Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Agriculture

Deforestation driving CO2 buildup

Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had an impact on the global carbon cycle as big as today's annual demand for gasoline. The Black Death, on the other hand, came and went too quickly for it to cause much of a blip in the global carbon budget. Dwarfing both of these events, however, has been the historical trend towards increasing deforestation, which over centuries has released vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as crop and pasture lands expanded to feed growing human populations. Even Genghis Kahn couldn't stop it for long.  Read More

Lupin seed proteins are being used to create low-fat alternative ingredients for use in da...

There are definitely two schools of thought as to whether or not humans should have meat in their diet, but even many non-vegetarians claim that the production and consumption of animal protein could definitely stand to at least be scaled back, both for environmental and health reasons. It has been estimated that it takes 40 square meters (48 sq. yards) of land to produce one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of meat, while 120 kilograms (265 lbs) of carrots or 80 kilograms (176 lbs) of apples could be raised within that same space. Obesity and cardiovascular disease, meanwhile, have been linked to high-fat diets – diets which often include things like sausages and hamburgers. With concerns like these in mind, researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging have developed food ingredients derived from lupin seed proteins, that can reportedly stand in quite convincingly for both milk and animal fat.  Read More

Lignin (blue) in a regular Arabidopsis stem at left, and in a modified plant's stem at rig...

Biofuel derived from crops such as switchgrass certainly holds promise, although some critics maintain that such crops use up too much agricultural land – land that could otherwise be used for growing food crops. A genetic discovery announced this Tuesday, however, reportedly allows individual plants to produce more biomass. This means that biofuel crops could have higher yields, without increasing their agricultural footprint.  Read More

A boll of cotton matures in the field  (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips...

Cotton has held an important significance for mankind for thousands of years. Not only are all parts of the cotton plant economically useful, but the multitude of uses and processes it can be put to make it America's number one value-added crop. Over the years we have crushed and extruded and woven cotton into many forms, but even today scientists and entrepreneurs are transforming the way we use cotton; from reducing pollution, insulating homes, and cleaning up oil spills to feeding the hungry. Here's a look at seven new companies being championed for their sustainability by Cotton Incorporated.  Read More

The new system analyzes the wavelengths of visible and near-infrared light reflected by po...

Workers in meat-processing plants may soon be able to assess the qualities of cuts of meat, just by subjecting them to light. Canadian researchers have developed a spectroscopic tool that evaluates the color, texture and exudation (water release) of pork cuts. It's hoped that the technology will improve quality control, optimize production and allow for exports that are better sorted for their target markets.  Read More

One and a half liters of petrol are used in the production of every cubic foot of Styrofoa...

In an age where many oil fields are in terminal decline and our dependence on petroleum reaches critical proportions, it is simply crazy that with every Styrofoam-packaged item consumers purchase, one cubed foot of Styrofoam representing 1.5 liters of petrol is thrown away. Moreover, in the U.S., Styrofoam is said to take up 25 percent of the space in landfills. A much better-sounding alternative is to use naturally-produced EcoCradle. It's created from useless agricultural by-products and mushroom roots, has all the same properties as other expandable polystyrenes (EPS), and is fully compostable.  Read More

The insecticidal protein Cry1Ab has been shown to leach from corn debris into adjacent str...

A new study by Indiana’s University of Notre Dame has revealed that streams across the U.S. Midwest contain insecticides from adjacent fields of genetically engineered corn, even well after harvest. The transgenic maize (GE corn) in question has been engineered to produce the insecticidal protein Cry1Ab. Pollen, leaves and cobs from those plants enter streams bordering on the cornfields, where they are said to release Cry1Ab into the water.  Read More

Murat Kacira at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (Image: Norma Jean Gargasz /...

While we’re not likely to see crops of any sort sprouting from the moon’s surface any time soon, researchers have built a prototype lunar greenhouse that could allow plants from Earth to be grown without soil on the moon or Mars. The membrane-covered module can be collapsed to a 4-foot (1.2m) wide disk for interplanetary travel and contains water-cooled sodium vapor lamps and long envelopes that would be loaded with seeds, ready to sprout hydroponically.  Read More

US scientists have mapped 90 percent of the domestic turkey genome

In the past few months, we’ve received announcements regarding the mapped genomes of wheat, of apples, and even the repulsive human body louse. Now, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have sequenced 90 percent of the genome of Meleagris gallopavo, which you may know as the domestic turkey.  Read More

The genome of the Golden Delicious apple has been sequenced (Photo: Glysiak)

No sooner do we hear about the sequencing of the wheat genome, than word comes this week that the genome of the apple has been decoded. The feat was accomplished through a collaboration between 18 research institutions in the US, Belgium, France, New Zealand and Italy, and was coordinated by Italy’s Istituto Agrario S. Michele all'Adige (IASMA). DNA sequences of the Golden Delicious apple were produced in 2007/08, and over 82 percent of the genome was assembled into the total 17 apple chromosomes in 2009. Now, over 90 percent of the genes have been anchored to a precise position in the chromosomes. It may all sound like Greek (or Italian) to us non-geneticists, but the upshot of the whole thing is that we should now be able to selectively breed apples like never before, resulting in hardier, tastier fruits.  Read More

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