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Agricultural Research
Spotlights from Agriculture Research
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The Ground Exhales: Reducing Agriculture’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions | SciTech Connect

The Ground Exhales: Reducing Agriculture’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions | SciTech Connect | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it

Agriculture is an often overlooked source of human-produced greenhouse gases - responsible for 10%-12% of emissions. 

AckerbauHalle's insight:

Agriculture ist responsible for a fairly high share of GHG emissions. This article describes a few options how to cut them back. 

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De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe

De-mystifying family farming: Features, diversity and trends across the globe | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Abstract
Family farms are defined by two criteria: the importance of family labour and the transfer of ownership, land tenure or management to the next generation. Most farms across the globe are family farms, and they vary in size from 10,000 ha. Trends in farm size (small farms getting smaller and large farms getting larger) are not directly related to farm ownership and do not necessarily impact global food security. Rather, both the causes and effects of farm size trends depend on the availability of farm resources and off-farm employment opportunities. Similarly, environmental sustainability, though impacted by agriculture, cannot be linked directly to family ownership or farm size. To address issues related to environment, social conditions and food security, focus should not be on the preservation of family farms but on transformations to strive for environmental, social and economic sustainability of farming in all its shapes and forms.
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Farmland could be unprofitable in a generation, warns report - Farmers Weekly

Farmland could be unprofitable in a generation, warns report - Farmers Weekly | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Some of England’s most productive agricultural land is at risk of becoming unprofitable within a generation due to soil erosion, says the government’s committee on climate change.

Soils are being degraded and eroded at unsustainable levels in some areas, while increasing water shortages are likely to put farming’s profitability and competitiveness at risk in areas such as the East Anglian Fens.

This has the potential to reduce agricultural productivity and lead to increased reliance on imported food, while farmers would miss out on opportunities generated by growing demand globally.
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Cathryn Wellner's curator insight, July 2, 3:00 PM

This is happening globally. Time for us to wake up!

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The plant destroyer behind the Great Famine

The plant destroyer behind the Great Famine - Roots and Shoots - Medium
The microbe that triggered the Irish potato famine has been identified from 150-year-old DNA.

Via Mary Williams
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Mary Williams's curator insight, June 23, 2:53 AM

New article in Roots and Shoots on a paper published in eLife in 2013

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Schleichender Tod: Rinder durch Kreuzkraut vergiftet

Schleichender Tod: Rinder durch Kreuzkraut vergiftet | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Im Mai fand ein Rinderhalter auf einer Öko-Fläche in Neustadt im Kreis Ostholstein zwei seiner Hochlandrinder tot auf der Weide. Sie waren im Abstand von nur acht Tagen verendet.
 
Die bisherigen Untersuchungen weisen auf eine chronische Vergiftung durch Jakobskreuzkraut hin, wie die Lübecker Nachrichten berichten. Diese heimische Wildpflanze hat sich in den vergangenen Jahren stark ausgebreitet und wuchs auch auf der betreffenden Weide.
Merkwürdige Todesfälle

Als Rinderhalter Bernd Deckert aus Süsel acht Tage nach dem ersten verendeten Tier ein zweites Rind seiner Herde tot vorfand, ging er nicht mehr von einem Zufall aus. Ihm kamen die so kurz aufeinander folgenden Todesfälle sehr merkwürdig vor. Er ließ das zweite Tier von einem Tierarzt untersuchen. "Der Befund spricht für eine chronische Vergiftung durch Jakobskreuzkraut", so Deckert zu den Lübecker Nachrichten.
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Has Meat Met Its Match?

Has Meat Met Its Match? | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Sensitized to the environmental costs of livestock, a new generation eyes options for changing our carnivorous ways.

July 28, 2014 — The future of food arrived at Waitsfield Elementary School — a tiny brick throwback in Vermont’s pastoral Mad River Valley — just after lunch on May 15, 2014, in a handmade straw basket on the shoulder of Rachael Young. The cafeteria was still full of kids, so Young slipped into the kitchen as surreptitiously as possible. “Let’s see if we can do this on the sly,” she said to me. “I don’t want them to see anything ahead of time.”

