Update: Plant Health News (02 Jul 14)

The European Food Safety Authority have announced their opinion on biotech oilseed rape © Carron Brown (CC BY- NC)
The European Food Safety Authority have given their verdict on biotech oilseed rape © Carron Brown (CC BY- NC)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the release of EFSA’s scientific opinion on biotech oilseed rape, why using too much fertilizer is bad for crops and bad for climate and how the El Niño is already impacting Peruvian fruit crops.

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Update: Plant Health News (07 May 14)

Hurricane Manuel devastated crops when it hit Mexico last year (NASA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a new device that can identify plant pests, the estimated economic loss from Mexican mangoes damaged by Hurricane Manuel and a new study into the optimal production of sweet potato.

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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

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The problems of achieving food security for 1.6 billion people in China

Agriculture in China has grown at a remarkable rate over the past 50 years © Gabriele Quaglia (Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

It is predicted that the population of China will stabilise at 1.6 billion within the next two decades. In order to feed this many people, crop production will need to increase by 2% each year to provide the estimated 580 million tonnes of grain that will be required. Mingsheng Fan and colleagues have published a review of past trends in agricultural production in China and the solutions that they think will allow China to produce more food in the future without an increase in available agricultural land. The main crops produced in large quantities in China are cereal crops, particularly wheat, maize and rice. The main limiting factors for the continued increase in agricultural production are water availability and soil quality. There is also the requirement to reduce use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers because they pollute the air and water.

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