Agriculture

The impacts of a warming climate on Russian agriculture
February 22, 2016 08:01 AM - Corey Flintoff, NPR

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad.

That's what many people are saying these days in Russia, where the expected icy winter has failed to materialize this year – to widespread joy. Of course, any climate scientist will tell you that an unusually warm month — or even a whole warm winter — doesn't mean much. It's the long-term trend that counts.

Warming climate is bad news for western US aquifers
February 19, 2016 06:39 AM - University of Arizona via ScienceDaily.

By 2050 climate change will increase the groundwater deficit even more for four economically important aquifers in the western U.S., reports a University of Arizona-led team of scientists.

The new report is the first to integrate scientists' knowledge about groundwater in the U.S. West with scientific models that show how climate change will affect the region.

Smart water management could help produce much more food
February 16, 2016 08:17 AM - IOP Publishing via ScienceDaily

Improved agricultural water management could halve the global food gap by 2050 and buffer some of the harmful climate change effects on crop yields. For the first time, scientists investigated systematically the worldwide potential to produce more food with the same amount of water by optimizing rain use and irrigation. They found the potential has previously been underestimated. Investing in crop water management could substantially reduce hunger while at the same time making up for population growth. However, putting the findings into practice would require specific local solutions, which remains a challenge.

Disease may wipe out the world's bananas
February 8, 2016 07:11 AM - Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Cardiff University, The Ecologist

Bananas are at the sharp end of industrial agriculture's chemical war on pests and pathogens, writes Angelina Sanderson Bellamy. But even 60 pesticide sprays a year isn't enough to keep the diseases at bay. It's time to seek new solutions with little or no use of chemicals, working with nature, growing diverse crops on the same land - and breaking the dominance of the banana multinationals.

Loss of wild flowers matches pollinator decline
February 4, 2016 07:15 AM - University of Leeds

The first Britain-wide assessment of the value of wild flowers as food for pollinators shows that decreasing resources mirror the decline of pollinating insects.

Meat consumption and climate change linked by EU study
January 28, 2016 07:22 AM - Sarantis Michalopoulos, EurActiv

The overconsumption of meat will inevitably push global temperatures to dangerous levels, a recent study has warned, urging reluctant governments to take action.

The world's rapidly expanding population is posing a huge challenge to farmers. A reportpublished in November 2015 by Chatham House, and the Glasgow University Media Group, examined the interconnection between meat and dairy consumption with climate change.

Nearly one-third of the world's cultivated land is being used to grow animal feed. In the EU alone, 45% of wheat production is used for this purpose, with 30% of overall use met by imports.

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Recycling on the ropes, France has a plan to fix the industry
January 11, 2016 05:29 AM - EurActiv

Low raw material costs have dealt a heavy blow to the recycling industry. The French recycling federation (FEDEREC) believes the sector needs a complete overhaul to stay afloat in the coming years.

FEDEREC published its view of the future of recycling in a white paper entitled "The recycling industry by 2030." In the preface to this 70-page document, a frank discussion of the problems facing the industry and how they might be solved, Corinne Lepage, a Republican politician, evoked a sector "devastated by an oil price that is so low that it is driving us back towards a linear economy, as it is cheaper today to buy primary raw materials than recycled raw materials".

Natural carbon sinks and their role in climate
January 10, 2016 11:32 AM - Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Protected areas such as rainforests occupy more than one-tenth of the Earth’s landscape, and provide invaluable ecosystem services, from erosion control to pollination to biodiversity preservation. They also draw heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in plants and soil through photosynthesis, yielding a net cooling effect on the planet.

Determining the role protected areas play as carbon sinks — now and in decades to come — is a topic of intense interest to the climate-policy community as it seeks science-based strategies to mitigate climate change. Toward that end, a study in the journal Ambioestimates for the first time the amount of CO2 sequestered by protected areas, both at present and throughout the 21st century as projected under various climate and land-use scenarios.

New Federal dietary guidelines recommend eating less meat
January 7, 2016 12:17 PM - NRDC

Many Americans, especially men and teenage boys, eat too much red meat, poultry and eggs, and should reduce their consumption, according to new federal dietary guidelines jointly released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Americans’ meat consumption will not only help improve public health, but reduce climate and water pollution from the meat industry.

This is the first time federal dietary guidelines have included a recommendation to reduce meat consumption. The report advises that cutting back on meat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

The new dietary advice, however, did not include the recommendation from the agencies’ expert scientific advisors that the FDA explicitly link the science-based benefits of adopting diets lower in red meat, and higher in plant-based foods, to additional benefits to environment sustainability and to food security.

County of origin labeling on our meat no longer required
January 5, 2016 05:09 AM - Mary Clare Jalonick, Organic Consumers Association

It's now harder to find out where your beef or pork was born, raised and slaughtered.

After more than a decade of wrangling, Congress repealed a labeling law last month that required retailers to include the animal's country of origin on packages of red meat. It's a major victory for the meat industry, which had fought the law in Congress and the courts since the early 2000s.

Lawmakers said they had no choice but to get rid of the labels after the World Trade Organization repeatedly ruled against them. The WTO recently authorized Canada and Mexico, which had challenged the law, to begin more than $1 billion in economic retaliation against the United States.

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