2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Agriculture

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

UK scientists have sequenced the entire wheat genome, and released the data to crop breede...

Scientists from the University of Liverpool, in collaboration with the University of Bristol and the John Innes Centre in Norfolk, have sequenced the entire wheat genome. They are now making the DNA data available to crop breeders to help them select key agricultural traits for breeding. The data is presently in a raw format, and will require further read-throughs and annotations, plus the assembly of the genetic data into chromosomes, before it can be fully applied. Using advanced genome sequencing platforms, however, the task isn’t as daunting as it might seem. While the sequencing of the human genome took 15 years to complete, the wheat genome has taken only a year. This is thanks in no small part to U Bristol’s next-generation genome analyzers, which can read DNA hundreds of times faster than the systems that were used to sequence the human genome.  Read More

Inventor Brendan Corry demonstrating his Wunda Weeder

Gardening can be physically-demanding work. Whether you’re weeding, planting or harvesting, almost every garden-related task seems to involve kneeling down and/or bending forward - definitely not so easy on the knees or the back. For commercial garden workers, however, help could be on the way in the form of the Wunda Weeder, a device which allows workers to lie down as they tend to the crops.  Read More

The USDA's floating wave barrier system

With all the publicity the Gulf Oil Spill is currently receiving, it’s easy to forget about another disaster from which the city of New Orleans is still recovering - the flood caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That flood, of course, occurred because the levee along the city’s coastline couldn’t stand up to the assault of the storm-driven waves. Daniel Wren, a hydraulic engineer who works for the USDA Agriculture Research Service in Oxford, Mississippi, is now working on a system that might have kept that from happening. He has developed floating barriers that can dissipate up to 75 percent of a wave’s energy, before that wave reaches the levee.  Read More

A just-published paper suggests that the cultivation of perennial grain crops could revolu...

It has pretty much become a given that grain crops, such as wheat and barley, need to be started from scratch every spring. This means farmers must buy seeds, use seeding equipment to get those seeds into the soil, then apply a lot of fertilizer and hope for weather conditions that won’t be too hot, cold, wet or dry for germination. There are such things as perennial grains, however - plants that, like the grass in your lawn, simply pick up in the spring where they left off in the fall. While perennial versions of common annual grains have seen little in the way of development, a new research paper says it’s about time they did. The advantages of cultivating perennial grains, the paper’s authors submit, could be one of the biggest advances in the 10,000-year history of agriculture.  Read More

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