variety of rice engineered by introducing the biosynthetic pathway to produce β-carotene (pro-vitamin A) into staple food in order to resolve vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization has classified vitamin A deficiency as public health problem as it causes half a million of children to childhood blindness [ 13 ]. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient to humans as it helps with development of vision, growth, cellular differentiation, and proliferation of immune system; insufficient intake of vitamin A may lead to childhood blindness, anaemia, and reduced immune responsiveness against infection [ 20 ]. Being the first crop genome to be sequenced, rice has become the most suitable model to initiate the development and improvement of other species in genomic aspect [ 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 ]. The particular reason is due to its small genome size and diploidy, which enables rice to be an excellent model for other cereal crops with larger genomes, such as maize and wheat [ 21 , 23 ]. Song et al. [ 22 ] reported the complete genome sequence of two rice subspecies, japonica and indica , in 2005 that laid a strong foundation for molecular studies and plant breeding research [ 22 , 24 ]. With recent advancement in bioinformatics, it is now possible to run the sequence alignment between large and complex genome from other crop species with genomic data available from rice, by using different software or tools, in order to find out the shared conserved sequence through comparative genomics [ 2 , 7 ]. Vassilev et al. stated some of the most commonly used programmes such as BLAST and FASTA format allowed rapid sequence searching in databases and give the best possible alignment to each sequence [ 25 ]. The programming algorithm calculates the alignment score to measure the proportion of homology matching residue between sequence from related species [ 2 ].

Wheat, as the most widely grown consumed crops, together with rice and maize contributes more than 60% of the calories and protein for our daily life [ 26 , 27 ]. To meet the demands of human population growth, it is necessary to achieve more understanding in wheat research and breeding in order to accelerate the production of wheat yield by 2050 [ 26 , 27 , 28 ]. Despite its importance, the improvement of wheat has been challenging as the researchers have to overcome the complexity of the wheat genome such as highly repetitive and large polyploid in order to get a fully sequenced reference genome [ 26 , 29 ]. Advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms and other bioinformatics tools have revealed the extensive structural rearrangements and complex gene content in wheat, which revolutionized wheat genomics with the improvement of wheat yield and its adaptation to diversed environments [ 26 , 29 ]. The NGS platforms allow the swift detection of DNA markers from the huge genome data in a short period of time. These NGS-based approaches have undoubtedly revolutionized the allele discovery and genotype-by-sequencing (GBS). By providing a high-quality reference genome of wheat in databases, it allows more sequence comparison between wheat and other species to find out more homologous gene. Moreover, the development of sequencing technologies in both high-throughput genotyping and read length, combining with biological databases, allow the rapid development of novel algorithm to complex wheat genome [ 29 , 30 ]. For instance, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are an approach used in genome research which allows rapid screening of raw data to select specific regions with agronomic traits [ 29 , 31 ]. It allows multiple genetic variants across genome to be tested to study the genotype-phenotype association; thus, this method can be used to facilitate improvement in crop breeding via genomic selection and genetic modification [ 16 , 29 ].

Maize, a globally important crop, not only has a wide variety of uses in terms of economic impact, but can also serve as genetic model species in genotype to phenotype relationship in plant genomic studies [ 32 , 33 ]. Besides, due to its extremely high level of gene diversity, maize has high potential in the improvement of yield to meet the demands of population growth [ 33 ]. Despite the combination of economic and genomic impact, the progress in generating a whole genome sequence in maize has been a computational challenge due to the presence of tremendous structural variation (SV) in its genome [ 34 ]. The introduction of NGS techniques in several crops including maize allowed the rapid de novo genome sequencing and production of huge amount genomics and phenomics information [ 1 , 35 ]. A better integration of data within multiple genome assemblies is much needed to study the connection between phenotype and genotype in order to achieve yield and quality improvement of maize [ 35 ]. Nowadays, some user-friendly online databases such as qTeller, MaizeDIG, and MaizeMine are designed to ease the comparison and visualization of relationships between genotypes and phenotypes [ 36 ]. MaizeGDB, a model organism database for maize, provides the access of data on genes, alleles, molecular markers, metabolic pathway information, phenotypic images with description, and more which are useful for maize research [ 35 , 36 ]. MaizeMine is a data mining resource under MaizeGDB, which was designed to accelerate the genomics analysis by allowing the researchers to better script their own research data in downstream analysis [ 36 ] whereas MaizeDIG is a genotype-phenotype database which allows the users to link the association of genotype with phenotype expressed by image [ 35 , 36 ]. Cho et al. [ 35 ] reported that with the accessibility via image search tool, the relationship between a gene and its phenotype features can be visualized within image. The integration and visualization of high-quality data with these tools enables quick prioritizing phenotype of interest in crops, which play a crucial role in the improvement of plant breeding.

Bioinformatics for studying stress resistance in plants

The understanding of the stress response on plants is vital for the improvement of breeding efforts in agriculture, and to predict the fate of natural plants under abiotic change especially in the current era of continuous climate change [ 37 ]. Stress response in plants can be divided into biotic and abiotic. Biotic stress mainly refers to negative influence caused by living organism such as virus, fungi, bacteria, insects, nematodes, and weeds [ 38 ] while abiotic stress refers to factors such as extreme temperature, drought, flood, salinity, and radiation which dramatically affect the crop yield [ 37 ]. NGS technologies and other potent computational tools, which allowed sequencing of whole genome and transcriptome, have led to the extensive studies of plants towards stress response on a molecular basis [ 1 , 2 , 37 ]. The tremendous amount of plant genome data obtained from genome sequencing allows the investigation of correlations between the molecular backbone of living organism and their adaptations towards the environment [ 16 ].

Biotic and abiotic stress management

How the plants and crops respond towards stress environment is the key to ensure their growth and development, and to avoid the great crop yield penalty caused by harsh condition [ 35 , 39 ]. Therefore, the utilization of bioinformatic tools is important to study and analyse the plant transcriptome in response to biotic and abiotic stress. Besides, the application of bioinformatics tools on plants and crops genome can benefit the agricultural community by searching the desired gene among genome from different species and elucidate their function on the crops [ 35 ]. The genome databases play a crucial role in storing and mining large and complex genome sequence from the plants. Besides data storage, some genome databases are also able to perform gene expression profiling to predict the pattern of gene expressed at the level of transcript in cell or tissues. By using in silico genomic technologies, the disease resistance gene-enzyme with their respective transcription factor, which plays a role in defence mechanism against stress, are able to be identified [ 40 , 41 ]. For instance, a large-scale transcriptome sequencing of chrysanthemum plants was carried out by Xu et al. [ 40 ] to study the dehydration stress in chrysanthemum plants. An online database called Chrysanthemum Transcriptome Database ( http://www.icugi.org/chrysanthemum ) was developed to allow the storage and distribution of transcriptome sequence and its analysis result among research community [ 40 ]. With the aid of different protein databases, the biochemical pathway and kinase activity of chrysanthemum in response to dehydration stress are able to be predicted [ 40 ]. Xu et al. [ 40 ] also reported a total of 306 transcription factor and 228 protein kinase that are important upstream regulator in plants when encountered with various biotic and abiotic stresses.

Bioinformatics approaches to study resistance to plant pathogen

One of the challenges in modern agriculture to supply the nutrition’s demand along with the world population growth is the crop loss due to disease. The study of plant pathogen plays an essential role in the study of plant diseases, including pathogen identification, disease aetiology, disease resistance, and economic impact, among others [ 41 ]. Plants protect themselves through a complex defence system against variety of pathogen, including insects, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Plant-pathogen interaction is a multicomponent system mediated by the detection of pathogen-derived molecules in the form of protein, sugar, and polysaccharide, by pattern recognition receptor (PRRs) within the plants [ 42 , 43 , 44 , 45 ]. After the recognition of enemy molecules, signal transduction is carried out accordingly and plant immune systems will respond defensively through different pathways involving different genes [ 42 ]. According to Schneider et al. [ 46 ], the development of molecular plant pathology can be broadly divided into three eras, begins with the disease physiology starting from early 1900s until 1980s [ 46 ]. In the second era of molecular plant genetic studies, one or a few genes of bacterial pathogens were focused whereas the third era of plant genomic studies began in 2000 with the sequencing of genome, and the first complete genome of bacterial pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa , was obtained [ 46 ]. The recent advance in DNA sequence technologies allow researchers to study the immune system of plants on genomic and transcriptomics level [ 1 , 41 , 42 ]. Genomics has revealed the mystery and complexity and consequently the various information about phytopathogen. A clearer picture of plant-pathogen interactions in the context of transcriptomic and proteomics can be visualized through the application of different bioinformatics tools, which in turn made feasible the engineering resistance to microbial pathogen in plant [ 43 ].

PRGdb: bioinformatics web for plant pathogen resistance gene analysis

Plants have developed a wide range of defence mechanism against different pathogen and ultimately inhibit growth and spread of pathogen [ 47 , 48 ]. Plant defence system is mediated by resistance (R) gene [ 47 ]. R gene plays an important role in defence mechanism. They encode for protein that recognizes specific avirulent (Avr) pathogen proteins and initiated the defence mechanism through one or more signal transduction pathway in a hypersensitive response (HR) [ 41 , 47 , 48 ]. However, the essential components needed for protein to exert their resistance are still unidentified [ 48 ]. With the intention to study and identify more novel R gene, high-throughput genomic experiments and plant genomic sequence are essential to explore their function and new R gene discovery [ 47 ]. In 2009, Plant Disease Resistance Gene database (PRGdb), a comprehensive bioinformatics resource across hundreds of plant species, was launched in order to facilitate the plant genome research on discovery and predict plant disease resistance gene [ 47 , 48 ]. To date, PRGdb 3.0 has been released with 153 reference resistance genes and 177,072 annotated candidate pathogen receptor genes (PRGs) [ 49 ]. This database act as an important reference site and repository to all the research studies on exploration and use of plant resistance genes [ 48 , 49 ].

Apart from resistance gene storage, this easily accessible platform also allows different tools that are essential for exploration and discovery of novel R gene. For instance, the DRAGO 2.0 tool, which was built to explore known and novel disease resistance gene, can be launched on any transcriptome or proteome to annotate and predict PRG from DNA or amino acid with high accuracy [ 49 ]. Besides, BLAST search tools available in PRGdb provide comparison of different sequences which allowed the determination of gene homology and expression analysis. Apart from the database, plant pathology field also benefited from whole genome sequence technologies. The new DNA sequencing technologies such as NGS and Sanger sequencing allowed the study of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and transcriptomics on both the host plant and the pathogen [ 1 ]. The phytopathogen genomes which have been sequenced are expected to provide valuable information on the molecular basis for infection of plant host and explore the potential novel virulence factors [ 1 ]. Figure 2 illustrates a brief process involved in producing stress-resistant plant using bioinformatics approach.

figure 2

Brief process involved in producing stress-resistant plant using bioinformatics approach

Metagenomics in plant biotechnology and Cas9 modification

The effects of environment microorganisms’ community, especially soil microorganism on plants, may contribute to plant’s growth and pathogenesis. Through metagenomics approaches, the soil microorganism community that contributed to plant growth may provide a great genomic insight into physiology and pathology [ 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 ]. In metagenomics approaches, the overall genetic materials obtained from soil are sequenced and advancing to microbial community analysis via data analytics [ 53 , 54 , 55 ]. The extracted genetic materials from the soil were subjected to high-throughput metagenomics analysis via various NGS approaches such as 16S rRNA sequencing, shotgun metagenomic sequencing, MiSeq sequencing [ 54 , 55 , 56 ] for microbial species identification, functional genomics study, and structural metagenomic analysis. A NGS produces huge genomics data for each study; thus, application of bioinformatics tools would add value in the metagenomics analysis as the target genes identified could advance into elucidation of plant growth, plant disease, soil contamination, and microbial taxonomy [ 52 ]. For example, the use of UNITE ( https://unite.ut.ee/ ) for fungi identification [ 57 ], SILVA ( https://www.arb-silva.de/ ) for 16S rRNA [ 58 ], and MGnify ( https://www.ebi.ac.uk/metagenomics/ ) possesses metagenomics data of microbiome [ 59 ]. These databases allow the researchers to retrieve and analyse the relevant metagenomic sequenced data for a specific study.

Since metagenomics analysis provides the greater output on plant-microbe interaction, the genes that are responsible for plant immunity may play a crucial role in protecting against disease-causing microorganism [ 60 , 61 ]. With the emergence of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindrome Repeats (CRISPR) gene editing technique, Cas9 modification could produce a better plant trait and disease-resistant plant [ 62 , 63 ]. The CRISPR/Cas9 system is employed in studying the functional genomics in plants in relation to plant-microbe interaction. CRISPR/Cas9 system facilitated the gene editing by creating a mutant through double-stranded break forming a targeted gene mutation and followed by genome repair [ 63 , 64 , 65 ]. The CRISPR/Cas9 modification on OsSWEET14 genes protects the Super Basmati Rice from bacterial blight causes by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae [ 66 ]. Gene editing to knockout OsMPK5 and OsERF922 genes in rice protects against Magnaporthe grisea and Magnaporthe oryzae , respectively [ 67 , 68 , 69 ]. Besides that, Cas9 modification on Cs WRKY22 and TcNPR3 increased host defence immunity through regulating salicylic acid in Citrus sinensis and Theobroma cacao , respectively [ 70 , 71 ]. Thus, CRISPR/Cas9 modification could be one of important science advancements to validate the metagenomics analysis on plant-microbe interaction.

Current challenges of bioinformatics applications in plant biotechnology

Despite the beneficial prospect of the bioinformatics applied in plant biotechnology, there are many challenges and limitations must be addressed in order to fully utilize their potentials [ 1 ]. Along with the rapid growth in plant genome data mining and database development, there are a few challenges faced by bioinformaticians and scientists which can be divided into number of areas as mentioned in the subsections below.

Bioinformatic data management and organization and synchronize update resources

Since the introduction of the next-generation sequencing (NGS), which is commercially available in 2004, enormous amount of data has been generated in plant genome research. Thousands of Gb of plants sequences are deposited in various public databases monthly [ 1 , 72 , 73 ]. Moreover, the constantly sequenced and re-sequenced of the plant genome has developed a vast amount of new genome sequence in all public databases. The increase in sequenced plant genome driven by technological improvement has led to a problem that arises along with the storage and update of a large amount of data [ 72 , 74 ]. The update process should occur in all the comparative databases, not just solely individual genome database [ 72 ]. With this, the synchronized update of genome data resources among different plant genomic platform is able to provide a strong, updated, reliable database community that all the plant researchers can rely on [ 72 ].

Complexity of plant genetic content

Other than the tremendous amount of genome sequence generated, the complexity of the plant genetic content is also a challenging issue faced by plant research community. Even though the arrival of next-generation sequencing technologies has allowed the rapid DNA sequencing for non-model or orphan plant species, the sequencing pace for plants is far from that of animal and microorganism [ 74 ]. The main factor which contributes to this situation is because sometimes the plant genome can be nearly hundred times larger than the currently sequenced animal and microorganism genome [ 73 ]. Needless to say, some of the plant genome even can have polyploidy, a duplication of an entire genome, which is estimated to occur in 80% of the plant species [ 73 , 75 ]. According to Schatz et al., the genome assembly in the case of large size plant genome with abundance of repetitive sequence can be metaphorically described as build-up of a large puzzle consisting of blue sky separated by nearly indistinguishable white clouds of small gene [ 73 ]. The particular reason for this is mainly because the sequence length in NGS is relatively shorter than in Sanger sequencing and required dedicated assembly algorithm [ 74 ]. Therefore, most plant genomes sequenced by NGS can only be used for establishing gene catalogues, interpreting the repeat content, glimpsing evolutionary mechanism, and performing on comparative genomics in early study [ 74 ].

Advance in sequencing technologies

There are two basic approaches to genome assembly, i.e. comparative genome assembly and de novo genome assembly [ 75 ]. It is important to distinguish between these two different approaches. Comparative is a reference-guided method which use a genome or transcriptome, or both, for guidance, whereas de novo assembly refers to reconstruction of a genome from organisms that have not been sequenced before [ 74 , 75 ]. Table 2 compares some of the available assembly and NGS technology available for genome sequencing. However, these two approaches are not completely exclusive due to a lack of bioinformatic tools designed to cope with the unique and challenging features of plant genomes [ 74 , 75 ]. One of the biggest challenges in the development of bioinformatic software is the algorithm development [ 76 ]. As is known, all the programmes or software in bioinformatic are very computationally intensive. As most of the assemblies available now solely rely on single assembly, a development in better algorithm in terms of resource requirement is essential for combining different assemblers by using a different underlying algorithm in order to give a more credible final assembly [ 74 , 76 ].