We unpacked in a far corner of the kitchen, shooing away the occasional set of prying eyes. While I spread a ramp-knotweed pesto onto tortillas and cut them into eighths, Young found a pan, fired up the stove and dry-fried the main ingredient. “You may get a really weird smell in a moment,” she apologized. “It has something to do with the chitin when it’s heated. But it still tastes great!”

Young is the 34-year-old founder of Eat Yummy Bugs, a Vermont-based enterprise that encourages people to do just that, and a consultant with World Entomophagy, the premier supplier of “Recipe-Ready” crickets and mealworms for human consumption.

Like fedoras and Mickey Rourke, entomophagy (bug-eating) has experienced periodic but short-lived flares in popularity over the years. But this time it seems to have legs. You can snack on fried grasshoppers in New York and D.C., wrap your chopsticks around cricket sushi in Portland, Ore., and chow down on mealworm tacos from the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco. Edible insect festivals are no longer news, and a variety of cricket-flour energy bars are dueling for retail shelf space.

What adds timeliness to the trend is the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s recent report Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security, which points out that 2 billion people already eat bugs and the rest of us had better get on it, because by 2050 the world population will have swelled from the current 7 billion to 9 billion or more. If the growth in demand for animal protein continues on its current trajectory, cows, pigs and chickens may need some help meeting it.
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Aroma of wheat porridge and bread-crumb is influenced by the wheat variety

Abstract
Sensory evaluations were conducted on wheat-flour porridge and baked-bread samples, made from wheat varieties with known odour and flavour variations. The purpose was to determine if these odour and flavour variations were expressed in baked-bread. In all, 24 wheat varieties were used for porridge evaluation, from these eight were selected for bread evaluation. Porridge and bread results were compared. Variations were found in both evaluations. Five odour- and nine flavour descriptors were found to be common to both wheat porridge and bread. The results for two descriptors: “cocoa” and “oat porridge” were correlated between the wheat porridge and bread samples. Analysis of whole-meal and low-extraction samples revealed that the descriptors “malt”, “oat-porridge”, “øllebrød”, “cocoa” and “grain” mostly characterized wheat bran, while descriptors for “maize”, “bean-shoots”, “chamomile”, “umami”, and “fresh grass” mostly characterized wheat endosperm. Low-extraction bread made from four different varieties also differentiated for five odour- and six flavour descriptors. These results indicate that variations in wheat flavour and odour directly affect bread flavour and odour even in low-extraction bread. This knowledge is important to the baking industry and to plant breeders as wheat aroma could possibly become a future quality parameter in breeding.
AckerbauHalle's insight:

Weizensorten haben einen direkten Einfluss auf den Geschmack von Brot.

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Sind wissenschaftliche Studien im Grunde aussagelos?

Sind wissenschaftliche Studien im Grunde aussagelos? | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Wenn eine Interessengruppe ihr Ziel untermauern will, kommen in der Regel Studien ins Spiel. Gerade auch in der Landwirtschaft gibt es zahlreiche wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen, die eine bestimmte Meinung fachlich untermauern sollen. Wie ein bemerkenswertes Experiment von zwei Journalisten nun aber zeigt, ist es ganz einfach, eine gewünschte Aussage per Studie weltweit zu verbreiten.
AckerbauHalle's insight:

Warum nun ausgerechnet Studien zu Antibiotika, Gentechnik, Ökolandbau nicht glaubwürdig sind, bleibt das Geheimnis von Top Agrar. 

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The Precision Agriculture Revolution

The Precision Agriculture Revolution | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it

"Thousands of years ago, agriculture began as a highly site-specific activity. The first farmers were gardeners who nurtured individual plants, and they sought out the microclimates and patches of soil that favored those plants. But as farmers acquired scientific knowledge and mechanical expertise, they enlarged their plots, using standardized approaches—plowing the soil, spreading animal manure as fertilizer, rotating the crops from year to year—to boost crop yields. Over the years, they developed better methods of preparing the soil and protecting plants from insects and, eventually, machines to reduce the labor required. Starting in the nineteenth century, scientists invented chemical pesticides and used newly discovered genetic principles to select for more productive plants. Even though these methods maximized overall productivity, they led some areas within fields to underperform. Nonetheless, yields rose to once-unimaginable levels: for some crops, they increased tenfold from the nineteenth century to the present.  

