Colin K. Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture looks at claims that 75% of crop diversity has been lost in the modern era. Instead, he finds that though there have been winners and losers among crops as agriculture has intensified, over the past 50 years, almost all countries’ diets actually became more diverse, not less, for the crops that FAO statistics do report.
Agronomist Andrew McGuire looks at too opposite problems in managing soil and then lays out a few principles for staying away from two extremes.
Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley of Gastropod cover the history of calorie measurement and the ways calorie counting is inaccurate and unhelpful. They then look at a number of proposed alternative to nudge people towards successful weight loss.
While crop probiotics offer an ecologically friendly option for farmers looking to improve and protect their harvests, the Australian market is far from reliable.
Our research group was asked to evaluate commercial crop probiotics. Over a year of experimentation on a sugarcane farm, we tracked the supposedly beneficial bacteria and fungi of two Australian probiotics products from soil to crop.
DNA analysis didn’t detect changes in root-associated bacteria, but the composition of root-associated fungi changed.
Farmers around the world have come to depend on manufactured inorganic fertilizers containing key plant nutrients phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium to enhance soil fertility, especially in the otherwise poor soils of most tropical settings. But while all three are relatively abundant in nature, commercially viable sources of phosphorus to make these fertilizers could be exhausted just a few decades from now. That prospect, which remains a source of heated debate, has spurred a drive to recover the significant quantities of this element that disappear in the waste streams of cities and farms.
Graham Strouts deconstructs the meaning and definition of permaculture and exposes the lack of data, rigor, and evidence to support any claims for superior productivity or environmental impact to the modes of production it is meant to serve as an alternative to.
When all is said and done, any contribution permaculture has to make will be practices that work will work independent of the whole edifice. Just as “alternative medicine” that works is just called “medicine” so anything that could be shown to work in what is called “permaculture” is simply “good farming”, “good design” or “good engineering”.
When scientists gather to march for science, we want them to know about this body of research. In addition to carrying signs, they can take up the toolbox of effective communication known as the rhetorical tradition. Rhetoricians will be marching by their side, allies in the battle to protect science from politically motivated attacks on one of the greatest treasures of the nation.
As I was at the Portland, OR March for Science today, I walked past a woman who had cornered me at a March Against Monsanto rally a few years back. She had very misinformed, conspiratorial views about biotech in agriculture and when she spied my I ♥ GMOs sticker on my shirt today, she gave me a side eye and I could see her trying to decide whether to challenge me again. It was a little jarring, but not at all surprising to bump into someone who I knew rejected the scientific consensus on more than one issue at a March for Science. This essay looks at why that’s the case and how to process that fact and try to put it to some productive use.
Whoever thought that France and organic agriculture would be world leaders for the introduction of GE (genetically engineered) wheat? A stretch? Not as much as it might seem. What follows is the story of how plant breeders engineered a unlikely new crop through a series of sophisticated “conventional” techniques to move a use gene from a wild plant into wheat, despite the fact that the two plants could not be naturally crossbred.
Neuroscientist Alison Bernstein sorts out some of the issues around acute and chronic toxicity and then compares chronic toxicity of glyphosate and caffeine with our exposures to those to compounds.
Historically, agriculture has always moved forward through technological innovation. The current moment is no different. Look for remote sensing, genetic engineering and CRISPR, robotics, and drones to continue to push agricultural productivity forward in 2017.
Kevin Folta explains how a report on pesticides from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food inadvertently makes the case for modernizing agriculture in the developing world.
Stuart Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Westminster lays four key challenges to global food security: drought, emerging diseases, salty soils, and fertilizer dependence.
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.
University of Wyoming professor Andrew Kniss addresses the issues of intimidation and chilling effects of the USRTK’s FOIA campaign against researchers active in communicating about biotech in ag.
“In all, the impact of adopting slow growing birds is a 34% increase in feed per lb prime meat, a 40% increase in gallons of water and a 53% increase in the manure per bird marketed, and a 49% increase in costs per bird marketed.”
And to what end is this big step backwards in terms of sustainability being undertaken? Theoretically for animal welfare. But what is absent in this discussion is – why slower growing = better welfare?
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).
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.
Researchers have identified set of genes that could improve the efficiency of photosynthesis in staple crops. An increase in yields up to 40% for cassava could mean substantial increases in food security for Africa and greatly improved incomes for subsistence farmers.
Alison Van Eenennaam explains why the FDA’s proposed regulations on biotech breeding make no sense.