Database accessibility

To date, there are about 374,000 known plant species in the world [ 77 ]. The first full plant genome sequencing was completed on A rabidopsis thaliana through Sanger sequencing methods in 2000 [ 78 ]. Although introduction of molecular biology decades ago may have facilitated the species identification, obtaining the full plant genomic data remains challenging due to the genome complexity. The development of NGS platform may foster the plant genome sequencing, yet there are limited sequenced datasets reposited to the database. To date, there are only 29 plant genome databases accessible in PlantGDB genome browser allowing researchers to retrieve the information about gene structure, matched GSS contigs, similar protein, spliced alignments EST, etc. Besides, the PlaD database ( http://systbio.cau.edu.cn/plad/index.php ) that focuses on the microarray data of the plants developed by China Agricultural University comprises transcriptomic database for plant defence against pathogen. However, it is limited to Arabidopsis , rice, maize, and wheat [ 79 ]. The Plant Omics Data Center ( http://plantomics.mind.meiji.ac.jp/podc/ ) is another publicly available web-based plant database featuring omics data for co-expressed profile, regulatory network, and plant ontology information [ 80 ]. Although curated omics datasets could be retrieved from PODC, information are restricted for certain plants and crops such as Arabidopsis , tobacco, earthmoss, barrelclover, soybean, potato, rice, tomato, grape, maize, and sorghum. Furthermore, all these publicly available databases require constant updating with new released data or resequencing data so that the researcher could obtain the most updated version of genome datasets for their research.

The application of bioinformatics in plant biotechnology represents a fundamental shift in the way scientists study living organisms. Bioinformatics play a significant role in the development of agriculture sector as it helps to study the stress resistance and plant pathogen, which are critical in advancing crop breeding [ 75 ]. NGS and other sequencing technologies will make more plant genome data accessible in all public databases and enable the identification of genomic variants and prediction of protein structure and function [ 75 , 76 ]. Moreover, GWAS, which allows the identification of loci and allelic variation related to valuable traits, eased the crop modification and improvement [ 74 ]. In brief, the advance in bioinformatics application in plant biotechnology enables researchers to achieve fundamental and systematic understanding of economically important plant. However, despite all these exciting achievement by the application of bioinformatic on plant biotechnology, it is still a long way from automated full genome sequencing and assembly at a low cost [ 76 ]. There is a critical need for effective bioinformatic tools which are able to provide longer reads with unbiased coverage in order to overcome the complexity of the plant’s genome. To achieve this, an enhanced algorithm development is essential to enable data mining and analysis, comparison, and so on. Therefore, bioinformaticians and experts with mathematical and programming skills will play an important role in bringing fresh approaches and knowledge into bioinformatics, not only for the advancement in plant biotechnology and agriculture sector, but the future of humanity as well.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.

Abbreviations

Genome-wide association studies

Next-generation sequencing

Plant Disease Resistance Gene database

RNA sequencing

Single-nucleotide polymorphism

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The authors wish to thank Prof. Hoe I. Ling of Columbia University (New York, USA) for his editorial input and proofread the manuscript.

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Tan, Y.C., Kumar, A.U., Wong, Y.P. et al. Bioinformatics approaches and applications in plant biotechnology. J Genet Eng Biotechnol 20 , 106 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43141-022-00394-5

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Published : 15 July 2022

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s43141-022-00394-5

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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

StatAnalytica

200+ Biotechnology Research Topics: Let’s Shape the Future

biotechnology research topics

In the dynamic landscape of scientific exploration, biotechnology stands at the forefront, revolutionizing the way we approach healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. This interdisciplinary field encompasses a vast array of research topics that hold the potential to reshape our world. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the realm of biotechnology research topics, understanding their significance and exploring the diverse avenues that researchers are actively investigating.

Overview of Biotechnology Research

Table of Contents

Biotechnology, at its core, involves the application of biological systems, organisms, or derivatives to develop technologies and products for the benefit of humanity. 

The scope of biotechnology research is broad, covering areas such as genetic engineering, biomedical engineering, environmental biotechnology, and industrial biotechnology. Its interdisciplinary nature makes it a melting pot of ideas and innovations, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Unlock your academic potential with expert . Our experienced professionals are here to guide you, ensuring top-notch quality and timely submissions. Don’t let academic stress hold you back – excel with confidence!

How to Select The Best Biotechnology Research Topics?

  • Identify Your Interests

Start by reflecting on your own interests within the broad field of biotechnology. What aspects of biotechnology excite you the most? Identifying your passion will make the research process more engaging.

  • Stay Informed About Current Trends

Keep up with the latest developments and trends in biotechnology. Subscribe to scientific journals, attend conferences, and follow reputable websites to stay informed about cutting-edge research. This will help you identify gaps in knowledge or areas where advancements are needed.

  • Consider Societal Impact

Evaluate the potential societal impact of your chosen research topic. How does it contribute to solving real-world problems? Biotechnology has applications in healthcare, agriculture, environmental conservation, and more. Choose a topic that aligns with the broader goal of improving quality of life or addressing global challenges.

  • Assess Feasibility and Resources

Evaluate the feasibility of your research topic. Consider the availability of resources, including laboratory equipment, funding, and expertise. A well-defined and achievable research plan will increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.

  • Explore Innovation Opportunities

Look for opportunities to contribute to innovation within the field. Consider topics that push the boundaries of current knowledge, introduce novel methodologies, or explore interdisciplinary approaches. Innovation often leads to groundbreaking discoveries.

  • Consult with Mentors and Peers

Seek guidance from mentors, professors, or colleagues who have expertise in biotechnology. Discuss your research interests with them and gather insights. They can provide valuable advice on the feasibility and significance of your chosen topic.

  • Balance Specificity and Breadth

Strike a balance between biotechnology research topics that are specific enough to address a particular aspect of biotechnology and broad enough to allow for meaningful research. A topic that is too narrow may limit your research scope, while one that is too broad may lack focus.

  • Consider Ethical Implications

Be mindful of the ethical implications of your research. Biotechnology, especially areas like genetic engineering, can raise ethical concerns. Ensure that your chosen topic aligns with ethical standards and consider how your research may impact society.

  • Evaluate Industry Relevance

Consider the relevance of your research topic to the biotechnology industry. Industry-relevant research has the potential for practical applications and may attract funding and collaboration opportunities.

  • Stay Flexible and Open-Minded

Be open to refining or adjusting your research topic as you delve deeper into the literature and gather more information. Flexibility is key to adapting to new insights and developments in the field.

200+ Biotechnology Research Topics: Category-Wise

Genetic engineering.

  • CRISPR-Cas9: Recent Advances and Applications
  • Gene Editing for Therapeutic Purposes: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Precision Medicine and Personalized Genomic Therapies
  • Genome Sequencing Technologies: Current State and Future Prospects
  • Synthetic Biology: Engineering New Life Forms
  • Genetic Modification of Crops for Improved Yield and Resistance
  • Ethical Considerations in Human Genetic Engineering
  • Gene Therapy for Neurological Disorders
  • Epigenetics: Understanding the Role of Gene Regulation
  • CRISPR in Agriculture: Enhancing Crop Traits

Biomedical Engineering

  • Tissue Engineering: Creating Organs in the Lab
  • 3D Printing in Biomedical Applications
  • Advances in Drug Delivery Systems
  • Nanotechnology in Medicine: Theranostic Approaches
  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in Biomedicine
  • Wearable Biomedical Devices for Health Monitoring
  • Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine
  • Precision Oncology: Tailoring Cancer Treatments
  • Biomaterials for Biomedical Applications
  • Biomechanics in Biomedical Engineering

Environmental Biotechnology

  • Bioremediation of Polluted Environments
  • Waste-to-Energy Technologies: Turning Trash into Power
  • Sustainable Agriculture Practices Using Biotechnology
  • Bioaugmentation in Wastewater Treatment
  • Microbial Fuel Cells: Harnessing Microorganisms for Energy
  • Biotechnology in Conservation Biology
  • Phytoremediation: Plants as Environmental Cleanup Agents
  • Aquaponics: Integration of Aquaculture and Hydroponics
  • Biodiversity Monitoring Using DNA Barcoding
  • Algal Biofuels: A Sustainable Energy Source

Industrial Biotechnology

  • Enzyme Engineering for Industrial Applications
  • Bioprocessing and Bio-manufacturing Innovations
  • Industrial Applications of Microbial Biotechnology
  • Bio-based Materials: Eco-friendly Alternatives
  • Synthetic Biology for Industrial Processes
  • Metabolic Engineering for Chemical Production
  • Industrial Fermentation: Optimization and Scale-up
  • Biocatalysis in Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Advanced Bioprocess Monitoring and Control
  • Green Chemistry: Sustainable Practices in Industry

Emerging Trends in Biotechnology

  • CRISPR-Based Diagnostics: A New Era in Disease Detection
  • Neurobiotechnology: Advancements in Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Advances in Nanotechnology for Healthcare
  • Computational Biology: Modeling Biological Systems
  • Organoids: Miniature Organs for Drug Testing
  • Genome Editing in Non-Human Organisms
  • Biotechnology and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Exosome-based Therapeutics: Potential Applications
  • Biohybrid Systems: Integrating Living and Artificial Components
  • Metagenomics: Exploring Microbial Communities

Ethical and Social Implications

  • Ethical Considerations in CRISPR-Based Gene Editing
  • Privacy Concerns in Personal Genomic Data Sharing
  • Biotechnology and Social Equity: Bridging the Gap
  • Dual-Use Dilemmas in Biotechnological Research
  • Informed Consent in Genetic Testing and Research
  • Accessibility of Biotechnological Therapies: Global Perspectives
  • Human Enhancement Technologies: Ethical Perspectives
  • Biotechnology and Cultural Perspectives on Genetic Modification
  • Social Impact Assessment of Biotechnological Interventions
  • Intellectual Property Rights in Biotechnology

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

  • Machine Learning in Biomedical Data Analysis
  • Network Biology: Understanding Biological Systems
  • Structural Bioinformatics: Predicting Protein Structures
  • Data Mining in Genomics and Proteomics
  • Systems Biology Approaches in Biotechnology
  • Comparative Genomics: Evolutionary Insights
  • Bioinformatics Tools for Drug Discovery
  • Cloud Computing in Biomedical Research
  • Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostics and Treatment
  • Computational Approaches to Vaccine Design

Health and Medicine

  • Vaccines and Immunotherapy: Advancements in Disease Prevention
  • CRISPR-Based Therapies for Genetic Disorders
  • Infectious Disease Diagnostics Using Biotechnology
  • Telemedicine and Biotechnology Integration
  • Biotechnology in Rare Disease Research
  • Gut Microbiome and Human Health
  • Precision Nutrition: Personalized Diets Using Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology Approaches to Combat Antibiotic Resistance
  • Point-of-Care Diagnostics for Global Health
  • Biotechnology in Aging Research and Longevity

Agricultural Biotechnology

  • CRISPR and Gene Editing in Crop Improvement
  • Precision Agriculture: Integrating Technology for Crop Management
  • Biotechnology Solutions for Food Security
  • RNA Interference in Pest Control
  • Vertical Farming and Biotechnology
  • Plant-Microbe Interactions for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Biofortification: Enhancing Nutritional Content in Crops
  • Smart Farming Technologies and Biotechnology
  • Precision Livestock Farming Using Biotechnological Tools
  • Drought-Tolerant Crops: Biotechnological Approaches

Biotechnology and Education

  • Integrating Biotechnology into STEM Education
  • Virtual Labs in Biotechnology Teaching
  • Biotechnology Outreach Programs for Schools
  • Online Courses in Biotechnology: Accessibility and Quality
  • Hands-on Biotechnology Experiments for Students
  • Bioethics Education in Biotechnology Programs
  • Role of Internships in Biotechnology Education
  • Collaborative Learning in Biotechnology Classrooms
  • Biotechnology Education for Non-Science Majors
  • Addressing Gender Disparities in Biotechnology Education

Funding and Policy

  • Government Funding Initiatives for Biotechnology Research
  • Private Sector Investment in Biotechnology Ventures
  • Impact of Intellectual Property Policies on Biotechnology
  • Ethical Guidelines for Biotechnological Research
  • Public-Private Partnerships in Biotechnology
  • Regulatory Frameworks for Gene Editing Technologies
  • Biotechnology and Global Health Policy
  • Biotechnology Diplomacy: International Collaboration
  • Funding Challenges in Biotechnology Startups
  • Role of Nonprofit Organizations in Biotechnological Research

Biotechnology and the Environment

  • Biotechnology for Air Pollution Control
  • Microbial Sensors for Environmental Monitoring
  • Remote Sensing in Environmental Biotechnology
  • Climate Change Mitigation Using Biotechnology
  • Circular Economy and Biotechnological Innovations
  • Marine Biotechnology for Ocean Conservation
  • Bio-inspired Design for Environmental Solutions
  • Ecological Restoration Using Biotechnological Approaches
  • Impact of Biotechnology on Biodiversity
  • Biotechnology and Sustainable Urban Development

Biosecurity and Biosafety

  • Biosecurity Measures in Biotechnology Laboratories
  • Dual-Use Research and Ethical Considerations
  • Global Collaboration for Biosafety in Biotechnology
  • Security Risks in Gene Editing Technologies
  • Surveillance Technologies in Biotechnological Research
  • Biosecurity Education for Biotechnology Professionals
  • Risk Assessment in Biotechnology Research
  • Bioethics in Biodefense Research
  • Biotechnology and National Security
  • Public Awareness and Biosecurity in Biotechnology

Industry Applications

  • Biotechnology in the Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Bioprocessing Innovations for Drug Production
  • Industrial Enzymes and Their Applications
  • Biotechnology in Food and Beverage Production
  • Applications of Synthetic Biology in Industry
  • Biotechnology in Textile Manufacturing
  • Cosmetic and Personal Care Biotechnology
  • Biotechnological Approaches in Renewable Energy
  • Advanced Materials Production Using Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology in the Automotive Industry

Miscellaneous Topics

  • DNA Barcoding in Species Identification
  • Bioart: The Intersection of Biology and Art
  • Biotechnology in Forensic Science
  • Using Biotechnology to Preserve Cultural Heritage
  • Biohacking: DIY Biology and Citizen Science
  • Microbiome Engineering for Human Health
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA) for Biodiversity Monitoring
  • Biotechnology and Astrobiology: Searching for Life Beyond Earth
  • Biotechnology and Sports Science
  • Biotechnology and the Future of Space Exploration

Challenges and Ethical Considerations in Biotechnology Research

As biotechnology continues to advance, it brings forth a set of challenges and ethical considerations. Biosecurity concerns, especially in the context of gene editing technologies, raise questions about the responsible use of powerful tools like CRISPR. 

Ethical implications of genetic manipulation, such as the creation of designer babies, demand careful consideration and international collaboration to establish guidelines and regulations. 

Moreover, the environmental and social impact of biotechnological interventions must be thoroughly assessed to ensure responsible and sustainable practices.

Funding and Resources for Biotechnology Research

The pursuit of biotechnology research topics requires substantial funding and resources. Government grants and funding agencies play a pivotal role in supporting research initiatives. 

Simultaneously, the private sector, including biotechnology companies and venture capitalists, invest in promising projects. Collaboration and partnerships between academia, industry, and nonprofit organizations further amplify the impact of biotechnological research.

Future Prospects of Biotechnology Research

As we look to the future, the integration of biotechnology with other scientific disciplines holds immense potential. Collaborations with fields like artificial intelligence, materials science, and robotics may lead to unprecedented breakthroughs. 

The development of innovative technologies and their application to global health and sustainability challenges will likely shape the future of biotechnology.

In conclusion, biotechnology research is a dynamic and transformative force with the potential to revolutionize multiple facets of our lives. The exploration of diverse biotechnology research topics, from genetic engineering to emerging trends like synthetic biology and nanobiotechnology, highlights the breadth of possibilities within this field. 

However, researchers must navigate challenges and ethical considerations to ensure that biotechnological advancements are used responsibly for the betterment of society. 

