Agriculture

Is fracking water safe to irrigate crops?
August 24, 2015 06:35 AM - Crystal Shepeard, Care2

The race to find cleaner energy sources has led to a boon in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in search of natural gas. Highly pressurized chemicals and water are pumped deep underground to break shale and release natural gas for harvesting. Residents and environmentalists have long been opposed to the process, which has seen an increase of health issues due to contaminated water. In drought stricken California, there is also concern about the amount of water being used in fracking operations, as well as what is done with the wastewater.

California farmers are frustrated with oil companies that have encroached on their areas. Fertile farm land is also filled with natural gas and there has been an increase in fracking operations. As the name implies, hyrdraulic fracturing is a water-intensive process. At the front-end, freshwater is infused with chemicals and is pumped into the shale. This has put farmers and oil companies in competition for the ever decreasing amount of water available.

Scientists discover what causes soil acidification
August 19, 2015 02:28 PM - James Cook University

Australian and Chinese scientists have made significant progress in determining what causes soil acidification – a discovery that could assist in turning back the clock on degraded croplands.

How will global food supply be affected by climate change?
August 19, 2015 08:05 AM - Erik Stokstad, Science/AAAS

In 2007, drought struck the bread baskets of Europe, Russia, Canada, and Australia. Global grain stocks were already scant, so wheat prices began to rise rapidly. When countries put up trade barriers to keep their own harvests from being exported, prices doubled, according to an index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Just 3 years later, another spike in food prices contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings. Such weather-related crop disasters will become more likely with climate change, warns a detailed report released today by the Global Food Security (GFS) program, a network of public research funding agencies in the United Kingdom.

Dissecting the Farm-to-Table Fable
August 18, 2015 09:17 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

The vibrant, mega-million-dollar farm to table movement is under increasing scrutiny these days. In San Diego, where produce is an $1.8 billion industry and year-round farmers markets can be found in almost every neighborhood (one of the few financial spinoffs of climate change, perhaps), the farm-to-table concept is getting a bad rep.

High levels of natural uranium identified in 2 major U.S. aquifers
August 17, 2015 03:30 PM - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nearly 2 million people throughout the Great Plains and California live above aquifer sites contaminated with natural uranium that is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate, according to a study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

History of Agriculture Revealed
August 7, 2015 09:09 AM - NoCamels Team, NoCamels

Open any history book and you’re likely to find that the practice of agriculture was invented 12,000 years ago in the Levant, an area in the Middle East that was home to some of the first human civilizations. But a new discovery recently made in Northern Israel seems to have shattered the myth on the advent of agriculture, offering up exciting evidence that trial plant cultivation, what we call agriculture, began far earlier – some 23,000-years-ago.

Are insecticides more toxic than we think?
August 6, 2015 12:15 PM -

Insecticides that are sprayed in orchards and fields across North America may be more toxic to spiders than scientists previously believed. A McGill research team reached this conclusion after looking at changes in the behaviour of individual Bronze Jumping Spiders both before and after exposure to Phosmet, a widely used broad spectrum insecticide. It is a finding with far-reaching implications for agricultural production and ecosystem health.

Making Tastier Wines with Fewer Pesticides
July 30, 2015 09:00 AM - American Chemical Society

Wine-making is steeped in age-old traditions, but to address the threat of pests and concerns over heavy pesticide use, vintners are turning to science. With the goal of designing better grape breeds, scientists are parsing the differences between wild American grapes — which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant — and the less hardy grape species pressed for fine wines worldwide. They report their findings in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from US Corn Belt have been Underestimated
July 29, 2015 08:55 AM - University of Minnesota

Estimates of how much nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, is being emitted in the central United States have been too low by as much as 40 percent, a new study led by University of Minnesota scientists shows.

How Corn Became King
July 28, 2015 09:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.

Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found that just a single letter change in the genetic script of corn's ancestor, teosinte, helped make it all possible.

Publishing in the journal Genetics this month, UW-Madison genetics Professor John Doebley and a team of researchers describe how, during the domestication of corn, a single nucleotide change in the teosinte glume architectural gene (tga1) stripped away the hard, inedible casing of this wild grass, ultimately exposing the edible golden kernel.

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