Agriculture

When Forests Aren't Really Forests: The High Cost of Chile's Tree Plantaions
August 19, 2014 01:46 PM - Julian Moll-Rocek, MONGABAY.COM

At first glance, the statistics tell a hopeful story: Chile’s forests are expanding. According to Global Forest Watch, overall forest cover changes show approximately 300,000 hectares were gained between 2000 and 2013 in Chile’s central and southern regions. Specifically, 1.4 million hectares of forest cover were gained, while about 1.1 million hectares were lost. On the ground, however, a different scene plays out: monocultures have replaced diverse natural forests while Mapuche native protesters burn pine plantations, blockade roads and destroy logging equipment. At the crux of these two starkly contrasting narratives is the definition of a single word: “forest.”

New Satellite To Help Farmers Facing Drought
August 19, 2014 09:08 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Satellites are put into orbit for a variety of tasks. From sending television signals to our homes to enabling GPS devices, to helping us see weather on a global scale, satellites collect information and provide us with modern conveniences. One new use for a proposed satellite scheduled to launch this winter is soil moisture monitoring at a local level.

Toxic Algae Scare Prompts Backlash Against Farms
August 18, 2014 09:25 AM - S.E. Smith, Care2

What do a no-drink order in Toledo and a backlash against factory farming have in common? A lot, as it turns out. Residents of Ohio's fourth-largest city were advised for multiple days earlier this month to refrain from drinking their tap water because it had been contaminated by toxic algae. As residents struggled to deal with their contaminated water supply, the culprit behind the problem became readily apparent: factory farms. The Ohio Agriculture Advisory Council (OAAC) is proposing a regulatory crackdown that could forever change industrial farming practices in this Midwestern state.

Herbicide Use To Increase Dramatically
August 15, 2014 10:50 AM - Editor, The Ecologist

The US is poised to 'deregulate' GMO corn, soybean and cotton varieties resistant to the herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba. The result will be a big increase in the use of those herbicides, as high as 600%. Only a huge public outcry can now stop the GMO-herbicide juggernaut. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed approval for new GMO corn and soybean varieties genetically engineered to be resistant to the toxic herbicide 2,4-D.

Plant Language
August 15, 2014 08:39 AM - Virginia Tech

A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another. The finding by Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Engineering Fruit Flies May Help Crops
August 13, 2014 08:04 AM - Editor, ENN

We've genetically-modified crops to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or pesticides. Nonetheless, pests still infest crops around the world. In an attempt to control these pests, scientists have turned to genetically engineering the pests themselves!

Study predicts climate change and pollution will combine to impact food production
August 2, 2014 09:50 AM - EcoRI News staff

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution -- specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

Ozone + Rising Temperatures = Problems for Food Security
July 28, 2014 02:37 PM - Editor, ENN

A new study shows that interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution can be quite significant when it comes to addressing food security. Conducted in part by researchers at MIT, a study looked in detail at global production of four leading food crops — rice, wheat, corn, and soy. It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors

Coffee Rust in Guatemala
July 28, 2014 07:32 AM - Carrie Khan, NPR

Outside the northern Guatemalan town of Olopa, near the Honduran border, farmer Edwin Fernando Diaz Viera stands in the middle of his tiny coffee field. He says it was his lifelong dream to own a farm here. The area is renowned for producing some of the world's richest Arabica, the smooth-tasting beans beloved by specialty coffee brewers. "My farm was beautiful, it was big," he says. But then, a plant fungus called coffee rust, or roya in Spanish, hit his crop. "Coffee rust appeared and wiped out everything," he says.

The important role of community forests
July 25, 2014 07:49 AM - Yale Environment360

Expanding and strengthening the community forest rights of indigenous groups and rural residents can make a major contribution to sequestering carbon and reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation, according to a new report. The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Rights and Resources Initiative said that indigenous people and rural inhabitants in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have government-recognized rights to forests containing nearly 38 billion tons of carbon, equal to 29 times the annual emissions of all the world’s passenger vehicles. By enforcing community rights to those forests, the study said, governments can play a major role in tackling climate change. In the Brazilian Amazon, for example, deforestation rates are 11 times lower in community forests than in forests outside those areas. In areas where community forest rights are ignored, deforestation rates often soar. The report made five major recommendations, from better enforcement of community forest zones to compensating communities for the climate and other benefits their forests provide.

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