How GMO Crops Can Help Us to Feed a Fast-Growing World

February 20, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Stuart Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Westminster lays out three areas; disease resistance, improved photosynthesis, and improved nutrition; where breakthroughs in biotech crop breeding could go a long way to improving the impact of agriculture.

Mind the Gaps: Reducing Hunger by Improving Yields on Small Farms

February 10, 2017 Guest Authors 0

There are tremendous opportunities to increase yields throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing yields through new farming practices could triple maize production in sub-Saharan Africa and increase wheat and rice production in South Asia by about 50 percent. Gains on this scale could dramatically reduce hunger and food insecurity in some of the most vulnerable nations in the world.

Why One Wet Winter Won’t Solve California’s Water Problems

February 10, 2017 Guest Authors 0

It’s been a good winter for drought-stricken California. Record-breaking precipitation in January has raised reservoir levels and added to the essential Sierra Nevada snowpack. It will take many years of consistent, above-average rainfall to fully recover from the drought, and that seems unlikely given the variable nature of the state’s climate. California’s water problems are not only the result of historically scant rainfall. Convoluted water policies, patchwork regulations and burdensome water politics perpetuate the problems, causing imbalances in the way water is managed.

Porklife: Building a Better Pig

February 8, 2017 Guest Authors 0

How have the farm animals of today been shaped by centuries of domestication and selective breeding? Sujata Gupta investigates.

. . . The Pig Adventure, housing 3,000 sows and producing 80,000 piglets per year, sits alongside a 36,000-cow Dairy Adventure, with murmurings of further adventures for fish and chickens. This is “agro-Disneyland”, a place where rides have been replaced by adorable pink piglets and 72-cow robotic milking parlours (or cow “merry-go-rounds” as our guide calls them).

Fate of Colombian Shellfish Pickers Closely Tied to Mangrove

February 6, 2017 Guest Authors 0

SANQUIANGA NATIONAL PARK, Colombia – Along the northern edge of Colombia’s Pacific coast region, thousands of people rely on an unassuming shellfish called a “piangua” for daily survival. The small, black clam lives tucked deep in the stinky mud of mangrove trees.

But the global decline of mangrove forests at about 1 percent annually, years-long decline of the piangua, encroaching drug traffickers, and the stigma surrounding piangua pickers are endangering the traditional practice of piangua picking

New Maps Show How Our Consumption Impacts Wildlife Thousands of Miles Away

February 3, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Global trade has made it easier to buy things. But our consumption habits often fuel threats to biodiversity — such as deforestation, overhunting and overfishing — thousands of miles away.

Now, scientists have mapped how major consuming countries drive threats to endangered species elsewhere. Such maps could be useful for finding the most efficient ways to protect critical areas important for biodiversity, the researchers suggest in a new study.

Invisible Irrigators: How Small-Scale Tanzanian Farmers Are Making a Difference

February 3, 2017 Guest Authors 0

New research has revealed that Tanzania’s official statistics on irrigation often don’t include initiatives set up and run by individual farmers. This is either because they’re not aware of it, or because they don’t consider it to have much potential.

Compared to formally engineered projects, this ‘farmer-led’ irrigation is often small-scale and interspersed among non-irrigated fields. This makes it harder to record. It also takes diverse forms. These range from watering via pumps, wells, flooded valley bottoms, or even via stream diversions or small dams.

From Flask to Field: How Tiny Microbes are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture

February 2, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Microbes can unlock phosphorus and other micronutrients so that plants can use them. We developed a combination of four bacteria that are exceptionally good at making phosphorus available to plants, leading to bigger, healthier plants. They do this by releasing specialized molecules that break the bonds between phosphorus and soil particles. To get this technology into the hands of farmers who can use it, we launched a startup company called Growcentia and started selling our first product, which is called Mammoth P.

Biodiesel From Palm Oil: Finding the Sweet Spot Between Ecology and Economy

January 31, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Eager to replace fossil fuels with greener alternatives, the European Union and others have earmarked palm oil as a source of biodiesel. Under the EU’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation policy, biodiesel must save 35% in emissions compared to fossil fuels. However, to supply large quantities of biodiesel would also mean intensifying by increasing the use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Backwater Blues: How Populism Reveals Rural Resentment in the US and Europe

January 30, 2017 Guest Authors 0

To explain the occurrence of rural resentment, we need to consider empirically how rural lives and places have been changing, and how rural people make sense of these changes. For this purpose, I’ll use Sweden as an example to provide empirical detail that is needed.

Just as with the recent US election, population density – not income, education, or employment – is currently the best predictor of political preference in Sweden. The countryside is vast and a home to farmers, small entrepreneurs, workers in the mineral industries and forestry, and fishers. The latter will be used as an example here to highlight how and why Swedish rural dwellers can feel resentful.

ICARDA’s Claudio Zucca: Why Dryland Soils Matter

January 27, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Claudio Zucca is Senior Soil Conservation and Land Management Specialist at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). On the occasion of the World Soil Day we interviewed him about his experience as a soil scientist and about the challenges and importance of preserving soils in drylands.

How Agriculture Can Help Drive a Low Carbon Economy

January 27, 2017 Guest Authors 0

The Obama administration White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released an intriguing report on how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 while continuing economic growth. The report gives a starring role in this job to agricultural lands.

“Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” outlines a 3-pronged strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent while accelerating job-creating innovation. Calling each strategy “critical,” CEQ first lists the familiar call to transition to renewable and low carbon forms of energy.

The second key strategy, however, is less often discussed: the potential of cropland and grassland soils, as well as forests, to store and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. The report – informed by decades of scientific research – describes the opportunities to explore in this area.

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