Arctic fungus spreads to UK

Scientists have recently identified the first specimens of the fungus Sclerotinia subarctica in the UK. The fungus has not previously been found this far south and may pose a risk to UK agriculture. The findings were made by scientists at the Warwick Crop Centre at the University of Warwick. Read more of this post

Aphids Run Scared from GM Wheat

Wheat fields have just become a lot scarier (Source: RaeAllen, Flickr)

Genetically Modified wheat, gifted with the ability to fight off plant pest attacks, is being grown in England. In a situation similar to the film The Happening, wheat crops are now able to defend themselves against aphids. In the barely-believable movie, plants gained the ability to release chemicals that affected people’s behaviour in order to defend themselves from the polluting ways of humanity. Whilst we are not quite at that stage yet, the ability to produce plants that can defend themselves is an important step in reducing the use of chemical insecticides. Some plants naturally evolve defences against herbivores, but in this case, the wheat crop’s chemical defences have been specifically chosen by scientists.

Read more of this post

Mining technology can help find nutritional crop varieties

Millet grains can be analysed for nutritional content using X-ray fluorescence © ICRISAT HOPE/Peter Casier (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Farmers face difficult challenges in deciding which crop variety to continue growing. They need to choose crop varieties that have a high likelihood of survival and that will have a high yield. The communities that these farmers provide crops for also have needs. Their need is focused on the access to nutritious crops that contain high concentrations of minerals such as zinc and iron. It is easy for farmers to see which crop varieties with the largest vegetative organs and those that survive longest, but how do farmers discover which crops are the most nutritious? They can’t simply look at each plant to find their nutritional content. Now agricultural scientists believe that they may have solved this problem by using X-Ray Fluorescence technology to analyse crop seeds. Read more of this post

Getting Older Quicker: Wheat’s New Ageing Problem

Wheat: Getting old before its time. Source: Markusram, Flickr

Many of us dislike getting older, but you can usually predict how it will go: next year you expect to be 1 year older and you expect your body to be 1 year older. But what if instead of continually growing over a year, your body instead decided to grow for 6 months and then stop altogether until next year? Well, I’m sure that we’d all be rejoicing in the streets.

However, farmers are soon to be facing this very possibility and are starting to worry about it. But, it’s not their own bodies that they’re worried about, instead it’s that of their wheat yields. They’re predicted to stop growing earlier, because they’re actually ageing too quickly…

Read more of this post

Agricultural Super Ducks

Agricultural super ducks? You may think that the entire phrase is flawed. Ducks waddle around in parks, not on farms. You probably have never thought of them as being particularly ‘super’ as they paddle around the park pond, searching for scraps of bread. However, you’d be mistaken, as I was, for the humble duck is now emerging as a new tool in the farmer’s arsenal for improving food security. Brace yourself for the rise of the agricultural super duck.

Recently, we have witnessed a rise in the use of ducks in Asian agricultural systems. They have their own book dedicated to their amazing agricultural abilities in Japan and are already employed in some of Bangladesh’s rice paddies. These agricultural superstars provide an effective pest management solution and have even been found to reduce both production costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

A Farmer's New Best Friend? Source: Flickr, Nick Fedele

Read more of this post

India’s Food Security Challenges

Agriculture is very important to India, employing 55% of its population and providing 16.5% of its annual GDP. The industry as a whole is worth US$ 17.5 million alone in exports. However, it’s not all plain sailing, with low productivity and regional groundwater depletion currently threatening Indian agriculture. Climate change and the demands of an ever-increasing population are also emerging as challenges that the country will soon have to adapt to.

Indian farmers threshing rice. By CIAT Flickr

Rice is one of the most grown crops within Indian agriculture. However, it has low productivity levels, with scientific literature suggesting that it’s as low as 2.9 tons of rice produced for every hectare of land used (ton/ha). China, on the other hand, has a higher productivity of 6.2 ton/ha. This higher productivity means that China is able to produce more rice per year than India, using less land (between 2000-2004).

Read more of this post

New Technology Sniffing out Pests

A recent meeting of crop experts has revealed some new ideas for detecting the presence of crop pests before they strike. These ideas include sampling the air for pathogen traces, measuring volatile organic compounds and detecting decreases in leaf tissue content.

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,403 other followers