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Agriculture and Food News -- ScienceDaily

Agricultural research news. From fertilizers and organic farming to maximizing crops and hybridization, read about advancements in agriculture.

A hidden world of communication, chemical warfare, beneath the soil
New research shows how some of these harmful microbes have to contend not just with a farmer's chemical attacks, but also with their microscopic neighbors -- and themselves turn to chemical warfare to ward off threats.



How wheat can root out the take-all fungus
In the soils of the world's cereal fields, a family tussle between related species of fungi is underway for control of the crops' roots, with food security on the line. Beneficial fungi can help plants to protect themselves from cousins eager to overwhelm the roots, but it's a closely fought battle. Working out the right conditions to support those beneficial fungi and identifying the cereal varieties that are best suited to make the most of that help is no mean task.



Giant Chinese salamander is at least five distinct species, all heading toward extinction
With individuals weighing in at more than 140 pounds, the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander is well known as the world's largest amphibian. But researchers now find that those giant salamanders aren't one species, but five, and possibly as many as eight. The bad news is that all of the salamanders now face the imminent threat of extinction in the wild, due to demand for the amphibians as luxury food.



World's biggest fisheries supported by seagrass meadows
Scientific research has provided the first quantitative global evidence of the significant role that seagrass meadows play in supporting world fisheries productivity.



How Nagana is carried by tsetse flies
Researchers have revealed new details on how the animal disease Nagana is spread by tsetse flies in Africa.



Resistance to antifungal drugs could lead to disease and global food shortages
Growing levels of resistance to antifungal treatments could lead to increased disease outbreaks and affect food security around the world.



Pesticides: What happens if we run out of options?
What happens when pests resist all forms of herbicides and pesticides? To slow the evolutionary progression of weeds and insect pests gaining resistance to herbicides and pesticides, policymakers should provide resources for large-scale, landscape-level studies of a number of promising but untested approaches for slowing pest evolution.



Battling bubbles: How plants protect themselves from killer fungus
In the battle between plants and pathogens, molecules called small RNAs are coveted weapons used by both invaders and defenders. Researchers report how plants package and deliver the sRNAs they use to fight back against plant pathogens. The study focused on Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that causes a grey mold disease in strawberries, tomatoes, and almost all fruits, vegetables, and many flowers.



Probiotics to protect bees from an infection associated with colony collapse disorder
Adding probiotics to bees' food helps make them more resistant to nosemosis, a fungal infection associated with colony collapse disorder that has been observed in Europe and North America over the past 20 years. Probiotics can decrease the mortality rate of this infection in bees by up to 40 percent, report researchers.



Early evidence of use of a bit on domestic donkeys found in the Near East
Donkeys may have worn bits as early as the third millennium BCE, long before the introduction of horses in the ancient Near East, according to a study published May 16, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Haskel Greenfield from University of Manitoba, Canada, Aren Maeir from Bar-Ilan University, and colleagues.



Climate change should help Midwest corn production through 2050
Contrary to previous analyses, research shows that projected changes in temperature and humidity will not lead to greater water use in corn. This means that while changes in temperatures and humidity trend as they have in the past 50 years, crop yields can not only survive -- but thrive.



Less water, same Texas cotton
In Texas, the Southern High Plains uses water from an aquifer to water cotton fields. However, the aquifer is running low. Scientists from the area are working to find the best irrigation method for cotton that uses the least water.



Scientists' new way to identify microscopic worm attacking coffee crops
The plants which produce one of the most popular drinks in the world, coffee, are targeted by a microscopic worm, but scientists are fighting back. An underestimated problem in coffee farming, the parasite has been found in soil samples across the coffee growing world thanks to a new and quick detection method.



Lifting the economy on hawks' wings
What can help boost Michigan's economy? American kestrels.



Impact of weather and well-timed cultural management techniques on organic weed control
Weed management can be a tough challenge in organic cropping systems since growers don't have herbicides in their weed control arsenal. New research, though, shows that weather conditions and well-timed cultural management techniques can help fill the void by making crops more competitive.