With continued funding, collaboration, and a commitment to ethical practices, the future of biotechnology research holds exciting promise, propelling us towards a more sustainable and technologically advanced world.

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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Research Proposal Topics In Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a fascinating subject that blends biology and technology and provides a huge chance to develop new ideas. However, before pursuing a career in this field, a person needs to complete a number of studies and have a thorough knowledge of the matter. When we begin our career must we conduct study to discover some innovative innovations that could benefit people around the world. Biotechnology is one of a variety of sciences of life, including pharmacy. Students who are pursuing graduation, post-graduation or PhD must complete the research work and compose their thesis to earn the satisfaction in their education. When choosing a subject for biotechnology-related research it is important to choose one that is likely to inspire us. Based on our passion and personal preferences, the subject to study may differ.

What is Biotechnology?

In its most basic sense, biotechnology is the science of biology that enables technology Biotechnology harnesses the power of the biomolecular and cellular processes to create products and technologies that enhance our lives and the wellbeing of the planet. Biotechnology has been utilizing microorganisms' biological processes for over six thousand years to create useful food items like cheese and bread as well as to keep dairy products in good condition.

Modern biotechnology has created breakthrough products and technology to treat rare and debilitating illnesses help reduce our footprint on the environment and feed hungry people, consume less energy and use less and provide safer, more clean and productive industrial production processes.

Introduction

Biotechnology is credited with groundbreaking advancements in technological development and development of products to create sustainable and cleaner world. This is in large part due to biotechnology that we've made progress toward the creation of more efficient industrial manufacturing bases. Additionally, it assists in the creation of greener energy, feeding more hungry people and not leaving a large environmental footprint, and helping humanity fight rare and fatal diseases.

Our writing services for assignments within the field of biotechnology covers all kinds of subjects that are designed to test and validate the skills of students prior to awarding their certificates. We assist students to successfully complete their course in all kinds of biotechnology-related courses. This includes biological sciences for medical use (red) and eco-biotechnology (green) marine biotechnology (blue) and industrial biotechnology (white).

What do we hope to gain from all these Initiatives?

Our primary goal in preparing this list of the top 100 biotechnology assignment subjects is to aid students in deciding on effective time management techniques. We've witnessed a large amount of cases where when looking for online help with assignments with the topic, examining sources of information, and citing the correct order of reference students find themselves stuck at various points. In the majority of cases, students have difficulty even to get through their dilemma of choosing a topic. This is why we contribute in our effort to help make the process easier for students in biotech quickly and efficiently. Our students are able to save time and energy in order to help them make use of the time they are given to write the assignment with the most appropriate topics.

Let's look at some of the newest areas of biotechnology research and the related areas.

  • Renewable Energy Technology Management Promoting Village
  • Molasses is a molasses-based ingredient that can be used to produce and the treatment of its effluent
  • Different ways to evapotranspirate
  • Scattering Parameters of Circulator Bio-Technology
  • Renewable Energy Technology Management Promoting Village.

Structural Biology of Infectious Diseases

A variety of studies are being conducted into the techniques used by pathogens in order to infect humans and other species and for designing strategies for countering the disease. The main areas that are available to study by biotech researchers include:

  • inlA from Listeria monocytogenes when combined with E-cadherin from humans.
  • InlC in Listeria monocytogenes that are multipart with human Tuba.
  • Phospholipase PatA of Legionella pnemophila.
  • The inactivation process of mammalian TLR2 by inhibiting antibody.
  • There are many proteins that come originate from Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Plant Biotechnology

Another significant area for research in biotechnology for plants is to study the genetic causes of the plant's responses to scarcity and salinity, which have a significant impact on yields of the crop and food.

  • Recognition and classification of genes that influence the responses of plants to drought and salinity.
  • A component of small-signing molecules in plants' responses to salinity and drought.
  • Genetic enhancement of plant sensitivity salinity and drought.

Pharmacogenetics

It's also a significant area for conducting research in biotechnology. One of the most important reasons for doing so could be the identification of various genetic factors that cause differences in drug effectiveness and susceptibility for adverse reactions. Some of the subjects which can be studied are,

  • Pharmacogenomics of Drug Transporters
  • Pharmacogenomics of Metformin's response to type II mellitus
  • The pharmacogenomics behind anti-hypertensive medicines
  • The Pharmacogenomics of anti-cancer drugs

Forensic DNA

A further area of research in biotechnology research is the study of the genetic diversity of humans for its applications in criminal justice. Some of the topics that could be studied include,

  • Y-chromosome Forensic Kit, Development of commercial prototype.
  • Genetic testing of Indels in African populations.
  • The Y-chromosome genotyping process is used for African populations.
  • Study of paternal and maternal ancestry of mixed communities in South Africa.
  • The study of the local diversity in genetics using highly mutating Y-STRs and Indels.
  • South African Innocence Project: The study of DNA extracted from historical crime scene.
  • Nanotechnology is a new technology that can be applied to DNA genotyping.
  • Nanotechnology methods to isolate DNA.

Food Biotechnology

It is possible to conduct research in order to create innovative methods and processes in the fields of food processing and water. The most fascinating topics include:

  • A molecular-based technology that allows for the rapid identification and detection of foodborne pathogens in intricate food chains.
  • The effects of conventional and modern processing techniques on the bacteria that are associated with Aspalathus lineriasis.
  • DNA-based identification of species of animals that are present in meat products that are sold raw.
  • The phage assay and PCR are used to detect and limit the spread of foodborne pathogens.
  • Retention and elimination of pathogenic, heat-resistant and other microorganisms that are treated by UV-C.
  • Analysis of an F1 generation of the cross Bon Rouge x Packham's Triumph by Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR/microsatellite).
  • The identification of heavy metal tolerant and sensitive genotypes
  • Identification of genes that are involved in tolerance to heavy metals
  • The isolation of novel growth-promoting bacteria that can help crops cope with heavy metal stress . Identification of proteins that signal lipids to increase the tolerance of plants to stress from heavy metals

This topic includes high-resolution protein expression profiling for the investigation of proteome profiles. The following are a few of the most fascinating topics:

  • The identification and profile of stress-responsive proteins that respond to abiotic stress in Arabidopsis Thalian and Sorghum bicolor.
  • Analyzing sugar biosynthesis-related proteins in Sorghum bicolor, and study of their roles in drought stress tolerance
  • Evaluation of the viability and long-term sustainability of Sweet Sorghum for bioethanol (and other by-products) production in South Africa
  • In the direction of developing an environmentally sustainable, low-tech hypoallergenic latex Agroprocessing System designed specifically especially for South African small-holder farmers.

Bioinformatics

This is an additional aspect of biotechnology research. The current trend is to discover new methods to combat cancer. Bioinformatics may help identify proteins and genes as well as their role in the fight against cancer. Check out some of the areas that are suitable to study.

  • Prediction of anticancer peptides with HIMMER and the the support vector machine.
  • The identification and verification of innovative therapeutic antimicrobial peptides for Human Immunodeficiency Virus In the lab and molecular method.
  • The identification of biomarkers that are associated with cancer of the ovary using an molecular and in-silico method.
  • Biomarkers identified in breast cancer, as possible therapeutic and diagnostic agents with a combination of molecular and in-silico approaches.
  • The identification of MiRNA's as biomarkers for screening of cancerous prostates in the early stages an in-silico and molecular method
  • Identification of putatively identified the genes present in breast cancer tissues as biomarkers for early detection of lobular and ductal breast cancers.
  • Examining the significance of Retinoblastoma Binding Protein 6 (RBBP6) in the regulation of the cancer-related protein Y-Box Binding Protein 1 (YB-1).
  • Examining the role played by Retinoblastoma Binding Protein 6 (RBBP6) in the regulation of the cancer suppressor p53 through Mouse Double Minute 2 (MDM2).
  • Structural analysis of the anti-oxidant properties of the 1-Cys peroxiredoxin Prx2 found in the plant that resurrects itself Xerophyta viscosa.

Nanotechnology

This is a fascinating aspect of biotechnology, which can be used to identify effective tools to address the most serious health issues.

  • Evaluation of cancer-specific peptides to determine their applications for the detection of cancer.
  • The development of a quantum dot-based detection systems for breast cancer.
  • The creation of targeted Nano-constructs for in vivo imaging as well as the treatment of tumors.
  • Novel quinone compounds are being tested as anti-cancer medicines.
  • Embedelin is delivered to malignant cells in a specific manner.
  • The anti-cancer activities of Tulbaghia Violacea extracts were studied biochemically .
  • Novel organic compounds are screened for their anti-cancer potential.
  • To treat HIV, nanotechnology-based therapeutic techniques are being developed.

Top 100 Biotechnology Research Proposal Topics to Consider in 2022

We've prepared a list of the top 100 most suggested dissertation topics, which were compiled by our experts in research. They've made sure to offer a an extensive list of topics that cover all aspects of the topic. We hope that this list will meet all of the requirements for assistance with your dissertation . Let us start with our list of subjects, one at a time each one

  • Achieving effective control of renewable power technologies to help the village
  • The production of ethanol through the aid of molasses and the treatment of its effluent
  • Different approaches and aspects of Evapotranspiration
  • Its scattering parameter is biotechnology circulator
  • The inactivation of mammalian TLR2 via an inhibiting antibody
  • The number of proteins produced by Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Recognition and classification of genes that shape the responses of plants to drought and salinity.
  • The small sign molecules that are involved in the response that plants have to the effects of salinity as well as drought
  • Genetic improvement of the plant's sensitivity to drought and saltiness
  • The pharmacogenomics of drug transporters
  • The anti-cancer drugs' pharmacogenomics are based on pharmac
  • The pharmacogenomics of antihypertensive medications
  • Indels genotyping of African populations
  • Genomics of the Y-chromosomes of African populations
  • The profiling of DNA extracted from historical crime scenes Consider the implications of South African Innocence Project
  • Nanotechnology-related methods for DNA isolation
  • Nanotechnology applications in the context of DNA genotyping
  • Recognizing the heavy metals that are tolerant with genotypes that are sensitive.
  • Genetic characteristics that play a role within the procedure of gaining tolerance to metals
  • The animal's DNA is authenticated by the species by the commercial production of raw meat products
  • The use of molecular-based technology is in the sense of detection and identification of foodborne pathogens in complicated food systems
  • Assessing the effectiveness of cancer-specific peptides that are suitable for efficient implementations in the area of diagnosis and treatment for cancer
  • Quantum Dot-based detection system is being developed in relation to a positive breast cancer diagnosis
  • It is targeted delivery of the embelin to cancerous cells
  • Exploring the potential of novel quinone compounds as anti-cancer agents
  • Treatment strategies for treating HIV in addition to the significance of nanotechnology the treatment of HIV.
  • A review of the medicinal value the antioxidants found in nature.
  • An in-depth examination of the structure of COVID spike proteins
  • A review of the immune response to the stem therapy using cells
  • CRISPR-Cas9 technology to aid in the process of editing the genome
  • Tissue engineering and delivery of drugs through the application of Chitosan
  • Evaluation of beneficial effects of cancer vaccines
  • Use of PacBio sequencing in relation to genome assembly of model organisms
  • Examining the connection between mRNA suppression and its effect on the growth of stem cells
  • Biomimicry is a method of identifying of cancer cells
  • The sub-classification and characterisation of the Yellow enzymes
  • The process of producing food products that are hypoallergenic and fermented.
  • The production of hypoallergenic milk
  • The purification process for the thermostable phytase
  • Bioconversion of the cellulose produce products that are significant for industry
  • The investigation of the gut microbiota of the model organisms
  • The use of fungal enzymes for the manufacture of chemical glue
  • A look at those inhibitors to exocellulase as well as endocellulase
  • Examine the value of microorganisms to aid in the recovery of gas from shale.
  • Examine the thorough analysis of the method of natural decomposition
  • Examine ways to recycle bio-wastes
  • Improved bio-remediation in the case of oil spills
  • The process of gold biosorption is accomplished with the aid of the cyanobacterium
  • A healthy equilibrium between the biotic and the abiotic elements by using biotechnological devices
  • The measurement of the mercury level in fish by means of markers
  • Exploring the biotechnological capabilities from Jellyfish related microbiomes Jellyfish related microbiome
  • What is the role of marine fungi to aid in attempts to break down plastics and polymers?
  • Examine the biotechnological possibilities that can be extracted of dinoflagellates
  • Removing endosulfan residues using the use of biotechnology the agriculture sector
  • The creation of the ELISA method for the detection of crop virus
  • Enhancing the quality of drinking water by the aid of the E.coli consortium
  • The characterisation of E.coli is its isolation from the feces of Zoo animals
  • Enhancing the resistance of crops to the attack of insects
  • The reduction of the expenditure on agriculture by using efficient bio-tools
  • Are there the most efficient ways to stop erosion of soils using the help of biotechnology-based tools?
  • What can biotechnology do to assist in increasing the levels of vitamin content in GM food items?
  • Enhancing the distribution of pesticides by using biotechnology
  • Comparing the biofortification of folate in various types of corpses
  • Examine the photovoltaic-based generation of ocean-based crop
  • What is the best way to use nanotechnology will improve the efficiency of the agriculture sector?
  • Analyzing the mechanisms that govern resistance to water stresses in models of plants
  • Production and testing of human immune boosters within the test organisms
  • Comparing genomic analysis to the usefulness of tools intended for bioinformatics
  • The Arabinogalactan protein sequence and its value in the field of computational methods
  • Analyzing and interpreting gut microbiota from model organisms
  • Different methods of purification of proteins A comparative analysis
  • The diagnosis of microbes and their function in micro-arrays of oligonucleotide oligonu
  • The use of diverse techniques within the biomedical research field that includes micro-arrays technology
  • The use of microbial community to produce the greenhouse effect
  • Evaluation of the computational properties of various proteins that are derived from the marine microbiota
  • E.coli gene mapping through the help of different tools for microbial research
  • Intensifying the strains of Cyanobacterium the aid of gene sequencing
  • Assessment and description by computation of crystallized proteins that are found in the natural world.
  • MTERF protein and the use of it to end the process of transcription that occurs in mitochondrial DNA inside algae
  • Reverse column chromatography in phase and its use in the separation of proteins
  • The study of the various proteins that are found within Mycobacterium leprae.
  • A review of the methods that are ideal to ensure the success of cloning RNA
  • Examine the most common mistakes of biotechnology in conserving the ecology and natural environment.
  • Is there a method to ensure that the medicinal plants are free of insects? Discuss
  • What are the dangers caused by pest resistant animals on birds and human beings?
  • What are the many areas of biotechnology that remain unexplored in terms research?
  • What's the future of biotechnology in the medical field?
  • Recombinant DNA technology to develop of new medical treatments
  • What is the reason for the type of bacteria that is used to make vaccines with the aid of biotechnology?
  • How can biotechnology aid in the development of new medicines that are resistant to the mutations of viruses and bacteria?
  • Is there a long-term treatment for cancer that is available in the near term? Biotechnology could play an essential role in this?
  • What is the reason it is so important that students remember the DNA codes in biotechnology?
  • How can we create hybrid seeds with assistance of biotechnology?
  • How can one create resistant plants to pests and what are the benefits of these seeds in final yields in agriculture?
  • Examine bio-magnification and its effects on the ecology
  • What are the causes to the reasons ecologists do not approve the use of pest-resistant seed, even though they are in application in agriculture?
  • How has biotechnology influenced the lives of farmers in developing countries?
  • Biotechnology can be used to boost the yield of plant species?
  • Examine the role played by biotechnology to increase the production of the seasonal crops
  • Are there any adverse side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs when they are manufactured with biotechnological techniques? Let the issue with real-world examples

We attempted to cover the essential topics needed for research work. Other topics are available that could be picked based on our interests, the facilities available and resources available for the research, as well as resources and time limits.

We have reached the end of this list. We feel it was beneficial in satisfying the selection criteria. Furthermore, the inclusion of biotechnology-related assignment themes was done in such a manner that they may help us with the requirements of assignment writing kinds and forms. The themes listed above can meet our demands for topic selection linked to aid with case studies and essay assistance, research paper writing help , or thesis writing help .

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Biotechnology articles from across Nature Portfolio

Biotechnology is a broad discipline in which biological processes, organisms, cells or cellular components are exploited to develop new technologies. New tools and products developed by biotechnologists are useful in research, agriculture, industry and the clinic.

