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Crops

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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