Today, however, the trend toward ever more uniform practices is starting to reverse, thanks to what is known as 'precision agriculture.' Taking advantage of information technology, farmers can now collect precise data about their fields and use that knowledge to customize how they cultivate each square foot."

 

Tags: technology, food production, agriculture, agribusiness, spatial, GPS.


Via Seth Dixon
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MsPerry's curator insight, May 27, 9:29 AM

Ag Unit

Gareth Jukes's curator insight, May 27, 11:52 AM

Development and diffusion of agriculture-

This article explains how agriculture has developed and grown for thousands of years, and today with our technology, we can do what seemed impossible to the past peoples.

This article represents Development and Diffusion of Agriculture by showing how in our past years, we could mostly only do substinence agriculture, but today with technology, we can do so much more, with so much less people.

Gareth Jukes's curator insight, May 27, 11:59 AM

Land use/land cover change: irrigation, desertification, deforestation, wetland destruction, conservation efforts to protect or restore natural land cover, and global impacts-

This article explains how today we have the best technology we have ever created agriculture-wise, but with this, more land has been used. But thanks to precision agriculture, we can use data to determine where we can use the least amount of raw materials needed, thus helping protect more land than before.

 This article demonstrates land use/land cover change: irrigation, desertification, deforestation, wetland destruction, conservation efforts to protect or restore natural land cover, and global impacts by showing how with the technology today and precision farming, we can use less raw materials than ever before, thus helping lessen global impact.

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Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems - The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: A review - Cambridge Journals Online

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems - The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: A review - Cambridge Journals Online | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Growing populations and a constrained fossil-manufactured energy supply present a major challenge for society and there is a real need to develop forms of agriculture that are less dependent on finite energy sources. It has been suggested that organic agriculture can provide a more energy efficient approach due to its focus on sustainable production methods. This review has investigated the extent to which this is true for a range of farming systems. Data from about 50 studies were reviewed with results suggesting that organic farming performs better than conventional for nearly all crop types when energy use is expressed on a unit of area basis. Results are more variable per unit of product due to the lower yield for most organic crops. For livestock, ruminant production systems tend to be more energy efficient under organic management due to the production of forage in grass–clover leys. Conversely, organic poultry tend to perform worse in terms of energy use as a result of higher feed conversion ratios and mortality rates compared to conventional fully housed or free-range systems. With regard to energy sources, there is some evidence that organic farms use more renewable energy and have less of an impact on natural ecosystems. Human energy requirements on organic farms are also higher as a result of greater system diversity and manual weed control. Overall this review has found that most organic farming systems are more energy efficient than their conventional counterparts, although there are some notable exceptions.
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In unusual move, German scientists lobby for GM labeling

In unusual move, German scientists lobby for GM labeling | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
BERLIN—When it comes to labeling genetically modified (GM) food, the battle lines are usually clear: Those who oppose genetic engineering want it labeled, and those who support it see no need. But today, a group of German scientists and other proponents of GM organisms launched a campaign to require labeling of anything that contains or has been produced with the help of GM organisms.

Their unusual plea is a political gamble; rather than making it more difficult for GM products to reach consumers, they hope the new law will show Germans just how widespread such products already are—whether it’s in food, clothes, drugs, or washing powder—and that there is nothing to be afraid of.

The petition to the German parliament, which will go online tomorrow, asks the German government to prepare a law that requires GM labeling for all food, feed, drugs, textiles, chemicals, and other products that have been produced using genetic engineering. The petition also calls on the government to advocate a similar law at the E.U. level.