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Enzymatic synthesis of RNA oligonucleotides

Research on enzymatic RNA synthesis has long been eclipsed by work on DNA—but a new method provides a leap forward for RNA.

  • Marcel Hollenstein

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

An innovative, sustainable, no-kill sea urchin aquaculture method

We present a sea urchin aquaculture method called raking. Unlike traditional methods in which the entire gonad is the final product, thereby requiring sea urchin killing, eggs are the final product in raking. As killing of sea urchins is not necessary, several production cycles are possible with this method, enabling sustainable echinoculture.

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Advancing sequencing-based spatial transcriptomics with a comprehensive benchmarking study

A systematic comparison of 11 sequencing-based spatial transcriptomics methods reveals molecular diffusion as a critical variable that influences the effective resolution and data interpretation across platforms. Our benchmarking study should aid biologists in selecting the most appropriate method for their specific tissue.

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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Engineering programmable material-to-cell pathways via synthetic notch receptors to spatially control differentiation in multicellular constructs

Synthetic Notch (synNotch) receptors are genetically encoded, modular synthetic receptors that enable mammalian cells to detect environmental signals and respond by activating user-prescribed transcriptional programs. Here the authors apply synNotch receptors to spatially control differentiation of endothelial and skeletal muscle cells in a multicellular construct on assorted biomaterials.

  • Mher Garibyan
  • Tyler Hoffman
  • Leonardo Morsut

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

PET imaging of neuroinflammation: any credible alternatives to TSPO yet?

  • Fabien Chauveau
  • Alexandra Winkeler
  • Guillaume Becker

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Voxelated bioprinting of modular double-network bio-ink droplets

Voxel bioprinting uses bio-ink droplets as building blocks to create functional tissue mimics, but manipulating small bio-ink droplets in 3D space can be challenging. Here, the authors report a bioprinting technology allowing prescribed assembly of bio-ink voxels to form robust 3D constructs.

  • Jinchang Zhu
  • Li-Heng Cai

research paper topics in plant biotechnology

Repurposing Type I-A CRISPR-Cas3 for a robust diagnosis of human papillomavirus (HPV)

This study presents a novel Type I-A CRISPR-Cas3 variant for precise HPV diagnosis. It demonstrates dual activation modes and robustness without stand-alone Cas3 activity, enhancing CRISPR-Cas3 diagnostic applications.

  • Quanquan Ji

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The contribution of commonly consumed edible insects to nutrition security in the Eastern D.R. Congo

  • Jackson Ishara
  • Rehema Matendo
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research paper topics in plant biotechnology

DropBlot: single-cell western blotting of chemically fixed cancer cells

Archived patient-derived tissue specimens play a central role in understanding disease and developing therapies. Here authors present DropBlot, a microfluidic platform that integrates droplet-based antigen retrieval with single-cell immunoblotting, enabling efficient protein retrieval and proteoform separation from fixed human specimens.

  • Amy E. Herr

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Bioengineered insect proteins and fats as high-quality and sustainable food constituents

Insect-derived proteins and fats present viable food constituents. They can be bioengineered and fermented to improve their nutritional value and functionality to promote food security and the development of new superfoods. Nonetheless, scale-up production and translation of insect-derived proteins and fats remain difficult.

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A machine learning tool for spatial multi-omics

SpatialGlue is a tool designed to decipher spatial domains from spatial multi-omics data acquired from a single tissue section. It employes graph neural networks with a dual-attention mechanism to accomplish within-omics integration of measured features and spatial information, followed by cross-omics integration.

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Biotechnology

Research in biotechnology can helps in bringing massive changes in humankind and lead to a better life. In the last few years, there have been so many leaps, and paces of innovations as scientists worldwide worked to develop and produce novel mRNA vaccinations and brought some significant developments in biotechnology. During this period, they also faced many challenges. Disturbances in the supply chain and the pandemic significantly impacted biotech labs and researchers, forcing lab managers to become ingenious in buying lab supplies, planning experiments, and using technology for maintaining research schedules.

The Biotech Research Technique is changing

How research is being done is changing, as also how scientists are conducting it. Affected by both B2C eCommerce and growing independence in remote and cloud-dependent working, most of the biotechnology labs are going through some digital transformations. This implies more software, automation, and AI in the biotech lab, along with some latest digital procurement plans and integrated systems for various lab operations.

In this article, we’ll discuss research topics in biotechnology for students, biotechnology project topics, biotechnology research topics for undergraduates, biotechnology thesis topics, biotechnology research topics for college students, biotechnology research paper topics, biotechnology dissertation topics, biotechnology project ideas for high school, medical biotechnology topics for presentation, research topics for life science , research topics on biotechnology , medical biotechnology topics, recent research topics in biotechnology, mini project ideas for biotechnology, pharmaceutical biotechnology topics, plant biotechnology research topics, research topics in genetics and biotechnology, final year project topics for biotechnology, biotech research project ideas, health biotechnology topics, industrial biotechnology topics, agricultural biotechnology project topics and biology thesis topics.

Look at some of the top trends in biotech research and recent Biotechnology Topics that are bringing massive changes in this vast world of science, resulting in some innovation in life sciences and biotechnology ideas .

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Genetic engineering and genome editing technologies as catalyst for africa’s food security: the case of plant biotechnology in nigeria.

Muyiwa Seyi Adegbaju&#x;

  • 1 Department of Crop, Soil and Pest Management, Federal University of Technology Akure, Akure, Ondo, Nigeria
  • 2 Fruits and Spices Department, National Horticultural Institute, Ibadan, Oyo, Nigeria
  • 3 Department of Agricultural Technology, Federal College of Forestry, Jos, Nigeria
  • 4 Department of Genetics, Genomic and Bioinformatics, National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency, Abuja, Nigeria
  • 5 Department of Microbiology, College of Biosciences, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria
  • 6 Department of Microbiology, Edo State University, Uzairue, Edo, Nigeria
  • 7 African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, Office of Science, Technology and Innovation, Midrand, South Africa

Many African countries are unable to meet the food demands of their growing population and the situation is worsened by climate change and disease outbreaks. This issue of food insecurity may lead to a crisis of epic proportion if effective measures are not in place to make more food available. Thus, deploying biotechnology towards the improvement of existing crop varieties for tolerance or resistance to both biotic and abiotic stresses is crucial to increasing crop production. In order to optimize crop production, several African countries have implemented strategies to make the most of this innovative technology. For example, Nigerian government has implemented the National Biotechnology Policy to facilitate capacity building, research, bioresource development and commercialization of biotechnology products for over two decades. Several government ministries, research centers, universities, and agencies have worked together to implement the policy, resulting in the release of some genetically modified crops to farmers for cultivation and Commercialization, which is a significant accomplishment. However, the transgenic crops were only brought to Nigeria for confined field trials; the manufacturing of the transgenic crops took place outside the country. This may have contributed to the suspicion of pressure groups and embolden proponents of biotechnology as an alien technology. Likewise, this may also be the underlying issue preventing the adoption of biotechnology products in other African countries. It is therefore necessary that African universities develop capacity in various aspects of biotechnology, to continuously train indigenous scientists who can generate innovative ideas tailored towards solving problems that are peculiar to respective country. Therefore, this study intends to establish the role of genetic engineering and genome editing towards the achievement of food security in Africa while using Nigeria as a case study. In our opinion, biotechnology approaches will not only complement conventional breeding methods in the pursuit of crop improvements, but it remains a viable and sustainable means of tackling specific issues hindering optimal crop production. Furthermore, we suggest that financial institutions should offer low-interest loans to new businesses. In order to promote the growth of biotechnology products, especially through the creation of jobs and revenues through molecular farming.

Introduction

The human population, which is presently about 8 billion, has been projected to rise drastically to 10.4 billion by the end of 21st century ( www.ourworldindata.org ). Although this is a significant milestone for the planet Earth, there is still much work to be done to balance the exponential growth in population and human requirements for clothing, food, water, and safety. In the last fifty years, significant progress has been made in science and technology. Emergence of new field of research in molecular biology and molecular genetics collectively referred to as “Omics” has created endless possibilities for biotechnological applications in various aspects of human life. The impact of biotechnology is already being felt, particularly in the development and production of effective vaccines against communicable and non-communicable diseases. Also, through innovative ideas, coupled with advancements in modern biotechnology techniques, some major food crops have been made healthier by the alteration of the quality or content of their main nutrients ( Zhao et al., 2021 ). In the coming years, the impact of climate change in agriculture will become more aggravated, especially in Africa, where the yield per unit area of crops grown is already the lowest globally ( Kyetere et al., 2019 ). Thus, application of plant biotechnology techniques has been recommended for improved food productivity, through the acceleration of the development of new crop varieties with better capacity for high yield ( Lloyd et al., 2023 ).

This paper discusses the economic impact of biotechnology sector in developed and developing countries around the world, explaining the strategies being used in places where it is being fully explored. Although biotechnology is still perceived by many as an emerging technology that poses a risk to human health and environment, progress made so far in adopting its tools as catalyst for food security in Africa were examined as well as policies put in place by many countries in the world, especially in Africa to regulate crops developed through its application ( AUDA-NEPAD APET Genome Editing Policy Framework, AAGEPF, 2022 ). It is our opinion that certain factors, limiting Africa from reaching its full potential in agricultural production can be addressed by smart combination of biotechnological and conventional breeding approaches. To attain food sufficiency in Nigeria, we highlight key areas where biotechnological techniques can be deployed to increase production of important crops in the country. An instance of a campaign against the development of genetically modified crops in Nigeria and possible solutions to prevent the re-occurrence of such in the future was presented and discussed. In light of the aforementioned, this review uses Nigeria and the possibility of improving its common crops using this technology as a case study to demonstrate how cutting-edge biotechnology, such as genetic engineering and genome editing, can be used to expedite the process of ensuring food security in the continent of Africa.

Biotechnology and food security in Africa

The global market value of biotechnology stands at 295 billion USD. In 2019, the industry successfully employed approximately 900,000 people ( Martin et al., 2021 ). The area has given rise to four well-established technological paths: industrial, medicinal, agricultural, and environmental biotechnology. These sectors are mainly concentrated in developed countries, with USA leading in terms of investment. Since the year 2005, there has been a constant global increase in agricultural biotechnology. Africa, through the African Union (AU), has noticed rapid advancement in biotechnology and has made efforts to secure access to emerging technology in the field. This was demonstrated when the organisation constituted the African Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) in 2016. Some of the roles of the high level-APET is to provide advice on most the rational approach, strategy and policy regulations for emerging biotechnological techniques in Africa ( AAGEPF, 2022 ) and to advise the union and member states on how to harness emerging biological technology towards agricultural productivity and economic development of the continent.

Africa is considered the epicentre of anaemia and micronutrient-deficient people in the world, with children under the age of five years, adolescent girls, and women being mostly affected. Many people on the continent have become food insecure because of conflicts, cultural discrimination, extreme weather events, as well as poverty and economic shocks ( Stevens et al., 2022 ). This situation has highlighted the failure of current economic models at address the development challenges that the developing world faces. Concomitantly, some other challenges, associated with natural resource constraints, such as insufficiency of water and arable land, which in turn has resulted in an increased rate of unemployment, poverty, and inequality are also being experienced in this part of the world ( Oxfam, 2019 ; Harris-Fry et al., 2020 ; UNICEF, 2023 ). Particularly, the poor in rural areas are the most vulnerable and affected, with approximately 88.4 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty and under-development ( Statista, 2024 ).

In 2019, Africa spent 43 billion USD on food importation, which is forecast to hit 90 billion USD by 2030. Decline in per capita food production on the continent is partly due to population explosion which is not matched up with adequate food production. This has resulted in widening the gap between food production and the associated consumption, according to Africa Common Position on Food Systems Food Security ( ACPOFS, 2021 ). Currently, Nigeria is a food deficit nation, spending 10 billion USD annually on food importation to feed its ever-growing population. Although the country leads globally in the production of crops like cassava, yam, and taro, this is mostly due to the annual increase in land area under cultivation but not as a result of improved productivity, in terms of yield/ha ( Ikuemonisan et al., 2020 ; Fufa et al., 2023 ; Kalu et al., 2023 ). Even so, post-harvest yield loss (up to 60% in some crops) occurs at various stages of food system, thereby making food unaffordable and unavailable to many ( Morris et al., 2019 ; Ewa, 2021 ; Businessday NG, 2023 ). To meet the food needs of its people and ensure food security, Nigeria must embrace novel technology in agriculture and overhaul the food system completely.

Important techniques of biotechnology for food security

Genetic engineering is one of such advanced technologies that is being utilized to attain food sufficiency in developed countries of the world. It involves exploring knowledge of the functional genomics of species and organisms, by incorporating specific DNA sequences coding for desirable traits into crops of interest ( Chen et al., 2017 ; Narayanan et al., 2019 ), using tools of gene transfer such as Agrobacterium -mediated transformation, protoplast transformation, electroporation, particle bombardment and calcium-phosphate-mediated gene transformation. This technology can, in addition, bring about silencing ( Figure 1A ), over-expression or complete loss of function of a specific gene within plants ( Brummell et al., 2015 ; Ferreira et al., 2017 ; Wang et al., 2018 ; Zhong et al., 2019 ). Crops developed through this approach are referred to as transgenic or genetically modified organism (GMO). A meta-analysis of data from the maize field by Pellegrino et al. (2018) over a period of 21 years indicated that genetically engineered maize performed better in grain yield than those from near-isogenic lines.

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Figure 1 . Illustration of genetic engineering (RNAi) and DNA-free CRISPR/Cas9. (A) Described RNAi gene silencing technology. It starts with the construction of T-Plasmid which contains the coding sequence of the targeted gene/s and antibiotics resistance gene. Agrobacterium tumefaciens is then transformed with the RNAi construct which is then used in transforming young plant tissues such as leaves or internode from tissue cultured wild type. To confirm successful transformation events, putative transgenic lines that are resistant to the incorporated antibiotics resistant genes are selected. Transgenic lines will exhibit phenotypes that is different from wild type depending on the function of the silenced genes. (B) Described DNA-free CRISPR/Cas9 technology. It starts with in vitro complex formation between recombinant Cas9 and gRNA. Then the CRISPR/Cas ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex is directly delivered to protoplasts by PEG fusion. After delivery into the protoplast, The RNP complex is active and enabled to precisely locate the target genomic region/s to induce double strand breaks. Mutation in the genome occurs after inherent cell repairs at the targeted genomic regions without the addition of foreign DNA. Subsequently, complete degradation of RNP complex occurs within the cell.

Genome editing (GEd) technology is another aspect of biotechnology currently experiencing growth. It enables scientists to manipulate the genome (the entire genetic information found in a cell) of various living organisms. It is based on the use of engineered sequence specific nucleases (SSNs) to induce DNA double-stranded breaks at precise locus/loci in the genome, followed by repair through either of the two cellular DNA repair pathways, including error-prone non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homology directed repair (HDR) ( Wyman and Kanaar, 2006 ; Malzahn et al., 2017 ). Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) ( Kim et al., 1996 ), homing endonucleases (HE) or Meganucleases (MN) ( Chevalier and Stoddard, 2001 ) and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALEN) ( Boch et al., 2009 ) are the three distinct SSNs, engineered prior to the emergence of CRISPR-CaS system, the most recent technique and by far the most popular tool for genome editing ( Wiedenheft et al., 2012 ). Unlike transgenic plants, a major feature of the genome editing is the ability to alter a plant’s genome without incorporating foreign DNA ( Figure 1B ; Malzahn et al., 2017 ). Application of genome editing in crop improvement is favoured for its cost-effectiveness, ease of use and possibility of speeding up the development of elite varieites.

Regulation of GMO and GEd crops and products

There are still unanswered questions about the safety of genetically modified crops for humans and the environment, despite efforts to maximize the benefits of genetic engineering for food security. Because of this, most nations have implemented or are implementing regulatory frameworks that cover the creation, processing, and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), though the specifics of these frameworks vary from one place to another. This is because regulators in diverse countries either take a product-based approach or process-based approach for safety regulation of GM crops. A product-base approach assesses risks and gains of GM crop on a case and case basis, a process-based approach the assesses method used in producing GM crops. For example, regulators of GMO in the EU, Australia and New Zealand are concerned about uncertainties in the technology and have refused to approve most GMO products. These items are labelled on the shelf even after they are approved, giving customers flexibility in their selection. This is in sharp contrast to GMO regulation in countries like the United States, Japan, Mexico, and Canada, where regulators ruled that the technology is safe, hence, the approval of products obtained there from for production and consumption. Labelling of GM products in these countries is only done when the nutritional and compositional content is altered or possesses new allergens ( Buchholz and Collins, 2010 ).

