Agriculture

Researchers discover oldest evidence of 'farming' -- by insects
June 23, 2016 04:56 PM - National Science Foundation via EurekAlert!

Scientists have discovered the oldest fossil evidence of agriculture -- not by humans, but by insects.

The team, led by Eric Roberts of James Cook University along with researchers from Ohio University, discovered the oldest known examples of "fungus gardens" in 25 million-year-old fossil termite nests in East Africa.

The results are published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Some termite species cultivate fungi in "gardens" in subterranean nests or chambers, helping to convert plant material into a more easily digestible termite food source.

Chicago's urban farming produces fresh veggies all year, 24/7
June 22, 2016 10:29 AM - Maurice Picow

Hydroponics and new, high-tech urban agricultural techniques are now growing fresh food in the middle of Manhattan and other large metropolitan centers globally. People are catching onto the taste and business opportunities of urban agriculture: find it growing in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, Egypt too!

Urban farming in midwestern American cities like Chicago has had its limitations due to adverse winter weather conditions at least 9 months a year. New indoor farming techniques use vertical farming, special indoor LED lighting and hydroponic systems that pump soybean and kelp-infused water through a temperature and humidity-controlled system, nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
June 20, 2016 07:15 AM - RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions. Published in Scientific Reports, the study showed that adding torrefied biomass to poor soil from Botswana increased water retention in the soil as well as —the amount of plant growth.

700-year-old West African soil technique could help mitigate climate change
June 16, 2016 11:07 AM - University of Sussex via EurekAlert!

A farming technique practised for centuries by villagers in West Africa, which converts nutrient-poor rainforest soil into fertile farmland, could be the answer to mitigating climate change and revolutionising farming across Africa.

700-year-old West African soil technique could help mitigate climate change
June 16, 2016 11:07 AM - University of Sussex via EurekAlert!

A farming technique practised for centuries by villagers in West Africa, which converts nutrient-poor rainforest soil into fertile farmland, could be the answer to mitigating climate change and revolutionising farming across Africa.

Judge rules: no right to know hazardous pesticide ingredients
June 16, 2016 07:45 AM - Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist

A federal judge has ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency is under no obligation to force pesticide makers to disclose supposedly 'inert' ingredients in their products - even where those ingredients are seriously hazardous to health or environment.

National Academy of Sciences Weighs In On Genetically-Engineered Foods
June 1, 2016 01:58 PM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

The National Academy of Sciences has some conclusions to share about genetically-engineered foods — 420 pages worth. And no matter which side of the fence you stand on when it comes to this divisive topic, you probably aren’t going to like what the nonprofit has to say.

The report, Genetically Engineered Organisms: Experiences and Prospects, was released last week online amid a flurry of news articles that attempted to breathlessly summarize the findings in a few short sentences. Some expressed disappointment in the authors’ inconclusive findings; many others attempted to pin a final yea-or-nay viewpoint on the Academy’s nine-chapter investigation.

GMOs May Be Safe to Eat, But Some Are Still Bad for the Planet
May 20, 2016 06:12 AM - Julie Rodriguez, Care2

For years, one of the major arguments that has been made against genetically engineered crops is the fear that, by tampering with a plant’s DNA, it could potentially cause health issues for consumers. It’s an understandable worry, however, the scientific consensus now seems to be undeniable: Whatever faults GMO crops may have, they are safe for human consumption.

A Major Source of Air Pollution: Farms
May 16, 2016 07:05 PM - Earth Institute, Columbia University

A new study says that emissions from farms outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China. The culprit: fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste that combine in the air with industrial emissions to form solid particles—a huge source of disease and death. The good news: if industrial emissions decline in coming decades, as most projections say, fine-particle pollution will go down even if fertilizer use doubles as expected. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Agricultural air pollution comes mainly in the form of ammonia, which enters the air as a gas from heavily fertilized fields and livestock waste. It then combines with pollutants from combustion—mainly nitrogen oxides and sulfates from vehicles, power plants and industrial processes—to create tiny solid particles, or aerosols, no more than 2.5 micrometers across, about 1/30 the width of a human hair. The particles can penetrate deep into lungs, causing heart or pulmonary disease; a 2015 study in the journal Nature estimates they cause at least 3.3 million deaths each year globally.

U of I study finds declining sulfur levels in soils and rivers in Midwest
May 10, 2016 06:49 AM - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 Air pollution legislation to control fossil fuel emissions and the associated acid rain has worked – perhaps leading to the need for sulfur fertilizers for crop production. A University of Illinois study drawing from over 20 years of data shows that sulfur levels in Midwest watersheds and rivers have steadily declined, so much so that farmers may need to consider applying sulfur in the not too distant future.

“We don’t think there are actual sulfur deficiencies yet, but clearly more sulfur is coming out of the soil and water than what is going in,” says U of I biogeochemist Mark David. “As the Clean Air Act and amendments have taken effect there has been a reduction in sulfur emissions from coal combustion, so that the amount of atmospheric sulfur deposited each year is only 25 percent of what it used to be. At some point, farmers are going to have to fertilize with sulfur.”

 

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