Agriculture

A Fine Line : New Program Predicts When Human Impact Becomes Too Much
July 6, 2014 10:25 AM - Morgan Erickson-Davis, MONGABAY.COM

Scientists at Stanford University recently unveiled a new modeling program that can predict the response of the environment to the land-use changes of human communities. Using their model, they found that natural resources can support humanity — up to a certain point. They recently published their findings in the journal Environmental Modelling & Software.

Farmed fish, the dark side
June 27, 2014 06:24 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

It seems as more and more of the fish available to us in the supermarket and in restaurants is farmed. Is this good or bad? Probably a bit of both. Raising fish in fish farms doesn't impact the wild fish to any great extent, but fish farms must be well situated, and well run to prevent problems. They are not natural ecosystems! Aquaculture has become a booming industry in Chile, with salmon and other fish farmed in floating enclosures along the South Pacific coast. But as farmers densely pack these pens to meet demand, diseases can easily pass between fish — for example, an outbreak of infectious salmon anemia that emerged in 2007 caused the deaths of more than a million fish and threatened to cripple the industry. And unsustainable aquaculture methods can have a wider impact, spreading disease to the world’s already vulnerable ocean fisheries and contaminating the environment.

Study links pesticides and pregnancies with increased risk of autism
June 23, 2014 08:00 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, according to a new study. The research discovered the associations were even stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women's pregnancies.

Mom was right, eat your broccoli!
June 19, 2014 06:10 AM - ELIZA BARCLAY - NPR

We get a little suspicious when we hear the claims that it's possible to get rid of the gunk that accumulates in our cells by doing a cleanse with "clean" foods. But what if some foods actually do help detox the body? The results of a recent clinical trial suggest that compounds in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli (and kale) prod cells to get rid of certain air pollutants. The intriguing randomized control trial of about 300 Chinese adults found that consuming a beverage made with broccoli sprouts every day for three months lead to high rates of excretion (in urine) of two harmful chemicals: benzene and acrolein.

Using too much fertilizer is bad for crops AND bad for climate!
June 12, 2014 06:30 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Using too much fertilizer is a very bad idea. It doesn't help crops, and in fact can be harmful to them. Excess fertilizer runs off and contributes to river and stream contamination and a new study shows that it is bad for the climate too! But farmers sometimes think that if some is good, more MUST be better! Helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen is a great objective that can improve crop yields, reduce pollution, and combat climate change. That's the conclusion of a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the paper, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields.

Saving bees with spider venom?
June 11, 2014 08:32 AM - Steve Williams, Care2

With Europe and the United States slow to ban the pesticides that science says is probably drastically harming our bee populations, could one of the world's most venomous spiders hold one solution to saving our pollinators?

Playing God with plants!
June 9, 2014 02:55 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Plants make and store energy from the sun using a process called photosynthesis. This process has evolved on planet earth over millions of years. How can we mess with plant DNA to improve on what nature has evolved? Three research teams--each comprised of scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom--have been awarded a second round of funding to continue research on news ways to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis. The ultimate goal of this potentially high-impact research is to develop methods to increase yields of important crops that are harvested for food and sustainable biofuels. But if this research is successful, it may also be used to support reforestation efforts and efforts to increase the productivity of trees for the manufacture of wood and paper and thousands of other products that are derived from wood and chemicals extracted from trees. Another reason why photosynthesis is an important research topic: It has made the Earth hospitable for life by generating food and oxygen.

Milkweed loss to blame for declining Monarch populations
June 5, 2014 09:01 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Populations of the popular Monarch butterfly have been declining in recent years and a new study is citing habitat loss on US breeding grounds as the main culprit. The eastern North American monarch population is known not only for its iconic orange and black colors, but also for its late summer migration from the United States to Mexico, a migration covering thousands of miles. And despite the long-held belief that monarch butterflies are most vulnerable to disturbances on wintering grounds in Mexico, new research from the University of Guelph shows lack of milkweed in the US which provides breeding grounds for the species is playing more of a role for species decline.

Climate change and nutrition
June 4, 2014 10:32 AM - Karin Kloosterman, GreenProphet

Researchers now say in a revealing Nature paper that the most significant health threat from climate change has started to happen. Crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients at the elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 anticipated by around 2050, according to research by Israeli scientists published in Nature this month.

Longer growing season does not yield growth increase for trees and shrubs
May 21, 2014 09:29 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

As the earth's temperatures rise, some have speculated that trees and shrubs in the colder climates might experience and increase in growth as a result of the extended growing season. "Not so," says a recent study authored by a University of Washington biology and applied mathematics postdoctoral student. Her study demonstrates that bushes achieve less yearly growth when cold winter temperatures are interrupted by warm spurts that trigger growth.

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