The debate over crop enhancement through the use of genome editing (GEd) technology is growing in popularity, as is the use of its products. The public perception did not favour the utilization of GMOs and its regulations are very strict in many countries. Most countries employ science-based risk analysis in regulating such products. The rational approach proposed by scientists for regulating GEd crops is one which designates as GMO, any plant with foreign DNA inserted into its genome whereas any, with no insertion of such is regulated in the same manner as variety developed through conventional breeding methods ( Lema, 2019 ). For example, the approach for regulating GEd crops by biosafety regulators in countries like Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, United States and Japan, is the same as those that apply to conventional varieties, if foreign DNA or genes are not integrated into the genome ( Lema, 2019 ; Hundleby and Harwood, 2022 ). Regulations, adopted by Australia for GEd plant is similar to that in Argentina. However, in New Zealand, despite the ruling on environmental protection authority that GEd plants lacking foreign DNA should not be regulated as GMOs in 2014; this stance was later revoked by High Court and currently, GEd crops are categorised as GMOs ( Fritsche et al., 2018 ).

In Africa, Nigeria was the first country to make the move to amend its biosafety legislation to include regulation of genome-edited products ( AAGEPF, 2022 ; AUDA-NEPAD APET Genome Editing Policy Framework, 2022 ) . Thereafter, the guidelines for regulating GEd products were clearly stated and have been adopted since 2020. Other African nations, including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, followed suit and enacted national rules for genetically engineered products. The named countries, however exempted regulation of genome-edited crops with no foreign DNA from their biosafety laws. The move is adjudged positive as it will facilitate increase in agricultural productivity of these countries. South Africa still classifies all GEd plants as GM crops, in contrast to other African nations like eSwatini, Senegal, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and others who have expressed interest in creating laws for genome-edited products. However, experts opine that such approach contradict the principle of science-based risk analysis and the decision is being appealed (The conversation, 2022).

Involvement of governments in plant biotechnology

The United States of America has continuously led the world in biotechnology research and development as well as the commercialization of its goods for more than 20 years. The United States government implemented regulations in the early years of biotechnology to encourage university-based biotechnology research and development. In 1986, US government enacted the Federal Technology Transfer Act, to foster transfer of publicly developed techniques in biotechnology to private-enterprise ( Mugabe et al., 2002 ). The law made room for joint research between federal laboratories, universities, and private-enterprises and at the inception of innovation, the private partner acquires the patent rights while the participating university and/or government innovators share royalties from licensed innovation. As far back as 1987, the US government spent 2.7 billion USD as funding for biotechnology research and later increased to three billion USD annually by mid 1990s ( Avramovic, 1996 ).

Early investment in R&D and good policy may have encouraged private-sector participation in development and commercialization of biotechnology products and may also have been responsible for huge revenue now generated from their sales. Presently, the US generates a revenue of 33 billion USD from its 318 biotechnology companies ( Martin et al., 2021 ). Because the industry is extremely technical, US government is still committed to funding R&D and training in biotechnology. However, the burden of financing scientific research in the field seems to have shifted to the private-enterprises, as 70% of the funding now comes from that sector. This trend has also been reported in other countries like France and Japan ( Martin et al., 2021 ), an indication that biotechnology sector is highly profitable.

Various developmental strategies were deployed by other countries towards advancement of biotechnology. For example, Brazil gained international prominence in biotechnology after the successful sequencing of the genome of Xylella fastidiosa , a pathogen that causes losses of ∼100 million USD in citrus industry. In 1980, a small team of scientists in Cuba produced alpha-interferon within 42 days. This was a major achievement at the time, which instigated Cuban government in 1986 to fund establishment of centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Host of other centers which specialized in biomass conversion, animal production and tropical medicine were also established. As at 2015, biotechnology products, mostly pharmaceuticals, ranked second in the list of most important export commodities in (cuba-solidarity.org.uk 2015; León-de la O et al., 2018). South Korea is another country that has become a biotechnology giant. In 1993, their evolution began, when their government developed a national biotechnology plan, to be executed in three phases, with a total investment of 15 billion USD to be provided by both public and private sectors. Their target was to achieve five percent global market share for novel biotechnology products by 2007. In 2001, the Nigeria Government developed the National Policy for Biotechnology which entails biotechnology knowledge acquisition and commercialization, research and development, capacity building, bioresources development, collaboration in bioresources and biotechnology development. This led to the establishment of National Biotechnology Research and Development Agency ( NABDA, 2001 ) in the same year, which is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the national policy on biotechnology. At the time, strategies for implementing the policy included the identification of Sheda Science and Technology Complex SHESTCO at Federal Capital Territory. In addition, premier universities in the six geo-political zones of the country, namely, University of Ibadan in the southwest; University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the southeast; University of Port-Harcourt in the south-south; Ahmadu Bello University in the northwest; University of Maiduguri in the northeast and the University of Jos, in the northcentral were brought on board to provide necessary facility to support research in biotechnology and genetic engineering. Furthermore, a committee, comprising of representative from Ministries of science and technology, agricultural and rural development, environment health, education, etc., directors of research institutes, universities, manufacturer association of Nigeria and National association of Chambers of Commerce Industry, Mine and Agriculture (NACCIMA), was set up to provide technical expertise needed for biotechnology policy implementation in the country. Currently, the strategy for biotechnology integration in Nigeria has not changed much as indicated in ( Figure 2 ). National Biotechnology Policy was targeted towards accelerated technological growth and increasing self-reliance by strengthening capacity of home-based researchers to copy and adapt techniques in biotechnology for national development. Also, it is expected to serve as government blueprint to effectively address its concerns such as food security among others.

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Figure 2 . An overview of the biotechnology strategy in Nigeria. Many government agencies and ministries are involved in setting up, implementation of biotechnology policy and regulation of biotech products in Nigeria. Those that are most relevant in the implantation and regulation of biotechnology are National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Federal Ministries, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and The National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO). Research institutes and Universities are involved in human and capacity building, the national Vaccine governing committee consisting of research institutions and federal ministry of health are involved in vaccine research, development, and production in Nigeria.

Since its founding, NABRDA has coordinated biotechnology-related activities, leading to commercialized products and promoted agricultural biotechnology across the country; However, in 2015, Nigeria passed a biosafety bill, which gave the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) control over biotechnology activities in the country. NBMA had the responsibility of ensuring safe application, handling of genetically modified organisms and products through licence issuance in Nigeria. In 2015, SHESTCO, in collaboration with WAAPP/PPAAO and ARCN, organized workshop for young and upcoming bio-scientists, drawn from various research institutions in the country, to strengthen biotechnology capacity in the country. Similarly, the biotechnology research and development centre at Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki has commenced summer training on tropical plant biotechnology since 2013. Cross River Government, a state in Nigeria, by way of public private participation in biotechnology promotion, partnered with a biotechnology company to jump start production of feedstock on a large scale for its juice processing plant in Calabar free Trade zone.

Prospect of using plant biotechnology for improvement of major crops

Rice is the single, most significant cereal crop consumed globally, simply because it is a convenience food for the growing world population, with the demand for it expected to increase by 25% by 2030 ( Naik et al., 2022 ; Poutanen et al., 2022 ). The crop has also been developed into a model monocot system for genetic and functional genomic research ( Datta, 2004 ; Jung et al., 2008 ). Although, Africa has over 130 M ha of arable land that is suitable for rice production, only approximately 10 M ha of it is currently used for that purpose (IRRI, 2024), which indicates that Africa’s potential in rice production is still largely untapped. For example, Nigeria, currently the largest producer of rice in Africa, has a potential land area of about 4.9 million hectares suitable for rice production, but has limited cropping to about 1.7 million ha, with production being constrained by low input, poor crop management techniques and water scarcity ( Abiwon et al., 2016 ). As a result, of the seven million metric tonnes of the crop consumed in the country in 2022, over 1.5 million metric tonnes were imported to meet the shortfall in rice production (The conversation, 2023).

Two cultivated species of rice, Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glaberrima (African rice) are cultivated in Africa ( Van Andel, 2010 ). Asian rice has been steadily cultivated throughout the world, due to its higher production than African rice, according to productivity assessments. However, because of rich reservoir of genes for resistance to several biotic and abiotic stresses, African rice can thrive better in harsh environment ( Wambugu et al., 2013 ). In certain part of Burkina Faso, Rice farmers prefer cultivation of African rice over Asian rice, due to its resilience against severe environments. Previous efforts to create a rice variety with the high yielding potential of Asian rice and resistance traits of African rice led to the development of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties, which were created by combining traditional breeding techniques with biotechnological approaches. However, African rice is still unrivalled by NERICA in adaptability traits like weed competitiveness ( Agnoun et al., 2012 ). This could be because only around 9% of the O. glaberrima genome is present in the genomic content of NERICA variants ( Ndjiondjop et al., 2008 ). Additionally, O. glaberrima also possesses valuable genes which can contribute to improvement of nutritional quality of rice. For example, the reports of Gayin et al. (2017) and Wambugu et al. (2019) showed that starch granules, which accumulated in the grain endosperm of African rice, has higher amylose content than its Asian counterpart through structural analysis. This indicates that African rice, with its high amylose content, may be a natural source of resistant starch with potential health benefits, particularly in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, a nutrition-related non-communicable disease that has been increasing in Africa recently ( Huang et al., 2018 ).

Contrary to the view of Sarla and Swamy (2005) that O. glaberrima should be used as genetic resource material for improving O. sativa , it is opined that its yield can be improved directly, in addition to other valuable agronomical and nutritional traits. Grain shattering, frequently caused by lodging, is the major cause of low yield of O. glaberrima ( Futakuchi et al., 2008 ). Evaluation of four O. sativa cultivars and 20 accessions of O. glaberima revealed that yield reduction of the later was due to grain shattering ( Ndjiondjop et al., 2018 ) and this indicates that improving African rice for resistance against seed shattering will improve harvesting efficiency, thereby making African rice less inferior to O. sativa . Recently, a novel gene called Seed Shattering 11 ( SH11 ) in African rice was cloned and characterised ( Ning et al., 2023 ). This gene encodes a MYB transcription factor which inhibits the expression of genes involved in lignin biosynthesis. It was shown that a single nucleotide polymorphism mutation in the coding region of SH11 increased the binding ability to the GH2 promoter and consequently reduced the lignin content in O. glaberrima . However, CRISPR-CAS9 mediated knockout of SH11 reduced seed shattering significantly in O. glaberrima ( Ning et al., 2023 ). This indicates that this gene will be a good target for reducing susceptibility of African rice to grain shattering.

Africa faces a problem with food insecurity that goes beyond a shortage of high-yielding cultivars and high demand. The soils in the majority of the farm land used for crop production have been farmed for a long time, making them naturally less fertile. Thus, one of the main obstacles to rice production in Africa is soil nitrogen deficiency, which forces rice producers to rely largely on inorganic fertilizers. The use of inorganic fertilizer indiscriminately contributes significantly to the acceleration of global warming by releasing nitrous oxide into the atmosphere ( AATF, 2024 ). To curb this, scientists in Africa, led by African Agricultural Technology Foundation, have developed Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE12) rice variety under the NEWEST Rice project. NUE12 is a transgenic event which involved insertion of barley’s alanine aminotransferase gene ( HvAlaAT ) into the nuclear genome of NERICA-4. The transgenic variety significantly out-performed Wild type (NERICA 4) in terms of yield at varying levels of Nitrogen application and as such, farmers can opt for lower cost (50%) of N fertilizer while maintaining the yield or the same quantity of nitrogen and increase yield. Three countries, namely; Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria are currently implementing processes which may eventually lead to the approval of NUE12 for commercial cultivation by the farmers in the named countries.

Sorghum [ Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] is a tropical crop that is native to Africa and grown in several countries of the world. It is well-suited to semi-arid tropics because it is a hardy crop that can withstand harsh and water-scarce environments. According to FAOSTAT, (2020) , sorghum production area in Africa is about 27.29 million ha, with total and average grain yield of 27.47 million metric tons and 1.01 ton/ha respectively. Nigeria and Ethiopia are the second and fourth largest producers of sorghum in the world, with United State occupying the top position ( FAOSTAT, 2020 ). The grain is high in starch, which makes it a staple food in developing countries as well as feed for livestock and valuable feedstock for biofuel production in the developed countries. The crop’s comparatively small genome (around 818 MBp) has made it a model plant for researching the genetic components of drought resistance.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the biggest problem of sorghum production is hemi-parasitic weed, belonging to the genus Striga ( Muchira et al., 2021 ), It was estimated that Striga infestation negatively affect the livelihood of 300 million people in West Africa alone ( Mboob, 1989 ). Although farmers often deployed cultural methods in managing Striga , however, genetic improvement of sorghum for resistance to Striga remains the most practical and effective solution. Since Striga is an obligated root parasite, its seeds only germinate when stimulated by chemical signal from the host plant ( Rich and Ejeta, 2007 ). Therefore, low striga germination stimulant activity caused by genetic factors will be a good strategy for controlling yield losses due to Striga infestation ( Pérez-Vich et al., 2013 ). Strigolactones—a group of compounds synthesised by most angiosperms as hormones to regulate branching of shoot and root ( Gomez-Roldan et al., 2008 ; Rasmussen et al., 2012 )—is the most potent germination stimulant among the sorghum root exudates ( Gobena et al., 2017 ). A mutant allele at LGS1 (LOW GERMINATION STIMULANT 1) locus that drastically reduce Striga germination stimulant activity was identified by Gobena et al. (2017) . This LGS1 is now a targeted gene for editing as Steven Runo from Kenyatta University, Kenya already used CRISPR-Cas9 system to develop a striga resistant variety of sorghum by knocking out SgLGS1 . Similarly, mutagenesis of genes which encode Carotenoid Cleavage Dioxygenase—an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of strigolactones in many plants species ( Gao et al., 2018 ; Dutta et al., 2019 )—was knock-out in sorghum by CRISPR system, resulting in significant reduction in Striga germination even though it negatively affected the yield ( Hao et al., 2023 ).

Millets are a diversified collection of small-seeded dryland cereals that are resilient to harsh climatic conditions, tolerant of poor soil conditions, and do not require excessive fertilizer or pesticide application. There are several types of millets, namely; foxtail millet ( Setaria italica ), pearl millets or bulrush millet [ Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.], finger millet ( Eleusine coracana ), proso millet ( Panicum miliaceum ), kodo millet ( Paspalum scrobiculatum ), barnyard millet ( Echinochloa spp.), browntop millet ( Panicum ramosum ) and little millet ( Panicum sumatrense ) ( Upadhyaya et al., 2006 ). Climate change causes terminal moisture stress and erratic rainfall patterns at different stages of crop production across the world, thereby, reducing the yield of popular cereals like wheat and rice. However, millet due to its resilience to both biotic and abiotic stresses, has the potential to maintain a more stable yield with high quality. Hence, together with sorghum, these crops are critical for food security in the Sahel regions of West Africa, where they provide over 75% of the total caloric intake for highly food-insecure people in the region ( Ndjeunga and Nelson, 1999 ).

Millets grains are frequently ground into flour and consumed in the form of porridge. They are also used for fermented drinks and other food purposes. When compared with other major cereal crops such as wheat and rice, millets are more nutritionally superior ( Ragaee et al., 2006 ). The grains are high in various essential minerals-calcium, potassium, phosphorus magnesium, iron, and zinc-and vitamins, that help to reduce malnutrition ( Hariprasanna et al., 2014 ; Elangovan et al., 2022 ). Also referred to as nutria-cereals or nutria-millets, millets are rich sources of essential fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Millet grains are rich in polyphenols and particularly, finger millet starch has more amylose to amylopectin ratio, which confers several health benefits on the crop such as; reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases, and can help in the management of type 2 diabetes and obesity ( Swaminaidu et al., 2015 ; Kumar et al., 2018 ).

Despite the innate ability of millets to cope with both biotic and abiotic stresses, the scourge of climate change is expected to be more biting on agricultural productivity in the future, leading to low yield and poor grain quality. Therefore, there is a need to further boost the resistance of millets against diseases caused by pathogens, combined stress caused by severe drought and excessive heat, and modification of plant architecture to prevent lodging and bio-fortification with essential micronutrients.

