Agriculture

How 'Mother of Thousands' Makes Plantlets
October 4, 2007 06:48 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Davis, California - New research shows how the houseplant "mother of thousands", a plant officially called "Kalanchoe diagremontiana" makes the tiny plantlets that drop from the edges of its leaves. In an amazing twist of evolution, this houseplant, having lost the ability to make viable seeds, shifted some of the processes that make seeds to the leaves, said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Scientists Get $1 Million To Demonstrate How Restored Prairies Filter Water, Produce Bioenergy
October 3, 2007 07:44 PM -

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL - University of Minnesota researchers Clarence Lehman, John Nieber and David Tilman and colleagues have been awarded a $1.07 million grant to show how restored prairie areas can act as buffers to filter water polluted by agriculture while simultaneously producing bioenergy.

The strategy will also conserve prairies, expand areas available for wildlife habitats, reduce the amount of water needed for biofuels, enhance biodiversity in Minnesota and reduce Minnesota's greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon.

Rain Stops Banff Beetle Blight Burn
October 3, 2007 06:54 PM - Reuters

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Wet weather has thwarted a Canadian plan to stem the spread of tree-killing pine beetles eastward through the Rocky Mountains by burning an Alberta forest near Banff National Park, an official said on Wednesday.

The province of Alberta had planned to burn about 80 square kilometers of trees last week and it is now too late to make the attempt this year, said Duncan MacDonnell, a spokesman for the province's Sustainable Resource Development ministry.

Expert calls for "Green Super Rice" to be developed
October 2, 2007 08:15 AM - Reuters

A hybrid high-yielding rice that is rich in nutrients, resistant to pests and drought and which requires fewer fertilizers and pesticides should be developed, a Chinese agricultural expert said on Tuesday.

Writing in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Qifa Zhang of Huazhong Agricultural University in China's central Wuhan city, said genes for at least 10 of these desired traits have been isolated and were available for breeding purposes.

China Suspends Soybean Imports From US , Beetle Infestation Discovered
September 29, 2007 06:55 PM -

Beijing, China - China's quality control administration said on Friday that it found live khapra beetles in soybeans imported from the United States. The beetle is a much-feared pest that can destroy soybean stores.

A statement from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the 460 tons of soybeans shipped by the U.S.-based Scoular Company contained the beetles and "other species of harmful insects," without elaborating. Ragweed seeds were also detected in the 21 containers.

Researchers Challenge Assumptions Of GMO Agriculture
September 29, 2007 06:42 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Manhatten, Kansas - A  researcher is challenging the assumption that genetically engineered plants are the great scientific and technological revolution in agriculture and the only efficient and cheap way to feed a growing population. They are working on non-GMO methods to accelerate plant breeding. It's called "market-assisted selection". The research is focused on breeding methodology, finding more efficient ways to breed better varieties of corn, sorghum, wheat or barley that yield higher, require less irrigation and are resistant to diseases in farmers' fields. The work was recently published in an edition of the scientific journal Crop Science.

U.S. meat firm expands beef recall due to E.coli
September 29, 2007 03:41 PM - Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Topps Meat Company LLC has expanded its recall to include 21.7 million pounds (9,800 tonnes) of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, the Elizabeth, New Jersey-based company said on Saturday.

The beef has a "sell by date" or "best if used by date" between September 25, 2007, and September 25, 2008. All recalled products will have a U.S. Department of Agriculture establishment number of EST 9748, which is located on the back panel of the package and/or in the USDA legend.

On Tuesday, the company announced a recall of 331,582 (150 tonnes) pounds of frozen ground beef products.

Senator seeks to overhaul food safety system
September 28, 2007 04:05 PM - Missy Ryan, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The assistant Senate majority leader says Congress should phase out the splintered U.S. food safety system and come up with a better way to ensure the food Americans eat is safe.

Assistant leader Dick Durbin told a food-policy conference on Friday that he would try to attach the phase-out to the farm policy law being written this year. Twelve agencies share authority over food safety at present.

"I hope this is going to be the kind of catalyst that is going to move us toward change," Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told a food policy conference on Friday.

Agrilandia Farm: Italy’s Slow Food Culture Comes to Beijing
September 28, 2007 10:10 AM - Lila Buckley, Worldwatch Institute

Nestled in the dusty northern suburbs of Beijing, the village of Baige Zhuang seems like an unlikely birthplace for fine Italian wines and cheeses. But since 1999, Agrilandia Italian Farm has been producing handcrafted organic red wines, fruit wines, cheeses, and conserves in Beijing’s remote suburbs, in an attempt to bring the philosophy of Italian ecological agriculture to the Chinese capital.

Nutrient Pollution From Farms and Livestock Hurts Amphibians
September 28, 2007 10:07 AM - Danielle Nierenberg, Worldwatch Institute

Minnesota - Remember the uproar in 1995 when school kids in Minnesota began finding frogs with extra limbs? The mutated amphibians looked like props in some sci-fi movie, and scientists quickly began searching for the culprit behind the deformities. Speculation centered on pesticides, increased UV radiation, and infection from parasites-  which ultimately turned out to be the "villain."

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