“I see circumstances under which it could be useful for short-cutting a process that for traditional breeding might take many plant generations,” says Tom Willey, an organic farmer emeritus from California. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a major challenge to agriculture, Willey told me, and while the problem cannot be wholly addressed by genome editing, it could lend an opportunity to “reach back into genomes of the wild ancestors of crop species to recapture genetic material” that has been lost through millennia of breeding for high yields.
Given the current challenging economic outlook, some might assume that farmers will abandon conservation efforts and focus exclusively on their finances. However, many of the financial best practices cited by farmers and encouraged by farm financial advisers are the very same principles that can help farmers continue to improve environmental outcomes.
As concern about waste grows, researchers and commercial partners around the world are working to turn what’s now being left behind or burned into new, useful products. By doing so, they hope to not only reduce the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture but also provide a new source of income for farmers.
Sewage sludge doesn’t have much value as fertilizer. Could extracting the valuable elements put it to better use?
Robert Paarlberg argues that anti-science environmental groups and corrupt local governments deprive African farmers of the crops needed for progress.
Trying to help a friend with diabetes, a shoestring budget, and press for time do better than boxed mac n’ cheese. This dump and stir recipe might not be health food, but it’s cheap and easy step in the right direction.
Don’t apologize for GMO commodity crops. Say it loud and proud: These are the biggest innovations in sustainable agriculture of the last three decades.
Alison Bernstein responds with clarification to misuse of her seminal essay on acute and chronic-toxicity assessments.
The EU and member states are moving to ban neonicotinoid insecticides. But two recently released reports on the issue conclude that a ban would push farmers back to using pest control options that are worse for the environment and possibly for bees as well.
And here …The planet’s plants pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, stems and roots. Some of that carbon makes its way into the soil, and some of that soil carbon is ultimately mothballed for millennia.
These days, though, “we as humans are putting up so much CO2 that the Earth is not able to compensate,” says Wolfgang Busch, a plant biologist with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Busch is working on a new project: to design plants that can suck even more CO2 out of the atmosphere and lock it away for centuries.
Before there was a general understanding of the benefits of native vegetation and the risks of invasive plants — introduced species that outcompete other species, spread quickly and alter ecosystems — USDA had a hand in introducing foreign plants that proved aggressive. Long ago, the agency promoted kudzu for erosion control. Now it works to control invasive species and does not provide assistance for planting them. It also actively promotes the use of native species through some programs.
Vineyards across the U.S. and Italy are being devastated by incurable diseases caused by bacteria hitching a ride on leafhoppers — a diverse group of plant-piercing insects closely related to cicadas. Now, thanks to some innovative research, scientists are using a technique called vibrational mating disruption to interrupt male-leafhopper courtship songs, preventing them from finding mates and slowing population growth.
The intersection of Central and Lowry Avenues in northeast Minneapolis is bustling. On the northwest corner is a trifecta of local businesses: A bike shop, a cooperative brewery, and a bakery. The neighborhood grocery co-op is one block up the street.
This commercial stretch didn’t always look like this.
The definition of skim milk seems like it should be pretty straightforward. Not so fast. There’s more at stake than meets the eye.
‘Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources including water, land, energy, labour and capital,’ said Professor Montse Jorba Rafart, an expert in agrifood technologies from Leitat, a Spanish technological centre.
Instead, this waste could become a sustainable solution for another resource-heavy agricultural sector – animal feed.
It would not be possible to feed 7.6 billion people today without pesticides – let alone the 9-10 billion expected by 2050. So as well as being cautious and sparing in pesticide usage, let’s also give them some praise.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is making a pre-emptive strike against potentially misleading marketing for the next wave of plant meat and other meat alternatives, but the definition is changing fast. Trying to define meat by production process doesn’t play well with where the industry would like to see biotech regulation reformed.
While affirming the conventional wisdom on What to Eat, two skilled health reporters diverge on What Not to Eat. The divergence underscores two different approaches to giving nutrition advice – outlining an optimal diet or emphasizing a few improvements that people will likely follow?