Photokina 2014 highlights

Crops

Yale University researchers have now identified a key genetic gear that keeps the circadia...

Circadian rhythms are a roughly 24-hour cycle governing biochemical, physiological, or behavioral processes that have been widely observed not only in humans, but other animals, fungi, cyanobacteria and plants. In plants, circadian rhythms help synchronize biological processes with day and night to control photosynthesis, tell the plant what season it is, and the best time to flower to attract insects. Yale University researchers have now identified a key genetic gear that keeps the circadian clock in plants ticking, offering the prospect of engineering plants that can grow all year round and in locations where that's is not currently possible.  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

Preliminary results of a study on how wind turbines interact with surrounding farm land ha...

Researchers from the Ames Laboratory and the University of Colorado have spent a few months wandering through corn fields on farms in the Midwest to gather information on how wind turbines interact with surrounding farm land. The data collected so far indicates that the turbines may offer more than the sustainable production of electricity, they may also benefit surrounding crops by helping them stay cooler and dryer, fight off attack from fungi and toxins and improve CO2 extraction.  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

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

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

A mason bee hard at work

Many readers would already be familiar with Colony Collapse Disorder and the mysterious worldwide disappearance of honeybees. Everything from mites to viruses to electromagnetic radiation are suspected as its cause and it is potentially disastrous for crops that rely on the bees for pollination. Well, on a small scale at least, help is on the way - some fruit growers in North America are now turning to the indigenous mason bee as an orchard-pollinator. Not only are mason bees not affected by CCD, but they're better at pollinating than honeybees, you need less of them, and they have a more laidback personality, meaning less of those nasty stings.  Read More

Scientists are hoping that by confusing insects' sense of smell, they won't be able to loc...

Good news for crop farmers this week with UK scientists discovering molecules they hope will confuse insects’ sense of smell and therefore their ability to detect plants – and each other. The researchers believe this could reduce the damage insects cause to crops and lead to better food security. Roughly one-quarter of the world’s crops are lost annually to pests and disease.  Read More

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