The text was written by Horst Rehberger, who leads a group called Forum Grüne Vernunft (Forum Green Reason), and has the backing of several prominent scientists, including Nobel Prize winner Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, as well as some politicians. If it receives more than 50,000 signatures in the next 4 weeks, the German parliament has to consider the proposal.
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Genetically modified cotton is changing the Australian cotton industry

Genetically modified cotton is changing the Australian cotton industry | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
PIP COURTNEY, PRESENTER: Australia's cotton industry is undergoing a seismic shift. With the nation's biggest harvest now taking place in the Riverina region of New South Wales, a quarter of the national crop will be ginned in an area long considered too far south to grow cotton. The reason for this significant reshaping of the industry is the emergence of new genetically modified cotton varieties and cheaper, more reliable water. Sean Murphy reports on the southern cotton boom.
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Blick zurück #12 - YouTube

Kurz und knapp, ohne Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit und völlig subjektiv in der Auswahl. Was ist mir aufgefallen in der letzten Woche in Umfeld Agrarwissenscha...
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#Landwirtschaft #Nachhaltigkeit #Ernährung #Bienensterben #Hoftotbilanz

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Geneticists reveal what makes great rice

Geneticists reveal what makes great rice | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Gene responsible for long grains and pleasing texture can now be bred into existing varieties without sacrificing yield.
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FAO - News Article: OECD – FAO expect stronger production, lower prices over coming decade

FAO - News Article: OECD – FAO expect stronger production, lower prices over coming decade | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Strong crop yields, higher productivity and slower growth in global demand should contribute to a gradual decline in real prices for agricultural products over the coming decade, but nonetheless, prices will likely remain at levels above those in the early-2000s, according to the latest Agricultural Outlook report produced by the OECD and FAO.

Lower oil prices will contribute to lower food prices, by pushing energy and fertilizer costs down, and removing incentives for the production of first-generation biofuels made from food crops..

The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-2024 projects that agricultural trade will increase more slowly than in the previous decade, while its share of global production and consumption will be stable. The Outlook points to further concentration of agricultural commodity exports among a few exporting countries, coupled with a dispersion of imports over an ever-larger number of countries - trends that make it imperative to ensure the smooth functioning of international markets.

The growing role of a relatively small group of countries in supplying global markets with key commodities could increase market risks, including those associated with natural disasters or the use of disruptive trade measures.

Major changes in demand are expected in developing countries, where population growth, rising per capita incomes and urbanization will increase demand for food, according to the report. Rising incomes will prompt consumers to continue diversifying their diets, notably by increasing their consumption of animal protein relative to starches. As a result, the prices of meat and dairy products are expected to be high relative to crop prices. Among crops, the prices of coarse grains and oilseeds, used for animal feed, should rise relative to the prices of food staples.

Presenting the joint report in Paris, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: "The outlook for global agriculture is calmer than it has been in recent years, but there is no room for complacency, as we cannot rule out the risk of new price spikes in the coming years".

"Governments should take advantage of the current conditions to concentrate on developing policies that raise productivity, boost innovation, better manage risk and ensure that robust agriculture systems benefit consumers and farmers alike," Mr Gurría said.

Calling the Outlook's projection that developing countries are likely to continue to improve the caloric intake of their populations "good news," FAO Director-General José Graziano Silva also noted that least-developed countries "remain significantly behind advanced economies; this is cause for concern, as it means hunger in these countries could persist."

"And malnutrition is an issue: developing countries now have to face problems of overweight, obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases," he added.
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Five Ways Scientists Want to Hack Plants to Improve Photosynthesis

Five Ways Scientists Want to Hack Plants to Improve Photosynthesis | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
The amount of land dedicated to farming is shrinking, the world's crop productivity is stagnating, and the population is still growing. What are we going to do about the looming agricultural crisis? An international team of 25 researchers just published a piece in the journal for the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences that suggests it's time photosynthesis was upgraded.

According to the authors, we need agricultural productivity to rise by 60 to 120 percent over 2005 levels to meet growing demand for food and other agricultural products like biofuel, yet they say replicating the growth in agricultural yields seen last century is going to take a novel approach.

“The remarkable gains in productivity of the Green Revolution of the late 20th century depended on improving yield potential: i.e., the yield obtained with good nutrition in the absence of pests, diseases, and drought,” the paper states. While the availability of water is still a major limiting factor, “there are few options for dramatically reducing the amount of water required to grow a crop.”

