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How rain can enhance food safety
July 6, 2015 10:09 AM - Cornell University

To protect consumers from foodborne illness, produce farmers should wait 24 hours after a rain or irrigating their fields to harvest crops, according to new research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Rain or irrigation creates soil conditions that are more hospitable to Listeria monocytogenes, which when ingested may cause the human illness Listeriosis. Waiting to harvest crops reduces the risk of exposure to the pathogen, which could land on fresh produce.

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Are kangaroos left-handed?
July 6, 2015 12:11 PM - Judy Molland, Care2

President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates are all lefties, and now they have unusual colleagues: kangaroos. According to a new study, some wild kangaroos tend to favor their left hands during common tasks like grooming and feeding. Yegor Malashichev, a Russian zoologist from Saint Petersburg State University and a co-author of the study, traveled to Australia to do the fieldwork. Along with his colleagues, he spent long hours observing seven species of marsupials living in the wild. Those species included red-necked wallabies, Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo, and the red kangaroo. The team watched as the animals groomed themselves, grabbed food with their paws, and leaned on their forearms while eating grass. Two species of kangaroo and one wallaby all showed the left-handed trend; some other marsupials, which walk on all fours, did not show the same bias. This new knowledge might seem pretty interesting in itself, but more importantly, the study, published in the journal Current Biology, could give scientists a better understanding of the evolution of mammals. 

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SPOTLIGHT

Breeders select trait to conserve drinkable water

Kaine Korzekwa, American Society of Agronomy

Plants need water. People need water. Unfortunately, there’s only so much clean water to go around — and so the effort begins to find a solution.

Luckily for people, some plants are able to make do without perfectly clean water, leaving more good water for drinking. One strategy is to use treated wastewater, containing salt leftover from the cleaning process, to water large areas of turf grass. These areas include athletic fields and golf courses. Golf courses alone use approximately 750 billion gallons of water annually in arid regions.

However, most plants cannot tolerate a lot of salt. As some areas of the United States run low on clean water, plant breeders are trying to breed plants that are more salt tolerant. This would conserve clean water while maintaining healthy turf.

Plant breeders can actually see the individual effect of what each parent plant passes on because the genes add intensity to the trait. These are additive effects. Breeders can more easily select for those features when they observe those differences.

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