NZ kiwifruits hit by bacterial canker

Biosecurity New Zealand announced on Saturday that samples of New Zealand pollen have tested positive for the bacterial kiwifruit disease, Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa). Results indicate that Psa may have been present in New Zealand for a number of years. The confirmation of Psa in New Zealand comes as a huge blow to the country, where, until 18 days ago, the kiwifruit industry was considered disease-free and was happily producing and exporting a third of the worlds kiwifruits. Growers have never insured against disease because there has been no need to.

Can science feed the world?

This was the question posed by Nature’s Special recently. In other words, how can we feed the Earth’s growing population in such a way that no-one goes hungry and nature is left with some land and water of its own? Their answer can be broadly summed up by what Britain’s Royal Society call “sustainable intensification of global agriculture”. Their three main proposed strategies are increased use of GM crops, selective breeding and informed land use choices.

Afghan opium harvest halved by blight

A mysterious disease is blighting Afghan opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) destroying nearly half of the opium harvest in 2010, according to a report published in September by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Production in 2010 was at its lowest level since 2003, estimated at 3,600 tonnes – a 48% decrease from 6,900 tonnes in 2009. Reduced harvests could boost profits for insurgent groups such as the Taliban and fuel their propaganda war against US troops, but it may also provide an opportunity to persuade Afghan farmers to focus on growing alternative crops.

Sri Lankan coconut farmers predict yields for future climates

Millions of people in the tropics depend on coconuts for food, raw materials and livelihood. Coconuts are also a high value commercial crop. But like any crop, coconuts are at risk of drought and other prolonged events. By using climate science and better agricultural forecast models, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) has helped increase the resilience of coconut plantations to climate variability in one of the world’s major producers, Sri Lanka.

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