But the researchers see a lot of potential ways, taking from nature's own toolbox, to make photosynthesis more efficient.
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Guinea pig feasts may explain high rates of deadly parasite in Peru

Guinea pig feasts may explain high rates of deadly parasite in Peru | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Chagas disease is fatal, but hard to catch. In order for people to become infected, they need to scratch the spot where a bloodsucking beetle known as the kissing bug has both bit them and defecated on them. The itching scratches the feces—loaded with a single-celled parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi—into the skin, but the process is so inefficient that only one human becomes infected for every 1700 kissing bug bites. So why are nearly 40% of people in some South American communities infected with T. cruzi? At least in Arequipa, Peru, the answer may be guinea pigs, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The rodents, which are raised as food in the Andean region, can act as reservoirs of T. cruzi, infecting bugs that hang around their pens and suck their blood. If there were lots of uninfected guinea pigs to balance out their infected friends, this might not be such a problem. But guinea pig populations rise and fall in a predictable cycle: When alfalfa prices spike in the dry summer months, people kill their stock rather than pay more to feed them. (It doesn’t hurt that summer contains several holidays that traditionally involve large guinea pig cookouts in the Andes.) If the remaining guinea pigs happen to carry T. cruzi, the parasite becomes concentrated in a smaller population. That, in turn, makes it more likely a hungry kissing bug will bite an infected guinea pig instead of a healthy one, turning the insect into a vector capable of passing along T. cruzi to its future meals, including humans. And that appears to be exactly what’s happening in Arequipa. After many years of this cycle, more than 80% of the kissing bugs taken from two guinea pig pens there were infected with T. cruzi, whereas only about 6% of insects sampled away from the rodent enclosures were. Unfortunately, the bugs that live close to guinea pigs also live close to people, increasing the chance that T. cruzi will find its way into human hosts and keep the Chagas rate high.
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Americans may be wasting more food than they think

Americans may be wasting more food than they think | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Most Americans are aware that food waste is a problem, are concerned about it, and say they work to reduce their own waste, but nearly three quarters believe that they waste less food than the national average, new research suggests.

Via Cathryn Wellner
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Cathryn Wellner's curator insight, June 13, 2:06 PM

Self-perception is always fascinating - and food waste is a huge problem, not just in the U.S.

Eric Larson's curator insight, June 17, 4:50 PM

Are you wasting food?

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Farmers told to photograph invisible fences and hedges - Farmers Weekly

Farmers told to photograph invisible fences and hedges - Farmers Weekly | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Farmers will be told to photograph invisible fences to receive payments under the government’s new Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Due to open for applications next month, the flagship Defra scheme will require farmers to photograph a host of environmental features on their farms.

See also: Tips on applying for Countryside Stewardship

In many cases, applicants will have to photograph each environmental feature or item on which they are making a claim – and show the pictures to inspectors when asked.

It includes photos of trees, hedges and invisible fences – electronic systems designed to keep livestock within a predefined area without the use of a physical barrier.

Invisible fences use wires buried under ground and special sensor collars that deliver a warning buzz or mild electronic shock to animals that stray too far.

Farmers will be paid £1.80/metre of invisible fence – which scheme rules say must only be used when it is impossible to introduce traditional wooden or wire fencing alone.

This includes on sites where conventional fencing would damage historic or archaeological features, on common land, or where it would be visually intrusive, the rules explain.

“This item helps to achieve more effective management of priority habitats or landscape enhancement, without the negative landscape effect of a conventional post-and-wire fence line.”

The requirements continue: “Successful applicants will need to keep… photographs of the installation and junction boxes in place and send these with the claim.”

The photo requirement also applies to other options, including dated and geotagged photos of winter stubble (option AB2) and regular photos of hedgerow management (BE3).

Applicants must take “photographs of each hedge entered into the option,” say the requirements, although they don’t explain how inspectors will be able to tell one hedge from another.

Full scheme guidance is yet to be published – even though there is less than three weeks before the scheme opens for applications on 1 July.

But NFU countryside adviser Claire Robinson said it was already clear that countryside stewardship requirements would be more onerous than the environmental stewardship it replaces.

