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Crops

— Science

N-Fix tech could drastically reduce agricultural fertilizer use

Synthetic crop fertilizers are a huge source of pollution. This is particularly true when they’re washed from fields (or leach out of them) and enter our waterways. Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive. Now, however, a scientist at the University of Nottingham has developed what he claims is an environmentally-friendly process, that allows virtually any type of plant to obtain naturally-occurring nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. Read More
— Science

FLOW-AID helps farmers save water without sacrificing yields

We’ve already seen gadgets such as Koubachi and Flower Power, that communicate with users’ smartphones to let them know when their houseplants need watering. Scale that idea up to an agricultural level, and you get a prototype device known as the Farm Level Optimal Water management Assistant for Irrigation under Deficit – or FLOW-AID. It’s designed to let farmers in drought-stricken regions know when and how much water to apply to their crops, so they don’t run their irrigation systems unnecessarily. Read More
— Science

"Transfer engineering" eliminates toxins from edible part of rapeseed plant

As well as being the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world – after soybean and oil palm – rapeseed (also known as rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi and rapeseed) is cultivated in Europe primarily for animal feed. But due to high levels of glucosinolates that are harmful to most animals (including humans) when consumed in large amounts, its use must be limited. Now researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found a way to stop unwanted toxins entering the edible parts of the plant, thereby increasing the potential of the plant to be used as a commercial animal feed. Read More
— Science

Genetically engineered safflower plant improves oil output for industry

The safflower plant is one of the oldest crops known to man. Used by the ancient Egyptians in dyes, oils derived from safflower seeds are today used as a sustainable replacement for fossil-fuel-derived oil in a wide variety of products and industrial processes. Researchers at Australia’s CSIRO have now developed a new “super-high” oleic safflower that could make the crop even more attractive to growers and industry. Read More
— Environment

Dwarf plants could reduce demands for water, fertilizer, nutrients and pesticides

Aside from arable land, most farm crops require significant amounts of water, fertilizer, nutrients and pesticides to grow. While specialized breeding is often used to help produce plants that require less of these inputs, Purdue University researcher Burkhard Schulz has found a way to create tiny versions of plants that suffer no reduction in yield through the addition of a cheap and widely available chemical. Read More
— Environment

Study finds sunshade geoengineering could improve crop yields

In the face of potentially catastrophic effects on global food production, some have proposed drastic solutions to counteract climate change such as reflecting sunlight away from the Earth. A new study from the Carnegie Institution for Science examining the effects of sunshade geoengineering has concluded that such an approach would be more likely to improve food security than threaten it. Read More
— Good Thinking

"Computerized penetrometer" measures the crispness of apples

Here’s a job title that you probably didn’t know existed: Apple Biter. Oh sure, the official term is probably something like “Fruit Evaluation Specialist,” but if you spend your days chomping into apples to assess their taste and crispness, you’re really an Apple Biter. While using panels of such people is a common method of evaluating the quality of apple crops, it can be compromised when those people start to get fatigued. There’s also the not-insignificant fact that panel members could differ in what they consider to be the optimal level of crispness. That’s why Washington State University is looking into using a computerized penetrometer to handle part of the Apple Biters’ duties. Read More
— Environment

Device that harvests water from thin air wins the James Dyson Award

Young Melbourne-based inventor Edward Linacre has won the 2011 James Dyson Award, making it the second year in a row where the prestigious prize has gone to an Aussie. Linacre stole this year's competition with his Airdrop irrigation concept that collects water from thin air. The Swinburne University of Technology design graduate was driven to transform an ancient cooling technique into a new sub-surface irrigation system, following the enduring Australian drought that saw high levels of farmer suicide along Australia's Murray- Darling Basin. Read More
— Science

Manipulating plants' internal clock offers possibility of all-season crops

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
— Science

Agricultural discovery could mean more biomass from the same sized field

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
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