Agriculture

Bee Mating Habits Effect Queen's Physiology, Behavior, Permanently
October 4, 2007 07:30 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Mating has profound effects on the physiology and behavior of female insects, and in honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens, these changes are permanent.

Queens mate with multiple males during a brief period in their early adult lives, and shortly thereafter they initiate egg-laying. Furthermore, the pheromone profiles of mated queens differ from those of virgins, and these pheromones regulate many different aspects of worker behavior and colony organization. While it is clear that mating causes dramatic changes in queens, it is unclear if mating number has more subtle effects on queen physiology or queen-worker interactions; indeed, the effect of multiple matings on female insect physiology has not been broadly addressed.

Scientists Unlock Genome Of Crop Destroying Fungus
October 4, 2007 07:08 PM -

Purdue, Indiana - Why a pathogen is a pathogen may be answered as scientists study the recently mapped genetic makeup of a fungus that spawns the worst cereal grains disease known and also can produce toxins potentially fatal to people and livestock.

The fungus, which is especially destructive to wheat and barley, has resulted in an estimated $10 billion in damage to U.S. crops over the past 10 years. The scientists who sequenced the fungus' genes said that the genome will help them discover what makes this particular pathogen so harmful, what triggers the process that spreads the fungus and why various fungi attack specific plants.

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.

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