She said: “Farmers need to know the full details of what will be required of them – and we need to find a way of making these rules work.”

Ms Robinson also voiced concern over the lack of guidance ahead of an application window that will remain open for just three months this year before it closes again on 30 September.

Many farmers would have little time to complete applications during the summer while they were busy with silaging, harvest and autumn cultivations, she said.

The scheme is being run on behalf of Defra by Natural England, the government’s landscape agency, and the Forestry Commission.

Natural England advisers at this week’s Cereals event said the aim of asking farmers to take photographs was to show that scheme options were being carried out.

Full guidance is expected to be made available to farmers within the next two weeks.
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Year of the Goat - Landline - ABC

Year of the Goat - Landline - ABC | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
It's the Chinese Year of the Goat and a very good time for Australian producers. In fact, demand for Australian goat meat is now so strong, it's feared domestic supply may not be able to keep up. The industry says the recent China free trade agreement has opened new opportunities and an increasing number of graziers are starting to take the goat more seriously, as Alyse Edwards reports.
AckerbauHalle's insight:

In Australien wächst der Bedarf an Ziegenfleisch. Besonders der Export nach China boomt. 

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The Supermarket of the Future Knows Exactly What You're Eating

The Supermarket of the Future Knows Exactly What You're Eating | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
“This is how the supermarket of the future will look,” Luca Setti, Future Food District Coop Manager, tells me as I walk into the large, rectangular-shaped building in Milan, Italy.

It’s rainy and I am an hour late for my appointment. “It’s in the middle of Expo’s main road, when you find the Spanish pavilion—and you can’t miss it—you’re there,” I am told every time I stop and ask for directions. But it’s no easy task. Milan’s World Fair (Expo 2015) extends over 1.1 million square meters of exhibition area. This edition’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” and all around me are schoolchildren and elderly groups rushing from one side to the other in excitement, from the Sudanese pavilion built as a large seemingly concrete desert house to the giant LCD-screen-endowed mill at the entrance of Thailand’s pavilion.
AckerbauHalle's insight:

Gestern hat die Meldung, das McDonalds eine vollautomatische Filiale baut im Internet viel Häme ausgelöst. Dass dies aber beileibe noch nicht das Ende der Entwicklung darstellt, zeigt der Supermarkt der Zukunft im italienischen Pavilion auf der EXPO in Mailand.  

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Scientists find way to create supersized fruit

Scientists find way to create supersized fruit | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
When Spanish explorers first brought domesticated tomatoes to Europe 500 years ago, the fruit was already gigantic compared with its olive-sized wild counterparts. Researchers trying to understand the genetic basis of this girth have uncovered a way to make other fruits larger as well. The team discovered this secret by studying two mutant tomato strains that had many branches coming off the upper part of the stem and that produced unusually fecund fruit. Fruit size and other plant traits depend on what happens in the uppermost part of the stem, a growing tip called the meristem. There, unspecialized cells called stem cells divide to make more of themselves or specialize into specific plant parts, like carpels, the flower organs that make seed compartments. Wild tomatoes have two; beefsteaks have eight or more. The scientists discovered a feedback loop involving two genes, one to stimulate stem cell production and the other to hold production in check. A shortage of the latter, a gene called CLAVATA3, leads to plumped up beefsteaks, the team reports today in Nature Genetics. This gene’s protein requires a chain of three sugar molecules to work right, and shortening that chain yields ever larger fruit, the scientists report. Because this feedback loop exists in most plants, the team suspects plant breeders can manipulate it to improve crops, and even increase the number of kernels on a corncob.
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Selecting crop models for decision making in wheat insurance