In Africa, pearl millet is the most cultivated, constituting 75% of annual millet production with the rest made up mostly by finger millet. However, unlike other cereals, pearl millet grains are particularly high in lipid content ( Sharma et al., 2015 ). After milling of its whole grain, endogenous lipases are released and cause rapid onset of hydrolytic rancidity. This phenomenon makes the flours of most pearl millet varieties unstable 5–7 days after milling ( Aher et al., 2022 ). Thus short shelf-life of pearl millet flour was identified as the major reason why pearl millet has remained unpopular ( Goswami et al., 2020 ).

Generally, millets are regarded as orphan crops because previously, it has received less attention in terms of genetic studies and crop improvement from the scientific community. This is exacerbated by a lack of efficient transformation systems to successfully develop transgenic varieties or induce mutation in the genome through genome editing techniques because millets are recalcitrant to regeneration via tissue culture methods. In the last decade, millet has however gained attention because of its resilience to harsh climatic conditions and the supreme nutritive value of its grains. For example, the first draft genome of the pearl and finger millet was published by Hittalmani et al. (2017) and Varshney et al. (2017) ( Ramu et al., 2023 ). The annotated genome of finger millets by Devos et al. (2023), is now available on Phytozome https://phytozome-next.jgi.doe.gov/info/Ecoracana_v1_1 . It appears the efficiency of millet transformation is determined by factors like the choice of explants and the use of synthetic secondary metabolites like acetosyringone ( Sood et al., 2019 ; Bhatt et al., 2021 ; Ceasar, 2022 ). It may also be influenced by specific millet genera being studied. For example, finger millet is predominantly transformed by Agrobacterium , with studies reporting the development of transgenic finger millet ( Ceasar et al., 2011 ; Ignacimuthu and Ceasar, 2012 ; Satish et al., 2017 ). On the contrary, pearl millet seems to be transformed mainly by the biolistic method ( Sood et al., 2019 ).

The first Genome editing in millet was reported by Lin et al. (2018) where the protoplast technology was used in creating CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis. Also demonstrated was the haploid induction in foxtail millet, by knocking out SiMTL gene using the CRISPR-Cas9 system ( Cheng et al., 2021 ). More recently, Liang et al. (2022) also utilized Agrobacterium -mediated transformation to induce multi-genic mutation in the foxtail genome. A single-base editing in foxtail millet was also first reported in this study and it resulted in the creation of an herbicide-tolerant plant. Presently, it appears that not much success has been achieved in genome editing of millets, there is no report of genome editing of other millets apart from foxtail millet. Since pearl millet is widely cultivated in Africa, efforts must be intensified to address the problem of the short shelf-life of its flour. Recently, Aher et al. (2022) reported that the loss of functional triacylglycerol lipases in the grains of pearl millet is linked with low flour rancidity. This was demonstrated when a mutation in two genes PgTAGLip1 and PgTAGLip2 resulted in the loss of function and was consistent with low flour rancidity in some pearl millet varieties. Therefore, the two candidate genes will be good targets for genome editing to improve the shelf-life of pearl millet flour. Other genes which may be the target of genome editing for improvement of the resistance of millets to abiotic stresses such as drought have also been reviewed by Krishna et al. (2022) .

Maize ( Zea mays L.), is considered the most important cereal crop in Central and Eastern Africa. For example, maize contributions to Kenyan economy include the generation of employment, serving as means of livelihood for many families as well as source of food security and foreign exchange earnings. Also, maize is the most important food crop in Kenya as ∼96% of the population consumed the crop as staple food every day ( Njuguna et al., 2017 ). This is an indication that any significant yield loss due to abiotic or biotic stresses on the crop will have a damaging effect on food security in Kenya. An example of biotic stress that has caused significant yield loss in the country in recent time is Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN), a viral disease that has caused between 23%–100% yield loss, estimated to be 180 million USD ( Redinbaugh and Stewart, 2018 ). Conventional method for breeding high yielding maize varieties that are resistant to MLN is preferred over the use of pollution-prone method involving spraying of the MLN vector (Aphids and Thrips) ( Awata et al., 2021 ). However, introgression of MLN resistant genes into susceptible varieties through backcrossing will take years to develop and may still suffer yield penalty as a result. To bypass this challenge, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization in association with four other international partner organisations, embarked on genome editing project which seeks to identify and introduce MLN resistance genes into elite varieties (e.g., CML536) that are susceptible to the disease ( CGIAR, 2022 ; Table 1 ). Since 2021, the MLN susceptible gene in elite varieties has been identified on maize chromosome 6 and has been edited to its resistance form against MLN disease. The role of the edited gene which now confers resistance on otherwise susceptible lines has been validated.

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Table 1 . Africa’s on-going and successful applications of genome editing for crop improvement.

Drought is another factor that restricts maize output in Kenya in addition to other abiotic stress. This is because about 75% of the available land area in the country is arid and semi-arid ( Zeila and Jama, 2005 ). Exposure of plants to drought stimulates overproduction of reactive oxygen species and increased oxidative stress which causes damage to primary metabolites (DNA, protein, Lipid proteins, and carbohydrates), cell death and loss of whole plant ( Njuguna et al., 2017 ). The impact of drought on maize is phase specific, for example, when it occurs before anthesis, maize undergoes delay in flowering ( Abrecht and Carberry, 1993 ), whereas if it is at grain filling stage, it can cause a more devastating effect like low grain yield ( Schussler and Westgate, 1995 ). Recently, Njuguna et al. (2017) used CRISPR-Cas9 to knock down poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), a gene that plays a major role in the maintenance of the energy homeostasis during stresses and significant increase in tolerance to oxidative stress resulted.

In 2016, there was an outbreak of fall armyworm (FAW; Spodoptera frugiperda ) in Nigeria and São Tome, leaving large scale destruction in its trail ( Goergen et al., 2016 ). This invasive insect has since spread to eastern African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania ( Sisay et al., 2019 ). Spatial assessment of climate suitability of FAW indicated that Africa is generally favourable for this insect with the exception of Lesotho and South Africa ( Senay et al., 2022 ). Moreover, most of the maize varieties are also susceptible to seasonal infestation of FAW. To control crop pests, three possible solutions exist; use of insecticides, integrated pest management (IPM) and genetic improvement of maize for resistance against FAW. Genetic solution appears to be the best option because maize production is largely done by smallholder farmers who cannot afford to spray their farm numerous times and IPM is not widely practiced in Africa ( Alwang et al., 2019 ).

The TELA Maize Project led by Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation, coordinated the insertion of a Bacillus thuringiensis gene which encodes Cry2Ab delta-endotoxin ( Table 2 ), into the genome of drought tolerant maize varieties, thereby conferring insect protection and drought tolerance in TELA ® maize varieties through conventional breeding and biotechnology methods. Cry2Ab delta-endotoxin is a toxic protein which has lethal effects on the digestive system of lepidopteran and some dipteran insects ( McNeil and Dean, 2011 ), however, it is not harmful to human and livestock, having been used in organic farming for over half a century to control insect pests. In a confined field trial of TELA ® maize in Nigeria by Oyekunle et al. (2023) , it was reported that the transgenic TELA ® maize genotypes were resistant, not only to FAW but even to stem borer—another destructive pest of maize. Five TELA ® maize hybrids have been cultivated on a commercial scale by South African farmers since 2016 ( Table 2 ). Also, Nigeria government, through the National Varieties Release Committee, in January 2024 approved the release of the seeds to of four TELA ® maize varieties (SAMMAZ 72T, SAMMAZ 73T, SAMMAZ 74T, and SAMMAZ 75T) to farmers and commercial production in the country ( Alliance for Science , 2024). In Kenya, farmers awaits the release of three TELA ® maize hybrids (WE1259B, WE3205B and WE5206B) as it has been recommended by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service through National Performance Trial Committee ( KALRO, 2024 ).

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Table 2 . Highlights of genetic engineering projects in various African countries.

Cassava is a major crop in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, cultivated for its starch-rich swollen roots ( Okogbenin et al., 2002 ; Okogbenin et al., 2003 ; Okogbenin et al., 2012 ). Agronomical qualities like resilience against stress-prone environments, adaptability to subsistence farming systems and high starch content of its storage roots, makes it the crop of choice for millions of smallholder farmers ( Montagnac et al., 2009 ; Howler et al., 2013 ). Harvested storage roots are processed and converted to various food products in sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), providing over 50% of the caloric intake of one-third of the entire population ( Okogbenin et al., 2007 ; Ewa, 2021 ). Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cassava ( Table 3 ). However, the country is still not at its full potential in terms of yield (tonnes/hectare), as it produces <80% of the world average ( FAOSTAT, 2017 ). In fact, over 20% decline in yield/hectare of storage root was reported between 2007 and 2017, despite a significant increase in the area of land cultivated within this period ( Otekunrin and Sawicka, 2019 ). Factors, such as susceptibility to diseases and high post-harvest loss due to rapid physiological deterioration are major limitations preventing Nigeria from reaching its full potential in cassava production ( Fregene et al., 1997 ; Fregene et al., 2000 ; Akano et al., 2002 ; Ogbe et al., 2006 ; Akinbo et al., 2007 ; Akinbo et al., 2011 ; Akinbo et al., 2012a ; McCallum et al., 2017 ; Zainuddin et al., 2018 ). However, with biotechnology approach, scientists from national agricultural research institutions in Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda, are rapidly building resistance to green mite, whitefly, cassava mosaic disease and post-harvest physiological deterioration (PPD) with the support of their counterparts at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia ( Fregene et al., 1997 ; Akano et al., 2002 ; Rudi et al., 2010 ; Akinbo et al., 2012b ).

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Table 3 . The total land area, production of major crops in Nigeria and export quantity.

Other factors that contribute to final yield of cassava which are currently being worked on for improvement include storage root yield and starch content ( Okogbenin et al., 2003 ). Significant progress has been made in this area since Cassava Source-Sink (CASS) project began. Funded by Bill and Melinda gate foundation, CASS project focuses on combining techniques in plant biotechnology with physiological processes to develop cassava genotypes with increased storage root and starch yield. The goal of the project is to boost the income of smallholder farmers in SSA ( Sonnewald et al., 2020 ).

Due to heterozygosity of the crop, simultaneous stacking of multiple (desirable) genes in a cassava variety through plant breeding methods is very challenging ( Fregene et al., 2006 ; Beyene et al., 2018 ). However, biotechnological approach has been utilized to overcome this ( Fregene et al., 1997 ). The technique is considered as the most reliable option for combining multiple traits in a crop. For instance, CASS project adopted systematic gene stacking approach, involving simultaneous incorporation of foreign genes for increased storage root and starch yield ( Sonnewald et al., 2020 ). To this effect, several transgenic lines are currently under confined field trial (CFT) in National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Ibadan Nigeria ( Sonnewald et al., 2020 ; CASS, 2023).

Although, cassava is regarded as a food security crop, meals made from its swollen storage roots are considered unwholesome, due to the absence of essential minerals such as iron and zinc in the crop ( Sayre et al., 2011 ). Deficiency of zinc and iron is common among children under the age of five and pregnant women in Nigeria ( WHO, 2008 ; NMHN 2005; Table 3 ). Genetic engineering method has also been utilized in the biofortification of the crop by co-expression of iron transporter and ferritin genes from A. thaliana which results in accumulation of iron and zinc in the storage root, up to a substantial level in human diet ( Narayanan et al., 2019 ). Similarly, a transgenic cassava variety developed by Beyene et al. (2018) not only shows high pro-vitamin A in its storage roots but also exhibited longer shelf life when compared with ordinary variety. Taylor et al., 2004 ; 2012 ; Siritunga and Sayre 2003; Zhang et al., 2005 similarly worked on other traits to improve cassava qualities.

Since genome editing of Cassava was first reported by Odipio et al. (2017) using CRISPR/Cas9 system, the technique have been effectively utilized to control high accumulation of toxic compounds in the leaves or roots of cassava. For example, Juma et al. (2022) , successfully lowered cyanide levels in cassava by inducing mutagenesis in CYP79D1 gene—encodes Valine N-monooxygenase 2 which catalyses major reaction in the synthesis of cyanogen in cassava—using CRISPR/Cas9 system. Similarly, other traits such as herbicide tolerance, modification of root starch structure and disease resistance have been possible through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated targeted mutagenesis ( Bull et al., 2018 ; Hummel et al., 2018 ; Gomez et al., 2019 ; Veley et al., 2021 ).

White yam ( Dioscorea rotundata ) is the most popular species among tuber-bearing crops in the family Dioscoreaceae. According to FAOSTAT 2021 , Nigeria was the largest producer of this crop in the world. Its economic value is derived mainly from the sale of its starch-rich tuber and day-to-day consumption, providing about 285 dietary calories for 300 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa ( Adejumo et al., 2013 ). Apart from its rich starch deposit, yam tuber also contains higher a vitamin C and crude protein content than the swollen storage roots of cassava, making it a healthier food source ( Baah et al., 2009 ). It is also an important source of secondary metabolites such as steroidal saponins (diosgenin), diterpenoids, and alkaloids, which are utilized in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products ( Mignouna et al., 2008 ; de Lourdes Contreras-Pacheco et al., 2013 ).

A major constraint to yam production is infestation with parasitic nematodes, insects, fungi, and viruses, which reduce both the yield and quality of tubers ( Asante et al., 2008 ; Asala et al., 2012 ; Zaknayiba and Tanko, 2013 ). Amusa et al. (2003) claimed that nematode infestations might also result in a sizeable yield loss. Despite Aighewi et al. (2015) reporting that viruses can cause a 50% yield loss. These problems have become more severe lately due to the repetitive usage of pest-infested tubers, usually from previous cropping seasons for planting with each successive year ( Amusa et al., 2003 ; Aidoo et al., 2011 ). Inter-state exchange of these infected planting material further worsens the situation, as mixed viral infections were detected in a survey carried out in Guninea-Savana. Zone of Nigeria where yam is mostly produced ( Asala et al., 2012 ). As such, Aighewi et al. (2015) recommended the use of planting material developed by tissue and organ culture as a better alternative to the pervasive traditional way of yam propagation, stating that it is fast and guarantees the production of disease-free planting material. Also, yam clones can be cleaned from virus disease by cryotherapy, a method which involves short-term treatment of the infected samples in liquid nitrogen to eradicate the pathogens ( Wang and Valkonen, 2009 ). Eradication of bacteria, viroids, and viruses using this method have been reported in the planting material of economically important crops such as banana ( Helliot et al., 2002 ), potato ( Wang et al., 2006 ) and sweet potato ( Wang and Valkonen, 2008 ).

Transfer of useful genes from wild families of yam to elite varieties has proven difficult ( Spillane and Gepts, 2001 ) because yam improvement through conventional breeding methods is constrained by poor flowering, polyploidy, and heterozygosity ( Mignouna et al., 2008 ). However, a protocol for Agrobacterium -mediated transformation of yam has been developed ( Nyaboga et al., 2014 ), and this has opened a new opportunity for developing yam varieties that are resistant to viral and nematode infection through genetic engineering, although optimization of this protocol for different yam genotypes may be necessary for effective and increased transformation efficiency. Additionally, knowledge of nematode-host interactions could be explored through a biotechnological approach to target yam-nematode activity by disrupting the nematode’s infective stage which may reduce passage potency through yam tissues, fecundity, establishment in yam cells and/or feeding ability on susceptible yam cultivars. In a study by Jaouannet et al. (2013) , repression of calreticulin gene expression in Meloidogyne incognita by RNAi–RNA interference led to a decrease in the ability of the nematode to infect Arabidopsis thaliana and overexpression of M. incognita calreticulin gene in A. thaliana increased the susceptibility of the plant to the nematode infection. The study clearly shows the role that biotechnology can play in manipulating host-pathogen interactions. Fosu-Nyarko and Jones, (2015) suggested that RNAi technology possesses great potential in conferring resistance to several nematode species on the plant, unlike the introgression of natural resistant genes. Henceforth, genome editing may also play a key role in improving various traits in yam. The first successful CRISR/Cas9-based genome editing and validation in yam was reported by Syombua et al. (2021) . Agrobacterium harbouring the CRISR/Cas9 vector was used in targeted mutagenesis of the phytoene desaturase gene in D. rotundata .

