Monthly Archives: July 2012

Scientists ID Mechanism for Regulating Plant Oil Production

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified key elements in the biochemical mechanism plants use to limit the production of fatty acids. The results suggest ways scientists might target those biochemical pathways to increase the production of plant oils as a renewable resource for biofuels and industrial processes.

“Now that we understand how this system operates — how plants ‘know’ when they’ve made enough oil and how they slow down production — we can look for ways to break the feedback loop so they keep making more oil,” said Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin, leader of the group publishing the work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 4, 2012…. >>Read the complete article<<

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Sustainable agriculture calls for a systematic approach

By Fábio de Castro

Agência FAPESP – Sustainable agriculture is a more complex concept than it appears at first sight. If the principle is not well understood, systematically implemented and correctly managed, it can worsen instead of reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture.

This warning was issued by British scientist Tim Benton, coordinator of the University of Leeds Global Food Security Programme (in the UK) during the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June.

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Food-Trade Network Vulnerable to Fast Spread of Contaminants

ScienceDaily  — University of Notre Dame network physicists Mária Ercsey-Ravasz and Zoltán Toroczkai of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications, in collaboration with food science experts, have recently published a rigorous analysis of the international food-trade network that shows the network’s vulnerability to the fast spread of contaminants as well as the correlation between known food poisoning outbreaks and the centrality of countries on the network. … >>Read More<<

Source and Photo: ScienceDaily, June 7, 2012
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Parasitic Plants Steal Genes from Their Hosts

ScienceDaily — New research published June 8 in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Genomics reveals that the Malaysian parasitic plant Rafflesia cantleyi, with its 50cm diameter flowers, has ‘stolen’ genes from its host Tetrastigma rafflesiae. Analysis of these genes shows that their functions range from respiration to metabolism, and that some of them have even replaced the parasites own gene activity…. >>Read More<<

Source and Photo: ScienceDaily, June 8th, 2012)
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Global renewable energy investment to double over next 10 years

Global investment in renewable energy infrastructure will double over the next 10 years, soaring to $395bn a year by 2020, according to a major new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). http://bnef.com/
The report, entitled Global Renewable Energy Market Outlook, also predicts that growth will be maintained throughout the 2020s, with annual investment in new capacity and retrofitting of existing infrastructure reaching $460bn by 2030.
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The Scientific Search for the Essence of a Tasty Tomato

By Brandon Keim
Wired Science – With something like a banana, you can identify one volatile compound that you smell and say, ‘Aha! It’s a banana!’ With a tomato, it’s not that simple,” said plant molecular biologist Harry Klee of the University of Florida. “You can detect 400 volatile compounds in a tomato. People have speculated that maybe 20 are really important, and they need to be orchestrated properly. It’s a little more complicated than we like.”

Source and Photo: Wired Science, May 24th, 2012.
Click here to read the complete article at Wired Science.
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Agricultural nutrient surpluses as potential input sources to grow third generation biomass (microalgae): A review

Biofuel consumption is increasing and in order to meet EU targets, alternatives to first and second generation biofuels are being examined. The use of micro-algal biomass in the production of biofuel is an area of research which has received attention in recent years. Traditionally, microalgae are commercially grown using synthetic fertilisers, the price of which is linked with rising oil prices. An alternative to the use of inorganic fertiliser is to use surplus agricultural manures in their raw state, bi-products of anaerobic digestion, or runoff and artificial drainage waters, all of which have variable nutrient contents within and across source types. Many studies have shown that manures containing a high nutrient content e.g. pig and poultry manures, or bi-products from anaerobic digestion, are potentially viable sources of nutrients to grow algae. Feasibility issues prevail such as variable nutrient contents amongst and across source types, transparency issues and early and sustained nutrient losses during the storage phase. Agitation and efficient nutrient testing before use are important. In Ireland, pig and poultry manures, dairy dirty water, artificial drainage or runoff waters where coupled with agitation during storage to prevent P precipitation and a CO2 source, all have potential to be used in the future.

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Source: Elsevier, May 2012
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Leading Agriculture Experts Contribute to new Report Food and Agriculture: The Future of Sustainability

In a new report by the UN Division for Sustainable Development, Food and Agriculture: The Future of Sustainability, authors solicited a group of experts from all dimensions of agriculture for their twenty-year vision of the future of food and agriculture.

The aim of the report is to add strategic input to a new report, “Sustainable Development in the 21st Century” that will be launched by the Division for Sustainable Development (UNDESA) at a side event during the Rio+20 Summit.

Food and Agriculture : The Future of Sustainability intends to cut across worldviews and foster meaningful discussions on the trends and challenges in agriculture. It outlines nine key paths of action for agriculture, with contributions from over seventy global agriculture food leaders from four areas: Policy and Trade; Business Specialists; Rural Livelihoods and Poverty; and Environmental Sustainability. The report also highlights “high impact” areas where smart actions will be proportionally more effective, and argues that “better” production rather than “more” production will be key to a more sustainable future for agriculture.

Download the full report  Agriculture_and_food_the_future_of_sustainability_web
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War on weeds loses ground

By Helen Thompson
Nature – With its jumble of leaves and pointy, green, flower spikes, the plant known as pigweed or palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) isn’t much to look at. But to farmers in the southeastern United States, it is a formidable foe. Having evolved the ability to withstand glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup, it now flourishes unchecked alongside crops such as cotton and soya bean that are genetically modified to be glyphosate tolerant……. >>Read More<<

Source and Photo: May 22nd, 2012
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Policy, Technology, and Efficiency of Brazilian Agriculture

By Nicholas Rada and Constanza Valdes
The Brazilian agricultural sector has been transformed from a traditional system of production with low use of modern technologies to a world agricultural leader. That transformation occurred as the country moved away from import-substitution policies—which nurtured domestic industrial development at the expense of agriculture—toward market-oriented policy reforms. These reforms included openness to foreign trade and foreign investment and the use of new technologies, which led to a new growth pattern. To evaluate that transformation, the authors use agricultural censuses spanning 1985-2006 to characterize Brazilian total factor productivity growth, decomposing that growth into technical and efficiency changes. This report presents the findings of a study that focuses on the effect of Brazil’s science and technology investments and other public policies on farm production. The findings indicate that agricultural research benefits have been most rapidly adopted by the most efficient farms, widening the productivity gap between these farms and average farms. That gap, however, has been narrowed through other public policies, such as rural credit and infrastructure investments, that favor average producers.

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Source: USDA, Economic Research Report No. (ERR-137) 43 pp, July 2012.
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