Selecting crop models for decision making in wheat insurance | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Abstract
In crop insurance, the accuracy with which the insurer quantifies the actual risk is highly dependent on the availability on actual yield data. Crop models might be valuable tools to generate data on expected yields for risk assessment when no historical records are available. However, selecting a crop model for a specific objective, location and implementation scale is a difficult task. A look inside the different crop and soil modules to understand how outputs are obtained might facilitate model choice. The objectives of this paper were (i) to assess the usefulness of crop models to be used within a crop insurance analysis and design and (ii) to select the most suitable crop model for drought risk assessment in semi-arid regions in Spain. For that purpose first, a pre-selection of crop models simulating wheat yield under rainfed growing conditions at the field scale was made, and second, four selected models (Aquacrop, CERES-Wheat, CropSyst and WOFOST) were compared in terms of modelling approaches, process descriptions and model outputs. Outputs of the four models for the simulation of winter wheat growth are comparable when water is not limiting, but differences are larger when simulating yields under rainfed conditions. These differences in rainfed yields are mainly related to the dissimilar simulated soil water availability and the assumed linkages with dry matter formation. We concluded that for the simulation of winter wheat growth at field scale in such semi-arid conditions, CERES-Wheat and CropSyst are preferred. WOFOST is a satisfactory compromise between data availability and complexity when detail data on soil is limited. Aquacrop integrates physiological processes in some representative parameters, thus diminishing the number of input parameters, what is seen as an advantage when observed data is scarce. However, the high sensitivity of this model to low water availability limits its use in the region considered. Contrary to the use of ensembles of crop models, we endorse that efforts be concentrated on selecting or rebuilding a model that includes approaches that better describe the agronomic conditions of the regions in which they will be applied. The use of such complex methodologies as crop models is associated with numerous sources of uncertainty, although these models are the best tools available to get insight in these complex agronomic systems.
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In Brazil, cattle industry begins to help fight deforestation

In Brazil, cattle industry begins to help fight deforestation | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Cattle ranching has been the primary driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as huge swaths of rainforest are cleared to make way for agriculture. But “zero-deforestation agreements” signed by some of Brazil’s big beef industry players appear to be helping reduce the destruction, a new study concludes.

“We’re showing that these commitments can [produce] meaningful change on the ground,” says land use researcher Holly Gibbs of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a lead author of the study, published online this week in Conservation Letters.

Cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon has seen tremendous growth in the past decade. The herd expanded 200% between 1993 and 2013, researchers estimate, reaching a total of nearly 60 million individuals. During that time, an area of forest the size of Italy was cleared. Nearly half of the clearing, 40%, occurred in the state of Pará, home to nearly one-third of Brazil’s cattle.

In 2009, nongovernmental organizations and the state’s federal prosecutor put pressure on companies to reduce deforestation associated with cattle production. The federal prosecutor began suing ranchers that had illegally cleared forest and threatened to sue retailers in an effort to persuade them to boycott slaughterhouses associated with forest-clearing ranches. In response, Brazil’s three largest meatpacking companies (JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva) signed an agreement with the government, stating they would stop purchasing directly from ranches that cleared more forest than legally permitted. A few months later, the trio of firms signed a more stringent agreement with Greenpeace, known as the G4 agreement, under which they committed to buy only from direct suppliers that reduced deforestation to zero. Both agreements also required supplying ranchers to enroll on a public environmental registry, which identified the boundaries of their ranches and enabled monitoring of changes in forest cover.

Within months, nearly 60% of the suppliers had registered, and compliance reached 96% by 2013. Most of the ranchers—85%—said they signed up so they could sell cows to JBS.

By 2013, “recent deforestation” had occurred on just 4% of the ranches supplying cows to the slaughterhouses, down from 36% of ranches in 2009. That suggests the slaughterhouses were actively avoiding ranches with deforestation problems, the researchers write, and that “targeted supply chain interventions can produce results in a period of months rather than years.”

One key, Gibbs says, is that it is easier for the slaughterhouses to influence rancher behavior than government regulators, who are often located in distant offices. “The slaughterhouses … are much more embedded in those deforestation fronts and they have daily interactions with the farmers and the ranchers,” she says. “This allows them a lot more leverage to be able to immediately restrict market access or help to enforce these policies.”

It’s not clear, however, that the agreements—which have spread to other Brazilian beef-producing states—can defeat deforestation, says Avery Cohn, a social scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “I see these findings as a building block towards understanding what kinds of levers can be effective,” he says, “but they're not necessarily evidence that we know how to control deforestation.”

