Science – The next time you bite into a bright red, perfectly shaped strawberry, give a shout-out to the bees. A new study shows that pollination by the insects increases the quality and shelf life of strawberries, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Bees could be providing the same benefits for a variety of other fruits and vegetables as well.
It’s well known that pollination increases the yield of most crops. Seeds, nuts, fruit, and grain can be larger and more plentiful when insects or other animals transfer pollen between plants, in contrast to when plants pollinate themselves, a process called selfing. But quality turns out to be important, too. Teja Tscharntke, an agroecologist at the University of Göttingen in Germany, got the idea to study quality about a decade ago, while he was investigating pollination of coffee plants in Indonesia. He and his student Alexandra Klein noticed that not only was coffee yield higher with more bee species, but malformations such as unevenly shaped beans were also reduced.
MSN News – A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world’s growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday.
Preserving neglected animal breeds and plants is necessary, as they could have genes resistant to future diseases or to shifts in the climate to warmer temperatures, more droughts or downpours, Zakri Abdul Hamid said.
“The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals,” Zakri told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, Norway, in his first speech as founding chair of the U.N. biodiversity panel.
Many traditional breeds of cattle, sheep and goats have fallen out of favor, often because they yield less meat or milk than new breeds. Globalization also means that people’s food preferences narrow down to fewer plants.
By Karina Toledo
Agência FAPESP – The lotus plant (Nelumbo nucifera) has become a symbol of spiritual purity because of its ability to remain impeccably clean in the muddy environment that it lives in. This feat can be explained by the presence of wax nanocrystals on the surface of the leaves, which very efficiently repel water. Water drops that fall on the plant have an almost perfectly spherical shape, sliding off with ease and taking with them dirt and microorganisms.
This phenomenon, known by scientists as the “lotus effect,” has served as the inspiration for the development of self-cleaning paints, glass and textiles that do not require the use of detergent, in addition to waterproof electronics.
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By Emma Marris
Nature – The two men saw a plant they did not recognize. Its plump, green seed pods resembled those of a family of plants known in Peru as sacha inchi, which produce oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But the pods of the new plant, later dubbed Plukenetia carolis-vegae, were bigger than those sprouted by the known sacha inchi species Plukenetia volubilis and Plukenetia huayllabambana.
Bussmann, an ethnobotanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, and Vega, head of the Institute for Sustainable Local Development and Andean Amazon Cultural and Biological Conservation (INBIAPERU) in Trujillo, Peru, had stumbled on a species unknown to science. Now, they hope to transform it into a ‘conservation crop’ that can be raised commercially in the shade beneath the Amazon’s forest canopy, without cutting down any trees.
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MSN News – The Arctic ecosystem, already under pressure from record ice melts, faces another potential threat in the form of rapid acidification of the ocean, according to an international study published on Monday.
Acidification, blamed on the transformation of rising levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air into carbonic acid in the sea, makes it harder for shellfish and crabs to grow their shells, and might also impair fish reproduction, it said. Continue reading
By Elton Alisson
Agência FAPESP – The changes in land use that are currently taking place in most of the world, with the greatest intensity in the tropical regions – caused by population increases and the demand for food and energy –, have had numerous impacts on the chemical composition and biodiversity of bodies of water.
In Brazil, groups of researchers in partnership with colleagues from other countries have studied some of the alterations in rivers and lakes due to the expansion of sugarcane and soybean cultivation and the replacement of forests by pastureland.
By Andrew Lawler
Science – In the 1950s, bird hunters in the southern United States were eager to bag more exotic prey than quail, and so their representatives in Washington agitated for the introduction of foreign varieties. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist dutifully went to a remote area in India’s Himalayan foothills and collected dozens of red jungle fowl, a colorful, shy, and tasty wild bird that also happens to be the primary progenitor of today’s domestic chicken. Bred at research stations across the South, nearly 10,000 of the birds were released in the 1960s. They failed to thrive, and the program introducing an alien species was quietly cancelled. The few remaining penned jungle fowl were slated for slaughter in 1969… >>Access complete article<<
Source and Photo: November 23rd, 2012
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