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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.

Domestic goat dating back to the Neolithic Corded Ware period identified in Finland
Goat hairs have been found in a grave structure that was discovered in the 1930s in Kauhava, western Finland. These are the oldest animal hairs found in Finland. From the perspective of Finnish prehistory, the finding supports the evidence of animal husbandry practised during the Corded Ware period, while also revealing details of burial rituals.



New approach to improve nitrogen use, enhance yield, and promote flowering in rice
Using nitrogen fertilizer increases crop yields, but excess runoff causes environmental pollution. Moreover, in grains such as rice, large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer can delay flowering, leaving the crop vulnerable to late-season cold weather. A recent study has identified a rice nitrate transporter that can be overexpressed to increase grain yield and accelerate flowering. This approach has the potential to improve grain yields while avoiding the downside of late maturation.



The Australian government's plan for the biocontrol of the common carp presents several risks
Scientists are calling on the Australian authorities to review their decision to introduce the carp herpes virus as a way to combat the common carp having colonized the country's rivers. They not only believe that this measure will be ineffective but that it also represents a risk to ecosystems.



Tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water
When reducing the water used to water cherry tomato crops by more than 50%, the product not only maintains its quality, both commercially and nutritionally, but it also even increases the level of carotenoids, compounds of great interest in the food-processing industry. In addition to being natural colorings, some are Vitamin-A precursors, which are beneficial for the health and have cosmetic uses.



Scientists poised to win the race against rust disease and beyond
In a race to prevent and control rust disease epidemics, scientists have positioned themselves to better understand how rust fungi infect crops and evolve virulence.



Computer models allow farmers to diversify pest management methods
A technology developed by Brazilian researchers can help fighting highly resistant agricultural pests by analyzing the connections between the pests' patterns of dispersal in crops and different configurations in diversified intercropping systems.



Cracking the genetic code for complex traits in cattle
The global 1000 Bull Genomes Consortium identified the genetic basis for accurately predicting the complex trait of height across cattle and dairy breeds by pooling large genomic datasets and phenotypes collected from 58,000 cattle. The team validated their findings using the DNA of a wild auroch, the ancient ancestor to all cattle and dairy breeds, and, in a world first, demonstrated the genes influencing height in cattle also influence the trait in humans and dogs.



You are what you eat: Diet-specific adaptations in vampire bats
Vampire bats feed exclusively on blood, a mode of feeding unique amongst mammals. It has therefore been long suspected that vampire bats have highly specific evolutionary adaptations, which would be documented in their genome, and most likely also have an unusual microbiome, the community of micro-organisms assembled in their digestive tract which may help with the digestion of blood.



Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security
Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere, a new study has found.



Global grazing lands increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate
A new study shows precipitation variability has increased significantly on 49 percent of the world's grazing lands.



Rural ranchers face less access to water during drought than urban counterparts
The findings highlight a rural-urban divide and show that ranchers' access to water was neither equal nor valued during the drought in Mexico's Baja California Sur state from 2006 to 2012.



New light shed on how plants get their nitrogen fix
Legumes are widely-consumed plants that use soil bacteria to obtain nitrogen through root nodulation. The process is energetically costly, and so legumes inhibit nodulation when soil nitrate is available. However, the mechanism that drives this inhibition is unknown. Researchers found that NRSYM1 is responsible for inhibiting nodulation in the presence of nitrate, and acts by directly regulating gene expression. The findings may aid agricultural efforts to improve the crop efficiency of legumes.



Birds and beans: Study shows best coffee for bird diversity
It's an age-old debate for coffee lovers. Which is better: Arabica beans with their sweeter, softer taste, or the bold, deep flavor of Robusta beans? A new study has taken the question to unlikely coffee aficionados: birds.



The more kinds of bees, the better for humans
The bigger the area to pollinate, the more species of wild bees you need to pollinate it.



The 'Super-Ranger' badgers that may hold the key to limiting the spread of bovine TB
Researchers have discovered a new ranging behavior in male badgers, which will aid the implementation of a nationwide TB vaccination program.