Prized data, free and open to all
The first official account of the electronic Rothamsted Archive and what it offers, highlights how this unique historical repository of agricultural and meteorological data, which date back to 1843, is the result of some remarkable forward thinking.



Biologists identify temporal logic of regulatory genes affecting nitrogen use efficiency in plants
A team of biologists and computer scientists has adopted a time-based machine-learning approach to deduce the temporal logic of nitrogen signaling in plants from genome-wide expression data.



Multiple resistance genes found in commercially farmed chickens and in hospital
A team of investigators has isolated colistin-resistant Escherichia coli from a commercial poultry farm in China. Colistin is an antibiotic of last resort against certain bacteria.



What gives bees their sweet tooth?
Scientists have discovered bees linger on a flower, emptying it of nectar, because they have sugar-sensing taste neurons which work together to prolong the pleasure of the sweetness.



Cocoa CRISPR: Gene editing shows promise for improving the 'chocolate tree'
Use of the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 could help to breed cacao trees that exhibit desirable traits such as enhanced resistance to diseases.



Rapid evolution fails to save butterflies from extinction in face of human-induced change
The evolution of wild species, adapting them to human management practices, can cause localized extinctions when those practices rapidly change. And in a new study, biologists have used more than 30 years of research to fully document an example of this process.



Beavers do 'dam' good work cleaning water
Beavers could help clean up polluted rivers and stem the loss of valuable soils from farms, new research shows.



Leafcutter ants' success due to more than crop selection
A complex genetic analysis has biologists re-evaluating some long-held beliefs about the way societies evolved following the invention of agriculture -- by six-legged farmers.



Migratory animals carry more parasites
Every year, billions of animals migrate across the globe, carrying parasites with them and encountering parasites through their travels. Now, a team of researchers has discovered that animals known to migrate long distances are infected by a greater number of parasite species than animals that do not migrate.



Importing food damages domestic environment
Trees falling as fragile forests become cropland is a visual shorthand for the environmental costs exporting countries pay to meet lucrative global demands for food. Yet a new study reveals a counterintuitive truth: Importing food also damages homeland ecology. In this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Michigan State University and their colleagues show that the decisions domestic farmers must make as imported food changes the crop market can damage the environment.



Retaliatory tariffs could cost billions in reduced US soybean exports
Researchers have examined potential impacts to US soybean exports at three hypothetical tariff rates. The research indicates that exports are projected to drop by $4.5 billion to $7.7 billion if a 25 percent tariff is imposed, with even greater losses should a higher tariff be levied.



Genetics help make a weed a weed
New research finds that the success of weedy and invasive plants like the Jerusalem artichoke lies in their genes.



Ediacara Biota flourished in bacterially rich marine habitats
Researchers have used biomarkers in ancient rocks to learn more about the environmental conditions and food sources that sustained the Ediacara Biota.



Agroecology: A better alternative in Sub-Saharan Africa
Agroecology is a better alternative than large-scale agriculture, both for the climate and for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to researcher. This agricultural model preserves biodiversity and safeguards food supply while avoiding soil depletion.



A new model for communication in plant cells
A study suggests a new model for how glutamate receptor-like proteins (GLRs) function in plant cells. Working with Arabidopsis thaliana pollen cells, the researchers found that GLRs form the basis of a complex communication network inside individual plant cells. Their findings also suggest that GLRs rely on another group of proteins, called 'cornichon' proteins, to shuttle GLRs to different locations and regulate GLR activity within each cell.



Wintering warblers choose agriculture over forest
Effective conservation for long-distance migrants requires knowing what's going on with them year-round -- not just when they're in North America during the breeding season. A new study uncovers yellow warblers' surprising habitat preferences in their winter home in Mexico and raises questions about what their use of agricultural habitat could mean for their future.



Changing cities' food systems to help reduce carbon emissions
Many US cities and states are looking for ways to slash greenhouse gas emissions, including cap-and-trade programs, building-efficiency regulations, and boosting public transit and renewable energy sources. Now scientists report additional measures cities could take to further cut their carbon footprint: by tackling emissions related to food consumption and waste.



