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Researchers Develop a Better Soybean Using a Computer



From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

The United Nations says the world's population will increase by 34 percent by the year 2050. Scientists and others know it will be difficult to meet the food needs of so many people. A recent study shows that soybean crops and computers may help deal with the problem. The UN predicts food production must increase by 70 percent to meet the needs of a richer population. The UN expects more people will live in cities than in rural areas. But today, there is little to no increase in the productivity of major crops.

Kenneth Quinn is the president of The World Food Prize Foundation. He says the need to increase food production is the greatest difficulty humanity has ever faced. Darren Drewry is a scientist at the American space agency NASA. He led a study of soybeans, which NASA calls "the world's most important protein crop." Researchers used a computer to help create a more productive soybean plant that uses less water. The scientists recorded a seven percent increase in soybean productivity. The computer helped researchers do work that would have taken many years in the field. The next step is to test the computer's design.

Steven Long is a professor at the University of Illinois and one of the writers of the report on the soybean study. He told us that researchers used a computer program to study what would happen if they changed the way the plant grows. Professor Long says it is important to find solutions to the predicted global food shortage before it happens. He says it will be 20 years before farmers can begin growing a more-productive soybean once it has been developed.

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