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Agriculture

Is there such a thing as a "Natural GMO"?
May 5, 2015 03:50 PM - Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR

The first genetically modified crop wasn't made by a megacorporation. Or a college scientist trying to design a more durable tomato. Nope. Nature did it — at least 8,000 years ago. Well, actually bacteria in the soil were the engineers. And the microbe's handiwork is present in sweet potatoes all around the world today.

How Pollen Can Play a Role in Affecting Climate
May 5, 2015 12:45 PM - University of Michigan

The main job of pollen is to help seed the next generation of trees and plants, but a new study from the University of Michigan and Texas A&M shows that the grains might also seed clouds. The unexpected findings demonstrate that these wind-carried capsules of genetic material might have an effect on the planet's climate. And they highlight a new link between plants and the atmosphere.

Fracking wastewater and the risk to our food
May 3, 2015 06:42 AM - Roy L Hales

Unconventional drilling creates a huge amount of waste, some of which is being sprayed onto farmer’s fields. A 2005 report from New Zealand stated cows grazing on “dump farms” have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. “Cows are allowed to graze on land with high levels of hydrocarbons without any punishment and their food products are allowed to go to market without government testing,” a Green Party MP said last year. It is happening in Canada too. The field above is northwest of Calgary. Former energy consultant Jessica Ernst said, “We are eating & drinking drilling and fracking waste.”

“When they are drilling deep horizontal wells, they go a great distance and this produces a lot of drilling waste. It is toxic. There are a lot of naturally occurring toxics that are brought up. It is often radioactive. I have documentation that the formations they want to frack are radioactive. This comes up with metals and BTEX (Benzene, Tolulene, Ethylbenzyne, Xylenes)  carcinogens plus the mystery additives which companies refuse to disclose,” said Ernst.

Can organic farming reverse agriculture from a carbon source to a carbon sink?
April 29, 2015 04:01 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

More than a third of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) come from agriculture and a new theory suggest human can reverse global warming by sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2 through regenerative, organic farming, ranching and land use. 

Limited nutrients may keep plants from growing as fast as scientists thought
April 21, 2015 09:00 AM - Tim Wogan, Science/AAAS

Plants are one of the last bulwarks against climate change. They feed on carbon dioxide, growing faster and absorbing more of the greenhouse gas as humans produce it. But a new study finds that limited nutrients may keep plants from growing as fast as scientists thought, leading to more global warming than some climate models had predicted by 2100.

Think Different: Apple and conservation
April 17, 2015 07:14 AM - Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit

Marking a precedent-setting conservation partnership, Apple and the Conservation Fund will purchase two large areas of working forest, the organizations announced on Thursday. The move is expected to conserve “more than 36,000 acres of working forestland in Maine and North Carolina, ensuring these forests stay forests and any timber on the land is harvested sustainably,” the partners said in a joint announcement.

This initial purchase of U.S. working forestland marks “the beginning of a worldwide effort, one that represents a new approach as it reassesses its impact on the world’s paper supply chain,” Lisa P. Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, and Larry Selzer, president and CEO of the Conservation Fund, wrote in a Medium op-ed. Prior to joining Apple, Jackson led the U.S. EPA as President Barack Obama’s EPA Administrator from 2009 to 2013.

How California distributes scarce water
April 15, 2015 08:09 AM - Dan Charles, NPR

The state of California is asking a basic question right now that people often fight over: What's a fair way to divide up something that's scarce and valuable? That "something," in this case, is water.

There's a lot at stake, including your very own nuts, fruit and vegetables, because most of the water that's up for grabs in California goes to farmers. This year, some farmers will get water, and others will not, simply based on when their land was first irrigated.

Consider, for instance, the case of Cannon Michael. He grows tomatoes and melons in California's Central Valley. And despite the drought, he'll still grow them this year.

The impact levees have on groundwater recharge
April 12, 2015 08:54 AM - Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service via ECOreport

Strange as it sounds, flood control can be part of the solution to managing California’s droughts. University of California scientists have shown that making more room for floodwaters can improve the state’s groundwater supplies and fisheries.

Removing some levees or rebuilding aging ones some distance away from riverbanks can appreciably replenish aquifers during wet years, providing some relief during droughts.

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.

How can we improve plant growth?
April 10, 2015 08:36 AM - Edd Gent, SciDevNet

Supercomputers and genetic engineering could help boost crops’ ability to convert sunlight into energy and tackle looming food shortages, according to a team of researchers. Photosynthesis is far from its theoretical maximum efficiency, say the authors of a paper in Cell, published on 26 March. They say that supercomputing advances could allow scientists to model every stage in the process and identify bottlenecks in improving plant growth.

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