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Agriculture

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

The compost filter socks in place, in a grassed waterway

Compost filter socks are mesh tubes filled with composted bark and wood chips. Besides making lovely wedding gifts, they are also used at construction sites to limit the amount of silt in water runoff. What was previously unknown, however, was their effectiveness at reducing sediment, herbicides and nutrients in runoff from agricultural fields. Two soil scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have completed a two-year study, measuring just how good a job the socks did when placed in grassed waterways alongside fields. Their conclusion: the socks rock... sort of.  Read More

Aerofarms' aeroponic system

With increasing pressure on global food supplies requiring ever more intelligent use of technology, urbanized vertical aeroponic methods are shaping up as a promising alternative to traditional farming. Aeroponics requires less space, less water and no pesticides and the AeroFarms system takes things further by using LEDs in stacked units to maximize efficiency and use of available space.  Read More

Triumph International's Rice Bra kit

A couple of times a year, Japan's Triumph International unveils a themed undergarment based on a current trend or issue. Bringing women closer to agriculture is the company's latest inspiration for crazy conceptual underwear, which takes form in the shape of the Rice Bra.  Read More

An Ostara PEARL proprietary fluidized bed reactor, used to extract phosphorous from raw se...

Here’s something rather important that you might not know: there may be a worldwide phosphorus shortage within the next few decades. The majority of the world’s phosphorus is currently mined from non-renewable phosphate rock deposits, and widely used in crop fertilizers. Scientists have begun to question just how much more phosphorus is left, and what the agriculture industry will do once it runs out. The answer – or some of it, at least – could be bobbing in a pool of raw sewage. Ostara, a Canadian nutrient recovery company, has developed a method for harvesting phosphorus from municipal wastewater and converting it to fertilizer.  Read More

Nanopool's Liquid Glass being applied to a statue at Ataturk's Mausoleum in Turkey

Yep, you read it right, spray-on glass. It could revolutionize the fields of agriculture, medicine, fashion, transportation - really, it would be easier to list where it might not be applicable. The remarkable product, called Liquid Glass, was developed by the German nano-tech firm Nanopool GmbH. Their patented process, known as “SiO2 ultra thin layering” involves extracting silica molecules from quartz sand, adding them to water or ethanol, and then... well, they won’t tell us what they do next, but the end result is a 100 nanometer-thick, clear, flexible, breathable coating that can be applied to almost any surface. We’re told that there are no added nano-particles, resins or additives - the coating is formed using quantum forces. The possible uses are endless.  Read More

The shape of armed conflict is rapidly changing

The military potential of robotics has long been one of the primary driving forces in the funding of research and development in the field. Aerial UAVs transformed armed conflict so dramatically that a new wave of robotic military capabilities are being readied for the battlefield in the hope of providing a similar competitive edge. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) recently began showing a battery-powered robotic beast of burden which can carry up to 200 kilograms, run three days without a recharge, and follow and respond to the voice commands of its master. Though designed for use on the battlefield, REX has myriad commercial applications in agriculture, manufacturing, and beyond.  Read More

Scientists are hoping their computing tool prototype will lead to better crops, like longe...

Researchers engaged in developing new strains of crops, such as drought-resistant wheat and new pesticides that are more environmentally-friendly, are also creating a computing tool that could help scientists predict how plants will react to different environmental conditions. It’s hoped their findings will help create better crops, such as tastier and longer-lasting tomatoes.  Read More

Can the Earth sustain 9 billion people? We'll find out in the next 50 years.

We're living in lucky times. Living standards - in the Western world, at least - are the highest in history. It's an era of relative peace and plenty that would amaze our ancestors. But it's not going to continue forever; we're already stretching many of our natural resources to their limits, and the world's population will jump from 6.5 billion to around 9 billion over the next 50 years. Get ready for a painful correction - here are four interconnected resources that are headed for a catastrophic squeeze within our lifetime.  Read More

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