Light determines the genes that function in plant growth
The xylem is essential for transporting water across the entire plant body. Its development is heavily regulated by VASCULAR-RELATED NAC-DOMAIN (VND) genes. Scientists report a new experimental system that shows three VND genes are necessary for xylem differentiation in cotyledons in darkness but not in light. The study gives clues on how environmental factors can be modified to stimulate plant growth.



Problems with herbicide-resistant weeds become crystal clear
Herbicide-resistant weeds are threatening food security, but researchers are one step closer to a solution after a new discovery. They have now uncovered how penoxsulam, the active ingredient in the world's largest-selling rice herbicide, works.



Cover crops in nitrogen's circle of life
A circle of life-and nitrogen-is playing out in farms across the United States. And researchers are trying to get the timing right. The goal is to time nutrient release from cover crops to better match the nutrient needs of specific cash crops.



Genetic limits threaten chickpeas, a globally critical food
Scientists have discovered an extreme lack of genetic diversity and other threats to the future adaptability of domestic chickpeas, the primary source of protein of 20 percent of the world's people. But they also collected wild relatives of chickpeas in Turkey that hold great promise as a source of new genes for traits like drought-resistance, resistance to pod-boring beetles, and heat tolerance.



Presence, persistence of estrogens in vernal pools an emerging concern
Estrogens in treated wastewater that find their way into temporary wetlands known as vernal pools persist for weeks or even months, according to researchers, who suggest that persistence may have implications for these critical aquatic habitats.



Intensive agriculture influences US regional summer climate, study finds
Scientists agree that changes in land use such as deforestation, not just emissions of greenhouse gases, can play a significant role altering the world's climate systems. Now, a new study reveals how another type of land use, intensive agriculture, can impact regional climate.



Plants feel the heat, especially at night
Scientists have solved a 79-year-old mystery by discovering how plants vary their response to heat stress depending on the time of day. This understanding could help with breeding commercial crops able to produce higher yields in hotter climates as predicted under climate change.



Scientists identify factors which drive the evolution of herbicide resistance
Scientists have identified factors which are driving the evolution of herbicide resistance in crops -- something which could also have an impact on medicine as well as agriculture.



Efforts are needed to tap into the potential of nutraceuticals
A growing demand exists for nutraceuticals, which seem to reside in the grey area between pharmaceuticals and food.



Bats as barometer of climate change
Bats spend every night hard at work for local farmers, consuming over half of their own weight in insects, many of which are harmful agricultural pests, such as the noctuid moths, corn earworm and fall armyworm. And now they are arriving earlier in the season, and some of them are reluctant to leave. It seems the bats know more about climate change than we had realized.



Weeds out of control
Herbicides can no longer control the weeds that threaten crop productivity and food security in the UK because the plants have evolved resistance, and future control must depend on management strategies that reduce reliance on chemicals. So concludes a nationwide epidemiological assessment of the factors that are driving the abundance and spread of the major agricultural weed, black-grass.



Global warming could cause key culinary crops to release seeds prematurely
Climate change is threatening crop yields worldwide, yet little is known about how global warming will confuse normal plant physiology. Researchers now show that higher temperatures accelerate seed dispersal in crop species belonging to the cabbage and mustard plant family, limiting reproductive success, and this effect is mediated by a gene called INDEHISCENT.



Efficient technique discovered for isolating embryonic stem cells in cows
Scientists have developed a highly efficient method of isolating embryonic stem cells in cows. Producing embryonic stem cells from large livestock species like cattle is important for genetic testing, genome engineering, and studying human disease.



Mutation in single rice gene cancels interspecific hybrid sterility
Scientists successfully employed mutagenesis to identify the gene that causes hybrid sterility in rice, which is a major reproductive barrier between species.



Organic food provides significant environmental benefits to plant-rich diets
A study of the diets of 34,000 people confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. This is the first-ever study to look at the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems.



