It will be at least 15-20 years until rice crops can be planted in greenhouses, says Professor Sauerborn. In order to feed the growing world population until then, the main priority is to get the crops in shape to withstand changing climatic conditions.

At the Bayer CropScience Innovation Centre in Ghent, Belgium, Dr. Michael Metzlaff and his colleagues are working to make crops more resistant to climatic stress. “We want to make the plants able to produce consistently high yields in the long term despite fluctuations in environmental conditions,” says Metzlaff.

Crops have various defensive mechanisms to respond to short-term stress, but these require a lot of energy, which is then not available for growth. The result is enormous losses in yield, particularly following drought and persistent hot weather. With the help of modern genome research, the Bayer researchers can look deep into the genetic material of the crops, explain stress mechanisms and target them more precisely.

“One trick is to impede the action of the gene which governs the proteins involved in combating stress, by just the right amount,” says Metzlaff.

There is a great deal to do if we are to equip agriculture to meet future challenges and make it sustainable – although many of the technologies already exist. They need to be redesigned and optimized for the vertical farming system, using stable plastics for the greenhouse walls and the LED lighting which produces the correct light for plant photosynthesis. Ideas for water treatment and management and plant feeding are also on the agronomists’ wish-list.

Links to follow up:

Futuristic architecture for high-rise agriculture and vertical farms can be found at the following Web sites:

The Web site features interviews with Professor Dickson Despommier on the challenges of urban agriculture.

A cornfield in a high-rise - Video with Dickson Despommier

You Tube - Eco-Tower

You Tube - Vertical Farming/Vertical Gardens

High-rise as farmyard