Agriculture

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.

Groundwater depletion and western US water supply
July 24, 2014 04:34 PM - NASA and UC Irvine

A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

New research compares environmental costs of livestock-based foods
July 22, 2014 08:00 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Trust me, no one loves a nice, big, juicy steak more than me and while I have no immediate plans of becoming a vegetarian, I am a little concerned about the resources and costs it takes to produce the proteins of our favorite meals. From the land that is used by livestock to the supplies and energy it takes to raise these animals for our consumption, it is evident that environmental resources take a toll. But what is the real cost? New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, conducted in collaboration with scientists in the US, calculates these environmental costs and compares various animal proteins to give a multi-perspective picture of what resources are really being used.

California NEEDS dry farming!
July 18, 2014 09:40 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

Residents of California have been noting something disconcerting when they hit the grocery store this year: it's a terrible year for stone fruit. Despite the fact that it's the height of summer, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries and their ilk are much more expensive than unusual, and of much poorer quality, too. What's going on? The answer lies in the state's extreme drought, which wreaked havoc on numerous crops this year, including stone fruit. The state's agriculture may be undergoing some major shifts in the coming years thanks to climate change and natural shifts in rainfall levels, and it's not the only region looking at a drier future.

California getting tough with water wasters!
July 16, 2014 08:31 AM - L. CAROL RITCHIE, NPR

Californians who waste water will have to pay up to $500 a day for their extravagance under new restrictions approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board. The move comes after the board concluded that voluntary conservation measures have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use that Gov. Jerry Brown was hoping for, reports The Associated Press. In fact, a survey by the board showed a 1 percent increase in water use in May compared to the same month a year ago.

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