Agriculture

Rice crops that can save farmers money and cut pollution
July 29, 2016 03:31 PM - University of Toronto via ScienceDaily

A new U of T Scarborough study has identified "superstar" varieties of rice that can reduce fertilizer loss and cut down on environmental pollution in the process.

The study, authored by U of T Scarborough Professor Herbert Kronzucker in collaboration with a team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, looked at 19 varieties of rice to see which ones were more efficient at using nitrogen.

"We have this bucolic idea of agriculture -- animals grazing or vast fields of majestic crops -- but the global reality is it's one of the biggest drivers of environmental pollution and climate change," says Kronzucker.

Rising sea levels will change the ecology of the Everglades
July 14, 2016 09:19 AM - CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, NPR

The Florida Everglades is a swampy wilderness the size of Delaware. In some places along the road in southern Florida, it looks like tall saw grass to the horizon, a prairie punctuated with a few twisted cypress trees. The sky is the palest blue.

But beneath the surface a different story is unfolding. Because of climate change and sea level rise, the ocean is starting to seep into the swampland. If the invasion grows worse, it could drastically change the Everglades, and a way of life for millions of residents in South Florida.

Mobile app for rain forecasts raises farmers' yields
July 14, 2016 07:12 AM - Baraka Rateng, SciDevNet

A mobile phone-based innovation that can predict rain is helping farmers in six Sub-Saharan Africa countries sow, fertilise and harvest crops at the optimum time.

The innovation is being used in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to improve crop yields and optimise food production through information and communication technology (ICT) weather forecasting model that produces Global Positioning System (GPS)-specific forecasts.

Genetically improving sorghum for production of biofuel
July 13, 2016 03:15 PM - Genetics Society of America via EurekAlert!

The bioenergy crop sorghum holds great promise as a raw material for making environmentally friendly fuels and chemicals that offer alternatives to petroleum-based products. Sorghum can potentially yield more energy per area of land than other crops while requiring much less input in terms of fertilizer or chemicals. New research examines how genetic improvement of specific sorghum traits, with an eye toward sustainability, could help maximize the usefulness of sorghum as a bioenergy crop.

The work was conducted by researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Washington State University in Pullman, the USDA-ARS in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri, Columbia. They highlight disease resistance, flooding tolerance and cell wall composition as key targets for genetically improving sorghum for sustainable production of renewable fuels and chemicals.

Characteristics improving bean resistance to drought identified
July 5, 2016 05:06 PM - Universitat Autonoma De Barcelona via EurekAlert!

The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the most important food legume in the tropics. It is an inexpensive source of proteins and minerals for almost 400 million people, mainly from Africa and Latin America. It is generally cultivated by small farmers and subject to conditions limiting their productivity. Drought affects 60% of bean crops around the world and can cause from 10% in productivity losses to a total of 100% in some cases.

Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Bean Programme at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia have identified drought-resistant genotypes and the morpho-physiological characteristics related to this resistance. The experiments were conducted in Palmira, Colombia, from June to September in 2012 and 2013, and the results were recently published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

Vermont will be the first US State to Label GMOs
June 30, 2016 06:40 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman , Triple Pundit

Vermont will soon be the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically modified (GMO) foods. Its GMO-labeling law, the first passed in the nation, goes into effect on July 1. Maine and Connecticut have since passed their own GMO-labeling laws. But they won’t go into effect until neighboring states pass similar legislation.

Researchers discover oldest evidence of 'farming' -- by insects
June 23, 2016 04:56 PM - National Science Foundation via EurekAlert!

Scientists have discovered the oldest fossil evidence of agriculture -- not by humans, but by insects.

The team, led by Eric Roberts of James Cook University along with researchers from Ohio University, discovered the oldest known examples of "fungus gardens" in 25 million-year-old fossil termite nests in East Africa.

The results are published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Some termite species cultivate fungi in "gardens" in subterranean nests or chambers, helping to convert plant material into a more easily digestible termite food source.

Chicago's urban farming produces fresh veggies all year, 24/7
June 22, 2016 10:29 AM - Maurice Picow

Hydroponics and new, high-tech urban agricultural techniques are now growing fresh food in the middle of Manhattan and other large metropolitan centers globally. People are catching onto the taste and business opportunities of urban agriculture: find it growing in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, Egypt too!

Urban farming in midwestern American cities like Chicago has had its limitations due to adverse winter weather conditions at least 9 months a year. New indoor farming techniques use vertical farming, special indoor LED lighting and hydroponic systems that pump soybean and kelp-infused water through a temperature and humidity-controlled system, nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
June 20, 2016 07:15 AM - RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions. Published in Scientific Reports, the study showed that adding torrefied biomass to poor soil from Botswana increased water retention in the soil as well as —the amount of plant growth.

700-year-old West African soil technique could help mitigate climate change
June 16, 2016 11:07 AM - University of Sussex via EurekAlert!

A farming technique practised for centuries by villagers in West Africa, which converts nutrient-poor rainforest soil into fertile farmland, could be the answer to mitigating climate change and revolutionising farming across Africa.

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