Agriculture

California Farmers Switch to Less Thirsty Crops
July 28, 2015 08:56 AM - Lesley McClurg, NPR

Water scarcity is driving California farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable, less-thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The light-sensing molecules in plants came from ancient algae
July 28, 2015 06:40 AM - Duke University

The light-sensing molecules that tell plants whether to germinate, when to flower and which direction to grow were inherited millions of years ago from ancient algae, finds a new study from Duke University.

The findings are some of the strongest evidence yet refuting the prevailing idea that the ancestors of early plants got the red light sensors that helped them move from water to land by engulfing light-sensing bacteria, the researchers say.
 

New MIT study on the historical climate of the American West
July 27, 2015 06:56 AM - MIT News

All around the deserts of Utah, Nevada, southern Oregon, and eastern California, ancient shorelines line the hillsides above dry valley floors, like bathtub rings — remnants of the lakes once found throughout the region. Even as the ice sheets retreated at the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago, the region remained much wetter than it is today. The earliest settlers of the region are likely to have encountered a verdant landscape of springs and wetlands.

So just when and why did today’s desert West dry out?

California towns getting water by truck as drought continues and wells run dry
July 11, 2015 07:04 AM -

Rural Tulare County, Calif., is now being called the epicenter of this drought.

That's because at least 1,300 residential wells have run dry, affecting at least 7,000 people. When your taps start spitting out air here, Paul Boyer and his team are who you call.

Under a punishing midafternoon sun, Boyer helps muscle down five of these hefty 400-pound water tanks from a semi-truck flatbed. He helps run a local nonprofit that's in charge of distributing these 2,500-gallon water tanks to drought victims.

How rain can enhance food safety
July 6, 2015 10:09 AM - Cornell University

To protect consumers from foodborne illness, produce farmers should wait 24 hours after a rain or irrigating their fields to harvest crops, according to new research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Rain or irrigation creates soil conditions that are more hospitable to Listeria monocytogenes, which when ingested may cause the human illness Listeriosis. Waiting to harvest crops reduces the risk of exposure to the pathogen, which could land on fresh produce.

Can we grow plants in space?
July 2, 2015 06:23 AM - Purdue University

A Purdue University study shows that targeting plants with red and blue LEDs provides energy-efficient lighting in contained environments, a finding that could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration.

What California can learn for Israel on solving serious water shortages
June 29, 2015 06:13 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

California is still counting up the damage from the 2014 drought, which resulted in more than $200 million in losses in the dairy and livestock industry and a staggering $810 million in crop production. And analysts are predicting this year to be even worse.

But many will admit that if there is any country on earth that knows how to trump a three-year (and counting) drought cycle and convert a wasteland to oasis, it’s Israel. For thousands of years, populations have been wresting a livelihood from the desert of what is now Israel, refining the techniques that would one day result in an agricultural paradise.

Nepal deals with climate change
June 25, 2015 02:33 PM - SciDevNet., SciDevNet

On 25 April, Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. But as well as quakes, the country is also vulnerable to climate change, a combination that makes it harder to build resilience and risk preparedness.
 
As mean temperatures rise in South Asia, the monsoon season has changed, leading to more-erratic rainfall and increasing the risk of floods and landslides that can claim lives and wreck food production.
 

What is the value of bees?
June 21, 2015 09:55 AM - Steve Williams, Care2

What are bees worth to our economy? A group of researchers have attempted to do the math, and the result shows exactly why we need to protect our pollinating bees but also why we can’t rely on economic worth alone to make our arguments for saving threatened species.

It may sound slightly abhorrent to put a price on a living creature–and, to an extent, it is. But calculating the monetary worth of wildlife and, in particular, their place in the overall economy has become a useful way for researchers to communicate to governments and even businesses that they need to take a closer look at preventing species die-out. When it comes to bees however, researchers have found an interesting fact that they say shows the worth and the shortcomings of this approach.

Record low snowpacks in Southwest is bad news for water supplies
April 11, 2015 07:57 AM - Roy L Hales, the ECOreport

Nine states report record low snowpacks. A report from the US Department of Agriculture states, “the largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins,especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single – digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana, and most of Utah.” This region is undergoing the warmest winter temperatures since record keeping began in 1895.

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