One problem is that the agreements leave room for so-called cattle laundering. In laundering, ranchers who are not direct suppliers to the slaughterhouses that signed the agreements raise and fatten their cattle on properties not covered by the pacts. Then, they move or sell the animals to ranchers who are direct suppliers. That loophole could be closed if a database that covers all of the animals and where they are being transported were publicly available, Gibbs says.

Another challenge is improving the monitoring of deforestation on ranches. JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva currently “monitor deforestation on the farms that produce about half of the cattle that are slaughtered in Brazil,” Gibbs says. “But that means the other half are being produced on properties that have no monitoring.”

Still, she says the Brazilian experience may hold lessons for other nations facing similar issues. Brazil’s “cattle sector in particular has been very recalcitrant [in addressing deforestation],” she says. “So it's been really exciting to see this particular industry really stepping up to make changes.”
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Alles im grünen Bereich: Einmal im Leben die chemische Keule

Alles im grünen Bereich: Einmal im Leben die chemische Keule | Agricultural Research | Scoop.it
Ich habe mir vorgenommen, Deutschland zu verändern. Indem ich auf zehn Quadratmetern einen perfekten Rasen anlege. Angesichts von 35 Millionen Hektar deutschen Grund und Bodens ist das zwar nicht viel. Zieht man Landwirtschaft, Wald, Verkehrsflächen, Naturschutzgebiete und Sonstiges ab, bleiben immer noch knapp zwei Millionen Hektar Rasen übrig, von denen allerdings der größte Teil zum sogenannten Straßenbegleitgrün zählt. Meiner aber soll mindestens Sportplatzqualität haben. Das will was heißen.

Allein für das Planum habe ich eine halbe Tonne Sand angeschleppt, und noch immer tun sich Niveau-Unterschiede zwischen den Markierungspflöcken auf. Frech keimt außerdem das Unkraut. Ein Mann, so sagt das Sprichwort, sollte in seinem Leben ein Haus gebaut, einen Sohn gezeugt und einen Baum gepflanzt haben. Ich finde, er sollte einmal im Leben auch zu einem Unkrautvernichtungsmittel gegriffen haben.

Das ist freilich nicht so einfach. Im Gartencenter steht derlei schon seit längerem unter Verschluss, man muss eine Fachkraft herbeibitten. Die Fachkraft empfahl mir ein „biologisches“ Mittel. Darin enthalten war Pelargonsäure, eine ranzig riechende Substanz, die unter anderem in Storchschnabelgewächsen vorkommt. Pelargonsäure muss in relativ großen Mengen ausgebracht werden und wirkt als Kontaktherbizid. Das heißt: Hartnäckige Wurzelunkräuter wie beispielsweise Löwenzahn bekommt man damit nicht weg. Ich griff entschlossen zu einem anderen Mittel, dem berüchtigten „Roundup“ von Monsanto. „Damit erledigen Sie aber alles“, sagte die Fachkraft vorwurfsvoll. „Genau“, sagte ich.

Roundup enthält den Wirkstoff Glyphosat. Er dringt bis in die Wurzeln vor und blockiert einen Stoffwechselweg, der nur bei Pflanzen vorkommt. Im Boden wird er mehr oder weniger rasch von Mikroorganismen abgebaut, weshalb man Glyphosat nicht auf befestigten Flächen ausbringen darf, weil es von dort aus in die Kanalisation gelangen könnte. Nach Angaben des Herstellers rafft das Zeug so gut wie alles, was grün ist, dahin, mit Ausnahme von Giersch, Weißklee und einigen anderen Spezialisten. Ideal sei es zur Vorbereitung einer Neueinsaat, was ja exakt das war, was ich vorhatte.

Unter allerhand Vorsichtsmaßnahmen ging ich an einem windstillen Tag vor zwei Wochen daran, meine zehn Quadratmeter zu besprühen. Erst wirkten Schöllkraut, Hahnenfuß und Co. nur beleidigt, dann fingen sie tatsächlich an zu kränkeln. Ich hatte mir das irgendwie radikaler vorgestellt.

Vielleicht hätte ich Essig nehmen sollen. Oder Salz. Der Nachbar schwört darauf: Da sei wenigstens keine Chemie drin, sagt er.
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