Plant breeders balance shared innovation, revenue
Crop breeding research and innovation requires funding. But funding -- and revenue from the crops developed -- is increasingly hard to obtain. In response, a group of plant breeders met to discuss best practices. A recent paper summarizes their recommendations.



Farming fish saves land
New evidence shows seafood from aquatic farming -- aquaculture -- can help feed the future global population while substantially reducing one of the biggest environmental impacts of meat production -- land use -- without requiring people to entirely abandon meat as a food source.



Bacteria's appetite may be key to cleaning up antibiotic contamination
Some bacteria can not only withstand antibiotics, but turn them into food. Until now, scientists have understood little about how bacteria manage to consume antibiotics safely, but new research illuminates key steps in the process. The findings could lead to new ways to eliminate antibiotics from land and water, the researchers said. Environmental antibiotic contamination promotes drug resistance and undermines our ability to treat bacterial infections.



Why cereal crops are so drought-tolerant
Cereal is much more drought-tolerant than other plants. Researchers have now found out why that is so. Their insight could help breed crops that are more resistant to drought.



Surveillance of livestock could detect rift valley fever disease before human transmission
Occurrence of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) has often been linked with El Niño rainfall. To curb future outbreaks of RVF, scientists have carried out enhanced syndromic surveillance of 22 high-risk RVF Kenyan counties to collect data on RVF-associated syndromes and risk factors in livestock from November 2015 through February 2016. Their research could provide the first step toward establishing a national syndromic surveillance system for livestock in Kenya.



Spawing better ways to combat crop-killing fungus
About 21 million years ago, a fungus that causes a devastating disease in rice first became harmful to the food that nourishes roughly half the world's population, according to an international study. The findings may help lead to different ways to fight or prevent crop and plant diseases, such as new fungicides and more effective quarantines.



Europe's current approach to food, agriculture, and the environment is not sustainable
The European Academies' Science Advisory Council along with the InterAcademy Partnership are calling for European policy-makers to urgently re-think their approach to food and agriculture. Calling for a 'food systems approach,' the national science academies say that the current siloed policy approach to food, agriculture, climate change, and health -- both at the EU and Member State levels -- is not the way forward.



Identifying the use of tinder fungi among neolithic communities at la Draga
Inhabitants of the Neolithic community at la Draga already used fungi to light or transport fires 7,300 years ago. The discovery represents one of the oldest examples of technological use of fungi documented until now and is the result of several archaeological interventions at the site, which have also yielded an exceptional collection of these organisms, unique in all of prehistoric Europe.



Role neonicotinoid insecticides play in arthropod performance
A team of researchers looked at the role neonicotinoid insecticides play in arthropod abundance, behavior, condition, reproductive success and survival. They found the insecticides negatively affected a broad array of arthropods.



Corn with straw mulch builds yield, soil carbon
How do you boost soil water content and soil health without irrigating? Best cover it with a layer of straw, a new study concludes.



Land use and pollution shift female-to-male ratios in snapping turtles
Current research shows that increasing global temperatures as a result of climate change are expected to produce more female turtles since their offspring are influenced by the nest's temperature. But now, a team of biologists has found that the nesting environment of turtles in agricultural habitats, which can ultimately lower nesting temperatures, can actually produce more males.



Why freeloader baby-eating ants are welcomed to the colony
It might seem surprising that a colony of ants would tolerate the type of guests that gobble both their grub and their babies. But new research shows there's likely a useful tradeoff to calmly accepting these parasite ants into the fold: They have weaponry that's effective against their host ants and a more menacing intruder ant.



Fungus: The good, the bad and their fortuitous differences
Genetic differences between two very similar fungi, one that led to Quorn™, the proprietary meat substitute, and another that ranks among the world's most damaging crop pathogens, have exposed the significant features that dictate the pair's very different lifestyles, features that promise targets for controlling disease.



