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Agriculture


— Biology

Scientists plan to grow potatoes under Martian conditions

A new collaborative project between the International Potato Center (CIP) and NASA will see a crop of potatoes grown on Earth under the same conditions found on the Red Planet. The effort is not only a big step towards the goal of one day constructing a controlled farming dome on Mars, but will also demonstrate the potential of growing potatoes in inhospitable environments back home – something that the researchers hope will help tackle world hunger.

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— Drones

DJI's agriculture drone takes to the air down on the farm

They may not capture the imagination in the same way as say, drones that deliver items in 30 minutes or shoot stunning 4K video, but drones stand to have a big impact on agriculture. Crop dusting and seeding has been carried out by aircraft for more than a century, but we are starting to see their autonomous and agile younger cousins emerge as highly suitable tools for the job. This is of course not lost on the world's biggest drone maker DJI, which has just a launched a drone for farmers that can be programmed to cover acres of farmland in pesticides every hour.

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— Biology

Tomato growth boosted with a spray of nanoparticles

Fans of The Simpsons may recall Lisa using genetic engineering to create a super tomato that she hoped would cure world hunger. Now researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) have come close to the real thing, not through genetic engineering, but with the use of nanoparticles. Although the individual fruit aren't as large as Lisa's creation, the team's approach has resulted in tomato plants that produced almost 82 percent more fruit by weight, with the fruit also boasting higher antioxidant content.

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— Biology

"Magic" native Australian tobacco plant could be key to space-based food production

Scientists at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia have discovered a gene in an ancient Australian native tobacco plant that they say is the key to growing crops in space. The plant, Nicotiana benthamiana, has long been used in labs around the world to test viruses and vaccines due to the fact it has no immune system. Surprisingly, this trait has also led to the plant being extremely resilient, which is where space-based food production comes in.

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— Good Thinking

Could triple-decker floating farms address future food issues?

With the world’s population expected to hit 9.1 billion by 2050, coupled with the growing effects of climate change on our ability to grow crops, a company out of Barcelona has proposed a solution to feeding the future world. Forward Thinking Architecture's triple-decker Smart Floating Farms would feature 2.2 million square feet (2.04 sq km) of fish farm, hydroponic garden, and rooftop solar panels to power a floating barge, which could be anchored to the beds of oceans, lakes or rivers. The company estimates that each of its floating farms could produce about 8 tons (7.3 tonnes) of vegetables and 1.7 tons (1.5 tonnes) of fish per year.

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— Environment

Nanotech could rid cattle of ticks, with less collateral damage

If you've ever used tick medicine on your dog, then you're probably aware of how toxic the stuff is. Well, it's used on cows too, and it can end up in their meat, milk, or the surrounding environment. Fortunately, however, scientists at the National University of Mexico have developed a new type of tick treatment for cattle that is reportedly much less toxic than what's currently used.

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