Cocoyam is often used interchangeably in literature for species of the two most cultivated genera, Colocasia and Xanthosoma , belonging to the family Araceae. The genus Colocasia spp. has between 11 and 16 species ( Long and Liu, 2001 ; CABI, 2013 ), whereas Xanthosoma spp. has about 60 species ( Bown, 2000 ; Stevens, 2012 ). Taro, or old cocoyam ( C. esculenta ) and tannia or new cocoyam ( Xanthosoma sagittifolium ) are by far the most cultivated species in the world ( Ubalua et al., 2016 ; Degefa and Anbessa, 2017 ). In West Africa, X. sagittifolium is the main edible aroid and has overtaken Colocasia esculenta , probably because its plant is more robust and tolerant to drought and the cormel, a rich source of starch for domestic and industrial use, is adapted to preparing indigenous foods like fufu ( Onokpise et al., 1999 ; Jennings, 2009 ). The small granule size of its starch (taro) is easily digestible, thereby making it a healthy energy food for children ( Adekiya and Agbede, 2016 ). Nigeria is the largest producer of cocoyam in the world ( FAOSTAT, 2021 ) and approximately 86.27 × 10 6 million hectares of arable land are still available to further scale-up the production of the crop in the country ( Chukwu, 2015 ). Despite the enormous potential of cocoyam production in the country, production is limited by a lot of factors, among which, frequent incidence of pests and diseases is a major challenge. In 2009, cocoyam production was nearly disrupted completely because of the severity and pervasiveness of taro leaf blight which attacked farms in Nigeria ( Ubalua et al., 2016 ). Although chemical control of pest is considered an option in the control of diseases, an increase in the prices of pesticides, destruction of the underground cocoyam corm-setts by broad-spectrum herbicides in the farm and the toxicity of some active ingredients in the pesticides have discouraged many farmers from subscribing to this option ( Acheampong et al., 2015 ).

To control pest infestations, developing genetically resistant cultivars is recommended as the safest and most economical option. Improvement by conventional breeding methods is difficult because cocoyam rarely flowers naturally but this can be induced artificially ( Tambong and Meboka, 1994 ; Jennings, 2009 ). Techniques for pollen storage and germination have been developed to facilitate sexual crossing in the crop ( Agueguia and Fatokun, 1987 ). However, some of the methods for artificial flower inducement may be cultivar-dependent as observed in the cocoyam cultivar “Bun Long” which does not respond to inducement by gibberellic acid ( Ivancic et al., 2004 ). Tissue culture has been deployed in the multiplication of cocoyam cultivars that are resistant to taro leaf blight through collaborative research by the NRCRI and the European Union since 2010. This effort is laudable, as it encourages the development and distribution of resistant cultivar/s among farmers. Traditional cocoyam breeding methods can take up to 10 years, whereas genetic engineering can be used as a substitute technique to produce varieties with highly desirable traits. The Glucuronidase ( Gus ) gene ( Fukino et al., 2000 ) and rice chitinase gene chi11 ( He et al., 2010 ) have been transformed into cocoyam by particle bombardment, although, transformation efficiency was low. Agrobacterium -mediated transformation of cocoyam (Bun long Cv.) with rice chitinase gene chi11 and wheat oxalate oxidase gene gf2.8 led to the production of a transgenic potato that is resistant to Sclerotium rolfsii and Phytophthora colocasiae ( He et al., 2008 , 2013 ). This method appeared to be more promising, because its transformation efficiency is high (between 1% and 3%), opening up a greater opportunity for other crops than what was obtained for the particle bombardment method (<0.5%). The protocol for Agrobacterium- mediated transformation of Taro has been developed by He et al. (2015) .

Groundnut, also known as peanut, is a leguminous crop cultivated in the semi-arid and subtropical regions of the world for its oil-rich seed and consumed as food and feed. Groundnut seed which contains 44%–56% oil is very high in unsaturated fatty acid 85% ( Sabate, 2003 ), making it a top choice among oilseed crops. The protein content of the seed is about 22%–30%, also it is a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins. Groundnuts, with their high seed oil and protein contents, play a crucial role in preventing malnutrition and guaranteeing food security. Frequent nut consumption is associated with lower rates of coronary artery disease. Also, nut-rich diets improve the serum lipid profile of participants in dietary intervention trials. Despite their high-calorie density, groundnuts produce satiety, limited energy absorption, and enhanced energy expenditure after eating, hence they do not significantly contribute to weight gain ( Sabaté, 2003 ; Mattes et al., 2008 ).

Groundnut haulms, a by-product is not only gaining prominence as a fodder source for feeding livestock during the dry season when green grasses are unavailable ( Ajeigbe et al., 2014 ) but also due to dwindling arable land and water resources occasioned by climate change in the Sahel region of West Africa ( Blümmel et al., 2012 ). Nigeria ranks fourth in the world and first in Africa in groundnut production, contributing about 2.42 million MT out of the 45.3 million MT produced in 2017 (FAOSTAT 2017). Regardless of Nigerian’s ranking globally in groundnut production, the country seems not to be making progress in the production of this crop, for example in 2017, the USA surpassed Nigeria in groundnut production for the first time in over 10 years with a production of 3.28 million MT (FAOSTAT 2017). This may not be unconnected with Africa’s poor groundnut yield/ha, reported to be (929 kg/ha) unlike those obtainable in Asia and America (2,217 kg/ha) and (3,632 kg/ha) respectively ( FAOSTAT, 2014 ).

Additionally, Ajeigbe et al. (2014) , identified biotic and abiotic stresses as major factors constraining groundnut production in Nigeria. For example, groundnut is highly susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, which are secondary metabolites synthesised by aflatoxigenic fungi like Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus after infecting the pods or seeds at the preharvest and post-harvest stages. According to Wilson and Stansell (1983) and Cole et al. (1995) , aflatoxin contamination is an extremely variable trait that arises largely under heat and drought stress, and the location where groundnut is primarily grown in Nigeria is especially prone to these abiotic stresses. Aflatoxins are highly toxic to humans and have been linked to liver cancer, suppression of the immune system, and retarded growth in children ( Bhatnagar-Mathur et al., 2015 ). Several countries throughout the world have been obliged to implement rigorous guidelines for permitted levels of aflatoxins in groundnut imports. As a result, Africa loses around USD 500 million per year in export trade due to systematic rejections of export crops and animal products with unacceptable levels of aflatoxins ( Janila and Nigam, 2013 ).

Competitive atoxigenic fungal technology and deployment of promiscuous atoxigenic Aspergillus are some of the preharvest strategies that have been effectively used to reduce the level of aflatoxin contamination but it poses the problem of compromising the quality of the kernels and hygiene. Thus, the development of varieties that are resistant to the preharvest infestation of groundnut by A. flavus remains a viable option, though it has remained a challenge for peanut breeding programs ( Janila and Nigam, 2013 ; Bhatnagar-Mathur et al., 2015 ). To effectively minimize the occurrence of pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination, the mechanism initially proposed by Holbrook et al., 2009 and corroborated by Janila et al. (2013) involves the identification of groundnut genotypes that are resistant to either drought or root-not nematode ( Holbrook et al., 2009 ). This was because significant positive correlations were observed between resistance to these stresses and aflatoxin contamination. Subsequently, the potential for enhancing antifungal activities in groundnut seeds using marker-assisted selection was demonstrated by Yu et al. (2020) , where SNP marker system was used to identify gene markers in two novel groundnut genotypes linked to genes that confer resistance against aflatoxin contamination.

Various strategies have recently been deployed for the transformation and development of transgenic groundnuts with alteration in the complex interaction between pathogen and groundnut-host system. This involves the use of genes that encode proteins/enzymes (antimicrobial peptides like defensins) which activate defence mechanisms against fungi and aflatoxin or host-induced silencing of Aspergillus genes encoding key enzymes involved in fungal sporulation or aflatoxin production. Overexpression of Medicago sativa Defensin 1 and Medicago truncatula Defensing 4. 2 and through HIGS of the aspergillus gene; AFlM (Ver-1)–encodes versicolorin dehydrogenase–and AflP (omtA)–encodes methyltransferase–resulted in high level of resistance in groundnut to aflatoxin production ( Sharma et al., 2018 ). Similarly, multiplexed HIGS of A. flavus genes ( AflM , AflR , veA and nsdC ) also enhance resistance to infection caused by Aspergillus and aflatoxin contamination ( Prasad et al., 2023 ).

With the successes recorded so far through various strategies mentioned, the future of genome-edited groundnut with high resistance to aflatoxin is very promising. Firstly, there is abundant information on the genomic information (whole genome sequences and annotations) of A. flavus to study its biology ( Payne et al., 2006 ; Payne et al., 2008 ; Nierman et al., 2015 ; Ohkura et al., 2018 ; Fountain et al., 2020 ; Bharose et al., 2024 ). Also, the reference genome of groundnut is available ( Zhuang et al., 2019 ). The first CRISPR-based editing of Fad2 -the gene encodes the enzyme that catalysis the conversion of oleic acid to linoleic acid ( Schwartzbeck et al., 2001 )- in groundnut was reported by Yuan et al. (2019) and it resulted in elevated levels of oleic acid and reduction in linoleic acid for improved oil quality and better health benefits. Neelakandan et al. (2022) went further to create the first induced base editing of FAD2 genes in groundnut, using CRISPR/Cas9.

Sesame ( Sesamum indicum L.) is among the ancient oil-yielding crops. Its seeds, when decorticated, bear one of the highest oil contents. The oil is made up of 83%–90% unsaturated fatty acids ( Fukuda et al., 1985 ; Anilakumar et al., 2010 ). The seed is also rich source of protein, vitamins, minerals and lignans (methylenedioxyphenyl compounds like sesamolin, sesamin, sesamol and tocopherols ( Fukuda et al., 1985 ). In 2021, Nigeria was the second largest producer of sesame in Africa and the sixth in the world. In terms of export quantity, the crop was only second to cocoa, suggesting that sesame has high potential for contributing to the country’s foreign earnings ( FAOSTAT, 2021 ). According to Tukura and Ashindo (2019) Nigeria earned 139 million and 1.4 billion USD from exporting sesame in 2010 and 2012 respectively. However, a review of sesame seed production in Nigeria from 2003 to 2012 by Umar et al. (2014) revealed that increase in production experienced within this period was due to increase in land area used for cultivation rather than an increase in average yield per hectare, which was very low and mostly similar to the world’s average of 0.49 t/ha ( FAO, 2012 ). Early senescence and extreme susceptibility to biotic stresses like bacterial blight ( Xanthomonas campestris pv. sesame) and powdery mildew ( Oidium erysiphoides ), and abiotic stresses like photosensitivity and waterlogging are major constraints to increasing sesame yield ( Dossa et al., 2017 ). Even though studies have shown that the wild species of the crop is a repository of desirable genes that can help elite varieties cope with these stresses ( Kolte, 1985 ; Brar and Ahuja, 2008 ), post-fertilization barriers remain a major hindrance to transferring desirable genes into elite varieties by conventional breeding approach (Tiwari et al ., 2011). Thus, genetic engineering is the only available option for the transfer of those useful genes from the wild species into the elite varieties. Since Yadav et al. (2010) reported the first successful Agrobacterium -mediated transformations of sesame, other authors, like Al-Shafeay et al. (2011) and Chowdhury et al. (2014) have also achieved similar results in about 42.66% transformation efficiency. Agrobacterium -mediated transformation of sesame brought about the development of multiple-stress tolerance in the crop by overexpression of Osmotin-like proteins ( SindOLP ) gene ( Chowdhury et al., 2017 ). Morphological features of the plant, like the number of capsules per plant, the number of grains per capsule, grain weight, plant height, length of capsules, number of capsules per axil and axis height of the first capsule has been associated with grain yield of sesame ( Dossa et al., 2017 ; Teklu et al., 2022 ). Wei et al. (2015 , 2016) stated that problems associated with low yield in sesame production may be solved through functional genomic study involving multigenic assemblage of experimentally determined genes such as SiGA20ox1 and two candidate genes for plant height ( SiDFL1 ) and ( SiILR1 ) in a transgenic sesame line delivered by Agrobacterium -mediate transformation.

Sweet potato

Ipomoea batatas , the common sweet potato, is an important staple food of many tropical and temperate countries, as it ranks fifth in developing nations in terms of economic value and seventh for energy consumption ( Loebenstein, 2009 ). It plays an important role in nutritional improvement, as well as serving as raw materials in the processing of feeds, starches and bioethanol in various industries ( Antonio et al., 2011 ). Africa is the second largest producing region, with almost 17% of the world’s production and more than 42% of the world’s area, mainly for human consumption ( Zhang et al., 2018 ). Globally, traditional breeding has significantly contributed to trait improvement in the crop ( Thottappilly and Loebenstein, 2009 ). Crop variety is the main variable often manipulated by farmers to raise yields. Egeonu and Akoroda, (2010) characterized and evaluated for sequential selection, 125 clones of sweet potato for different end-uses. In recent times, the biofortification of sweet potato with provitamin A carotenoids have proven to be an economical and potentially sustainable strategy to alleviate vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in developing countries ( Tumuhimbise et al., 2013 ). The flesh of sweet potatoes can be white, yellow, purple, or orange in colour. Based on this diversity, it has been linked to acceptance in terms of nutrition and taste. Particularly, orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) types are the most affordable and year-round source of vitamin A available for low-income families ( Nkhata et al., 2020 ). Initially, most orange-fleshed sweet potatoes had lower dry matter content and poor environmental adaptability than ordinary white sweet potato varieties ( Mwanga and Ssemakula, 2011 ). However, several years of breeding has produced OFSP with improved yield, flavor, drought resistance, dry matter content and early maturation, resulting in increased adoption by farmers ( Hummel et al., 2018 ; Jenkins et al., 2018 ). National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) has come up with the development of 2-orange and 1- white-fleshed sweet potato to improve the nutritional wellbeing of Nigerians. Additionally, purple-fleshed sweet potato clones, capable of accumulating anthocyanin (powerful antioxidant) in their storage roots have been developed ( Montilla et al., 2011 ). Researchers have reported the encouraging health benefits of OFSP intervention into the staple food, currently available in more than three African countries, including Nigeria. Neela and Fanta, (2019) reviewed the detailed nutritional composition (proximate, mineral, carotenoids, vitamins, phenolic and antioxidant property’s role in Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) management and different food products that can be made from OFSP. Scientists at IITA in Nigeria and in Ethiopia have also developed methods to produce virus-free sweet potato plant through meristem culture ( IITA, 1989 ; Dugassa and Feyissa, 2011 ). Nonetheless, a lot can still be done on sweet potato production. Biotechnological tools, such as gene transfer would be very effective in its improvement, as they will enable direct introduction of desirable genes from pre-adapted cultivars. In addition, selection using DNA markers would accelerate conventional breeding programmes in Nigeria. The whole genome sequence of sweetpotato is yet to be available publicly and this has limited research effort directed at improving its agronomic traits. However, the genome sequence of its two diploid relatives I. triloba and I. trifida has been done and it can still be utilized as reference genome for studying hexaploid sweetpotato ( Wu et al., 2018 ). Targeted mutagenesis of genes encoding key enzymes in starch biosynthetic pathway (GBSSI and SBEII) was the first report of genome editing in sweetpotato ( Wang et al., 2019 ).

Globally, Tomato is a vegetable crop, preceded only by potato in terms of production and global consumption ( Dias, 2012 ). It is an important industrial and cash crop in many countries, because of the economically attractive and rich nutrient composition of the fruit, with the attendant health-associated benefits ( Willcox et al., 2003 ). Tomato is being used in Nigeria as ingredients of meals, salads, ketchup, soups and sauces from time immemorial ( Akaeze and Aduramigba-Modupe, 2017 ). Nigeria ranks 11th among the largest tomato producing countries in the world, with a production of 4.1 MT ( FAOSTAT, 2017 ). However post-harvest loss of tomato is very alarming, estimated at 30%–50% in the country ( Ajagbe et al., 2014 ). This is largely because the shelf life of the crop is particularly shortened (48 h) in the tropics ( Muhammad et al., 2011 ), coupled with poor post-harvest handling and storage. To meet domestic demand for tomato, Nigeria imports 150000 MT of tomato paste annually, valued at 170 million USD ( Ayedun and Akande, 2023 ). Moreover, a survey by Ugonna et al. (2015) revealed that only 20% of processed tomato are produced in Nigeria while the remaining 80% is imported. The fruits of Flavr-Savr™, a transgenic tomato variety released in 1994, was the first commercially available food crop. Since then, many other GM tomato varieties have been commercialized. Flavr-Savr™ was developed by inhibition of polygalacturonase enzyme, responsible for pectin molecule degradation in the cell wall, thereby causing delayed softening of fruit and elongated shelf life ( Baranski et al., 2019 ). RNAi silencing and CRISPR-based mutation of ripening-related gene which encodes pectate lyase, caused the fruits to be firmer over a long period ( Yang et al., 2017 ; Wang et al., 2019 ). Decrease in the activities of enzymes (polygalacturonase, tomato β-galactosidase, cellulase β-D-xylosidase) involved in cell wall modification as result of RNA silencing of SIFSR gene also elongated shelf-life significantly ( Zhang et al., 2018 ). This makes SIFSR gene a modification a potential target for improving potato shelf-life. Similarly, overexpression of certain genes like SICOBRA-like gene, by genetic engineering revealed their role in elongating tomato shelf life ( Cao et al., 2012 ).

