Orphan Crops to Provide Food

Orphan Crops to Provide Food - Groundcherries
Groundcherry Open

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), more than 34 million people in the United States do not have enough food to eat. The NSF is funding research into orphan crops to provide food.

The groundcherry is a member of the nightshade family of flowering plants that includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers. Although its relatives are important crop plants, groundcherries are called “orphan crops” because they grow wild and have no agricultural value. Groundcherries are common all over America, are easy to grow, and can be modified genetically. They have a papery, balloon-like husk or inflated calyx surrounding the berries.

Using the CRISPR genome editing tool, researchers funded by the NSF are working to modify groundcherries and other orphan crops to provide food. Zachary Lippman and Jia He of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory feel that the groundcherry has a significant untapped potential to make it useful as a food for humans. They hope their research will lead to new food sources from various plants to build and advance a bioeconomy that will eliminate hunger on our planet.

Understanding the design of a plant that might have been considered unusable or even toxic in the past can lead to a new food source. In the distant past, people thought tomatoes to be toxic. We may find ways to use other orphan crops to provide food. Many familiar plants may have the potential to strengthen food supplies.

God gave us plants to directly or indirectly provide food for all of us. However, we have much to learn about God’s design in the plant kingdom, and we have only scratched the surface.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: National Science Foundation Research News for November 30, 2022.