Using the right plants can reduce indoor pollution and save energy
A plant physiologist concludes that a better knowledge of plant physiology, along with integration of smart-sensor-controlled air cleaning technologies, could improve indoor air quality in a cost-effective and sustainable way.



People waste nearly a pound of food daily
Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person each day, but the exact amount of food we trash differs by how healthy your diet is. Between 2007-2014, consumers wasted nearly 150,000 tons of food per day. Researchers estimate that food waste corresponded with the use of 30 million acres of land (7 percent of total US cropland) and 4.2 trillion gallons of water annually. Higher quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste.



Solving a pollinator puzzle
Welsh scientists piecing together the giant jigsaw puzzle of plant pollination are a step closer to knowing how it all fits thanks to a new article.



Root exudates affect soil stability, water repellency
We might think of roots as necessary, but uninteresting, parts of the crop production process. New research, however, focuses on what's going on in the soil with the plant's roots and the chemicals they produce.



First gene drive targeting worldwide crop pest
Biologists have created the world's first gene drive system -- a mechanism for manipulating genetic inheritance -- in Drosophila suzukii, an agricultural pest that has invaded much of the United States and caused millions of dollars in damage to high-value berry and other fruit crops.



The 'bread basket' of the tropics? Study explores tropical grain production
Agricultural economists wanted to learn more about the productivity of grain production in the tropics. They examine input and output factors for several large-scale farms located in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.



Honeybees are struggling to get enough good bacteria
Modern monoculture farming, commercial forestry and even well-intentioned gardeners could be making it harder for honeybees to store food and fight off diseases, a new study suggests.



Warming climate could speed forest regrowth in eastern US
Warming climate could speed the natural regrowth of forests on undeveloped or abandoned land in the eastern United States, according to a new study. Previous research has shown that the succession from field to forest can happen decades sooner in the southeastern US than in the Northeast. But it wasn't obvious why. A new study points to temperature as the major factor influencing the pace of reforestation.



Climate change mitigation project threatens local ecosystem resilience in Ethiopia
To increase forest cover in the Global South in order to mitigate climate change does not always have positive effects, as shown in a new study in southern Ethiopia. It can also threaten biodiversity and the survival of unique alpine plants.



Moss capable of removing arsenic from drinking water discovered
A moss capable of removing arsenic from contaminated water has been discovered. And it happens quickly -- in just one hour, the arsenic level is so low that the water is no longer harmful for people to drink.



Newly identified bacteria may help bees nourish their young
Researchers have isolated three previously unknown bacterial species from wild bees and flowers. The bacteria, which belong to the genus Lactobacillus, may play a role in preserving the nectar and pollen that female bees store in their nests as food for their larvae.



Healthy soil lifts animal weight
Individual pastures on livestock farms yield surprisingly dissimilar benefits to a farm's overall agricultural income, and those differences are most likely attributable to the varying levels of 'soil health' provided by its grazing livestock. A research team has now opened up the possibility of using field-scale metrics as indicators of animal performance and agricultural productivity.



Algae-forestry, bioenergy mix could help make CO2 vanish from thin air
An unconventional mélange of algae, eucalyptus and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage appears to be a quirky ecological recipe. But, scientists have an idea that could use that recipe to help power and provide food protein to large regions of the world -- and simultaneously remove carbon dioxide from Earth's atmosphere.



Remnants of antibiotics persist in treated farm waste
Each year, farmers in the US purchase tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics approved for use in cows, pigs, fowl and other livestock. When the animals' manure is repurposed as fertilizer or bedding, traces of the medicines leach into the environment, raising concerns about how agriculture contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. New research holds troublesome insights with regard to the scope of this problem.



Sweet potato history casts doubt on early contact between Polynesia and the Americas
New evidence shows that sweet potatoes arose before there were any humans around to eat them. The findings also suggest that the sweet potato crossed the ocean from America to Polynesia without any help from people. The discovery raises doubts about the existence of pre-Columbian contacts between Polynesia and the American continent.



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