The susceptibility of the current tomato cultivars to diseases and pests is another barrier to tomato production ( Ugonna et al., 2015 ). Although, certain cultivars including H9-1-6 and Ronita are either resistant to leaf diseases or moderately resistant to root-knot nematode, they are susceptible to a host of others. The genetic basis of tomato is progressively becoming narrower from the time of domestication in its centres of origin to its spread to other parts of the world because selection was solely aimed at increasing yield ( Gruber, 2017 ). Miller and Tanksley, (1990) reported that the genetic variation existing between tomato cultivars is <5% while the rest is embedded in the wild species of the genus. Some of the wild species that show high degree of homosequentiality in their chromosomes have been successfully exploited in tomato breeding for improving traits such as tolerance to adverse weather conditions, quality of fruit, pathogen and insect resistance ( Zhang et al., 2002 ; Rodríguez et al., 2006 ; Bai and Lindhout, 2007 ). Effective use of wild species of tomato for improving elite varieties requires accurate understanding of the genetic factors responsible for desirable agronomic traits in this wild species. However, most breeding projects are conventional in design, which makes simultaneous studying of multiple traits a difficult task. Since domestication of tomato from the wild species was almost solely driven by yield while other important traits such as resistance to diseases and tolerance to stress largely remained with the wild species ( Kik et al., 2010 ), genome editing already proved useful in domesticating wild tomato ( Zsögön et al., 2018 ). Using CRISPR-system technology, Zsögön et al. (2018) , edited six loci—associated with high yield in elite tomato cultivars—in Solanum pimpinellifolium which resulted in alteration in the plant morphology alongside fruits size, number and higher accumulation of antioxidant lycopene.

Molecular farming

In 2021, Nigeria joined the rest of the world in the effort to develop an effective vaccine against the deadly coronavirus. Consequently, the Nigeria Vaccine Policy (NVP) was established for the first time in order to promote domestic vaccine manufacturing and guarantee autonomy in vaccine accessibility. A possible area of research that ought to be looked into is the use of plants in the production of effective vaccines against both communicable and non-communicable diseases. This is because the government offered to support and fund vaccine research and development as part of the implementation strategies to achieve the aim and objectives of the NVP. For over three decades, plants have been used as a bio-factory to manufacture pharmaceutically important recombinant proteins (such as plasma proteins, antibodies and cytokines) and diagnostic reagents through molecular farming ( Fischer and Buyel, 2020 ). More recently, utilization of plants as subunit vaccine is gaining prominence, because it is a quicker and safer alternative to conventional vaccine development which is based on attenuation or inactivation of specific virus ( Capell et al., 2020 ). The recombinant protein is produced in plant using deconstructed vector mediated by agroinfiltration with Agrobacterium tumefaciens ( Gleba et al., 2014 ). Before the advent of molecular farming, there are established platforms such as microbes (e.g., Escherichia coli ) and various mammalian cells cultures used in the industrial manufacturing of biologics. Plant is yet to displace these major platforms because investment in the industry and the existing regulatory framework favours these earlier established platforms. However, since Nigeria is just developing capacity in this area, government can take advantage of plants as the platform for the manufacturing of important biologics. This is because, with plants as the platform, the production of biologics can be done on a massive level and scaled up rapidly to cater for unexpected surge in demand and do not support growth of human pathogens ( Ma et al., 2003 ; Whaley et al., 2011 ).

Origin of anti-GMO campaign in the world

In the early 1980s, scientists established Agrobacterium -mediated transformation in plants and identified CaMV 35S promoter, which can facilitate gene expression ( Odell et al., 1985 ; Herrera-Estrella et al., 1992 ). These two important findings were later combined to engineer the production of the first transgenic herbicide tolerant plant ( Shah et al., 1986 ). The three milestones led to the launch of plant biotechnology on a grand scale and created an avenue for the development of the field of recombinant DNA technology. Crops produced through this “unnatural method” of altering plant genetic material are regarded as genetically modified GM-crops ( Abdul Aziz et al., 2022 ), although in the true sense, all crops, with respect to their current genetic make-up, originated from long time-controlled breeding, selection and domestication processes, which have genetically modified them from their wild state. However, regardless of the huge potential of GM-crops and their new possibilities in ensuring food security, there is a global skepticism about the consumption of such crops, because they are perceived to portend great risk to human health. For instance, heated debates among scientists on the safety of GM-crops came about from the findings of Arpad Pusztai, a protein scientist, who tested the effect of consumption of transgenic potato on rats, and afterwards, opined that consumption of such potato by the rats was the reason for the lack of good health of the animals ( Enserink, 1998 ; 1999a ). Even though no firm conclusion was made in his research to affirm the risk of GM-crops to human health, his work stared up anti-GM campaigns and fuelled further research. In the publications by ( Ho et al. (1999) and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (1999) , CaMV 35S promoter was regarded as the culprit in the supposed unwholesome effect of GM-crop, because it was assumed to be virus, whereas it is just a short stretch of DNA ( Amack and Antunes, 2020 ). However, the concern raised by the Pusztai data was later debunked, after his data was re-examined by external experts and The Royal British Society, who found the framework of his experiment inconsistent and thereafter concluded that any finding from his work should be discarded as it lacked merit ( Enserink, 1999b ; Kuiper et al., 1999 ; The Royal Society, 1999 ; Yang, 2005 ). However in Nigeria, pressure groups made up of the coalition of civil society groups, farmers, students and faith-based organisations have constantly protested the adoption of GM-crops ( Omeje, 2019 ). The argument against GM-crops is that it poses great threat in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune dysfunction. These claims mostly originated from ( Fagan et al., 2015 ), who stated that the process of genetic engineering could disrupt pristine proteins or metabolic pathways, which may result in the production of toxins or allergens in food. Predictive animal testing is a method that is commonly used to assess food allergies, both for genetically modified and non-GM foods. However, it has been found to be inadequate. ( Wal, 2015 ). Till date, despite efforts toward developing animal models for accurate prediction of sensitivity to allergy, none has proven to be predictive ( Ladics and Selgrade, 2009 ; Goodman, 2015 ; Kazemi et al., 2023 ). Consequent on this fact, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016) , suggested the use of pre-commercialization tests to make rough predictions on relationships between consumption of GM-crops and the prevalence of some human diseases.

Plant biotechnology protest in Nigeria: the case study of transgenic cassava trial

Nigeria is yet to reach its full potential in cassava production despite being the leading producer. The main factor responsible for this is post-harvest loss due to rapid physiological deterioration of its swollen storage roots that are rich in starch. This reduces the post-harvest value to about 40% lower than its original worth and impact farmers’ income negatively. Addressing this problem will positively impact Nigeria in food security and boost socio-economic status of many farmers. Using techniques in plant biotechnology, the lab of Prof. Samuel C. Zeeman developed transgenic cassava called AMY3 RNAi transgenic lines. It is so named because the transgenic line lacks the activity of one of alpha-amylase isoforms AMY3, an enzyme involved in starch degradation in its storage roots and the named lines showed prospect of slowing down post-harvest deterioration of cassava storage root. In 2017, application for confined field trial of AMY3 RNAi transgenic lines at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture was approved by NBMA. Going forward, objections were raised against this, stating that the concerned lab has worked mostly on Arabidopsis previously ( Fulton et al., 2008 ; Liu et al., 2023 ). However, it is a known fact that the evolution of starch metabolism is primarily conserved across angiosperm, which implies that knowledge gained from studying starch metabolism in the model plant, is mostly applicable to other plant species ( Pfister and Zeeman, 2016 ). Although slight differences have been reported on biosynthesis and degradation of starch in storage organs like tuber and endosperm, Prof. Zeeman’s lab has demonstrated profound knowledge on starch metabolism in crops like cassava ( Zhou et al., 2017 ; Bull et al., 2018 ; Wang et al., 2018 ) and potato ( Hussain et al., 2003 ; Ferreira et al., 2017 ; Samodien et al., 2018 ) with several published reviews on this subject ( Smith et al., 2005 ; Zeeman et al., 2010 ; Santelia and Zeeman, 2011 ; Stitt and Zeeman, 2012 ; Streb and Zeeman, 2012 ; Pfister and Zeeman, 2016 ; Smith and Zeeman, 2020 ). Thus, it is believed that he has wealth of experience to achieve this feat and the outcome of the research will be credible. Also, the claim that the work was not peer viewed before it was presented for trial in Nigeria may be a little bit premature at the time due to the fact that the transgenic cassava had been tested in greenhouse for 3 years in ETHZ Biotechnology Lab in Zurich, Switzerland. As a result, it makes sense to test the transgenic cassava’s performance in a natural cassava growing environment, and the application was approved through the proper channels. Additionally, not all scientific discovery is peer-reviewed before patenting. The Nigerian government’s takeaway from this experience ought to be to fortify the nation’s scientific workforce or promote joint research endeavours between Nigerian scientists and their international counterparts in order to progressively employ plant biotechnology instruments to tackle issues concerning food security in the nation.

Perspective and conclusion

In Nigeria, many people are involved in the direct production of various food crops. In fact, the country currently leads in the production of certain food crops globally, but this is usually due to increase in land conversion to crop production and not because of increase in yield/hectare. Production of other food crops is also suboptimal due to limiting factors like disease-infested planting material and susceptibility to biotic and abiotic stresses. While progress has been made using conventional breeding methods to develop crop varieties that are resistant, tolerant, or well adapted to both biotic and abiotic stress, this method is still limited in some ways. Techniques of plant biotechnology, such as genetic engineering and genome editing are increasingly becoming viable and sustainable options for improving our crops under certain conditions or circumstances. This review, therefore, provides general overview of the status of biotechnology in Africa with specific focus on Nigeria. Areas where biotechnological techniques will be most needed for crop improvements were identified and scientists can begin to take advantage of these novel techniques to provide lasting solutions to major problems, preventing Nigeria from reaching its full potential in crop production. Presently, the Nigerian government has enacted policies and regulations that favour responsible application and development of biotechnological products according to international best practice. Nigeria seems to be championing commercialization of biotech crops in Africa with recent approval of more genetically modified crops. Therefore, we recommend that governments in other African countries should take a cue from Nigeria by setting the stage for their countries to benefit from this technology towards ensuring food security and economic prosperity on the continent. Additionally, Nigerian government and start-up companies should also tap into immense potential of molecular farming for developing and production of subunit vaccines to bring about revenue and employment generation. The opposition from pressure groups against biotechnological application in Nigeria is largely due to the myth portraying the technology as foreign and not based on empirical evidences. For over two decades, several countries have benefited from sales and consumption of biotechnology products without any negative effects on the health of consumers.

Author contributions

MA: Conceptualization, Writing–original draft, Writing–review and editing, Investigation, Methodology. TA: Writing–review and editing, Investigation. IA: Writing–review and editing, Investigation. TO: Writing–review and editing. SA-S: Writing–review and editing. OF: Writing–review and editing. OS: Writing–original draft, Writing–review and editing, Supervision, Validation. CA: Supervision, Validation, Writing–original draft, Writing–review and editing. OA: Conceptualization, Supervision, Validation, Writing–original draft, Writing–review and editing, Methodology.

The author(s) declare that no financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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www.frontiersin.org

Keywords: biotechnology policy, crop improvement, molecular farming, transgenic crops, biotechnology adoption

Citation: Adegbaju MS, Ajose T, Adegbaju IE, Omosebi T, Ajenifujah-Solebo SO, Falana OY, Shittu OB, Adetunji CO and Akinbo O (2024) Genetic engineering and genome editing technologies as catalyst for Africa’s food security: the case of plant biotechnology in Nigeria. Front. Genome Ed. 6:1398813. doi: 10.3389/fgeed.2024.1398813

Received: 10 March 2024; Accepted: 15 May 2024; Published: 09 July 2024.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2024 Adegbaju, Ajose, Adegbaju, Omosebi, Ajenifujah-Solebo, Falana, Shittu, Adetunji and Akinbo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Olalekan Akinbo, [email protected]

† Present address Muyiwa Seyi Adegbaju, Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Science and Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, United States

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Professor James Kakalios of the School of Physics and Astronomy was one of four new department heads named by CSE Dean Andrew Alleyne. These new department heads bring a wealth of academic, research, and leadership abilities to their departments.   

School of Physics and Astronomy

Professor James Kakalios   has been appointed   as the new department head for the School of Physics and Astronomy. Kakalios started his five-year term on July 1, 2024.

Since joining the School of Physics and Astronomy in 1988, Kakalios has built a research program in experimental condensed matter physics, with particular emphasis on complex and disordered systems. His research ranges from the nano to the neuro with experimental investigations of the electronic and optical properties of nanostructured semiconductors and fluctuation phenomena in neurological systems.

During his time at the University of Minnesota, Kakalios has served as both director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies. He has received numerous awards and professorships including the University’s Taylor Distinguished Professorship, Andrew Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics, and the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is a fellow of both the American Physical Society and AAAS. 

In addition to numerous research publications, Kakalios is the author of three popular science books— The Physics of Superheroes , The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics , and The Physics of Everyday Things .

Kaklios received a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York and master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago.

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Dorfman joined the University of Minnesota faculty in January of 2006 and was quickly promoted up the ranks, receiving tenure in 2011, promotion to professor in 2015, and named a Distinguished McKnight Professor in 2020. He previously served as the director of undergraduate studies in chemical engineering from 2018-2022, where he headed a large-scale revision of the chemical engineering curriculum and saw the department through its most recent ABET accreditation. 

His research focuses on polymer physics and microfluidics, with applications in self-assembly and biotechnology. He is particularly well known for his integrated experimental and computational work on DNA confinement in nanochannels and its application towards genome mapping. Dorfman’s research has been recognized by numerous national awards including the AIChE Colburn Award, Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, NSF CAREER Award, and DARPA Young Faculty Award.

Dorfman received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Penn State and a master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT. 

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Professor Archis  Ghate has been appointed as the new Department Head for the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering after a national search. Ghate will begin his five-year term on July 8, 2024. 

Ghate is an expert in operations research and most recently served as the Fluor Endowed Chair in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Clemson University. Previously, he was a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Washington. He has won several research and teaching awards, including an NSF CAREER Award. 

Ghate’s research in optimization spans areas as varied as health care, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, economics, and business analytics. He also served as a principal research scientist at Amazon working on supply chain optimization technologies. 

Ghate received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in chemical engineering, from the Indian Institute of Technology. He also received a master’s degree in management science and engineering from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan.

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Professor Chris Hogan has been appointed as the new department head for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Hogan started his five-year term on July 1, 2024.

Hogan, who currently holds the Carl and Janet Kuhrmeyer Chair, joined the University of Minnesota in 2009, and since then has taught fluid mechanics and heat transfer to nearly 1,000 undergraduates, advised 25+ Ph.D. students and postdoctoral associates, and served as the department’s director of graduate studies from 2015-2020. He most recently served as associate department head. 

He is a leading expert in particle science with applications including supersonic-to-hypersonic particle impacts with surfaces, condensation and coagulation, agricultural sprays, and virus aerosol sampling and control technologies. He has authored and co-authored more than 160 papers on these topics. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Aerosol Science . Hogan received the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering’s George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Research in 2023.

Hogan holds a bachelor’s degree Cornell University and a Ph.D. from Washington University in Saint Louis.

Rhonda Zurn, College of Science and Engineering,  [email protected]

University Public Relations,  [email protected]

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