Termites' unique gut 'factory' key to global domination
Termites have achieved ecological dominance and now some ingredients for their success have been determined to lie in their unique gut microbiome 'factories' -- which enable the creatures to eat wood and other material relatively free of competition. New research shows the majority of termite gut microorganisms is not found in any other animals and that they are not only inherited from parents but are also shared across colonies and among distantly related termite species.



Alien honeybees could cause plant extinction
New research indicates that introduced 'alien' honeybees are competing for resources with native bees and threatening the survival of plants that rely on interactions with specific pollinators.



New technology could reduce spread of antibiotic resistance genes through compost
Scientists have found a way to remove antibiotic resistant genes from industrial compost, which could prevent them entering the food chain.



Rapid land changes forecast for East African savannahs
A study, presenting a 5000-year environmental history of the popular tourist destination, Amboseli National Park in Kenya, has shown that the impact of climate change on land is more rapid than previously thought.



First report in decades of a forgotten crop pathogen calls for critical close monitoring
Scientists, breeders, farmers and conservation groups must continue to work in close collaboration to prepare for the potential re-emergence of a forgotten crop pathogen, a new study advises today.



A genetic trigger adds branches to plants, could boost crop yields
When it comes to agriculture from branched plants, such as apple trees, the more branches that bear fruit, the better. But in the real world, there's a limit to the number of branches that plants make -- a gene tends to put the brakes on this splitting process called shoot branching. Today researchers reveal a chemical that can reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved crop production.



Sick bees eat healthier
Scientists have shown that sick bees try to look after themselves by eating healthy food.



Phosphate rock an effective fertilizer in Kenya
Farming in western Kenya is challenging, to put it mildly. Although farmers can cycle two full crops in a single year, extremely poor soils and expensive traditional fertilizers, such as triple superphosphate (TSP), keep yields low. But results of a new study offer Kenyan farmers hope in the form of phosphate rock.



China's need to turn milk green
Historically, China consumed little milk but increasing prosperity has lifted consumption more than 25 times over the past five decades, making the country the world's fourth largest milk producer after the EU, New Zealand and the US, and the trend is projected to continue. Without concerted action, the demand threatens environmental sustainability globally.



Venus flytraps don't eat the insects that pollinate them
While most people are familiar with Venus flytraps and their snapping jaws, there is still a lot that scientists don't know about the biology of these carnivorous plants. Researchers have for the first time discovered which insects pollinate the rare plants in their native habitat -- and discovered that the flytraps don't dine on these pollinator species.



Farmed seafood and livestock stack up differently using alternate feed efficiency measure
A new study found that, contrary to widely held assumptions, farmed fish and shrimp convert protein and calories in feed to edible seafood at rates similar to livestock (i.e., cattle, pigs, and chickens)



Lactation hormone cues birds to be good parents
Toppling a widespread assumption that a “lactation” hormone only cues animals to produce food for their babies, researchers have shown the hormone also prompts zebra finches to be good parents.



Molecular weapons of the plant microbiome
Researchers have pinpointed the identity of a toxin used by a soil-dwelling bacterium that protects plants from disease.



Farm sunshine, not cancer: Replacing tobacco fields with solar arrays
Researchers contend that tobacco farmers could increase profits by converting their land to solar farms, which in turn provides renewable energy generation.



Controlling fire ants with natural compounds
New research has identified natural, plant-derived that repel fire ants. These compounds, including one found in cinnamon, work by activating a type of ion channel highly expressed in the antennae and leg of one of the world's most invasive insect species.



Long-term economic impact of cover crops
Researchers have examined data from the past 29 years to determine whether it is profitable to include cover crops in an erosion management strategy. They found that while cover crops can cut into profitability over the short term, there are a number of benefits over long-term adoption.



Changing weather patterns throwing ecosystems out of whack
Species' lifecycles are slowly growing out of alignment, which can affect the functioning of ecosystems, ultimately impacting human food supply and disease.



Lightweight robots harvest cucumbers
Automation-intensive sectors such as the automotive industry are not the only ones to rely on robots. In more and more agricultural settings, automation systems are superseding strenuous manual labor. Scientists are now developing and testing a dual-arm robot for the automated harvesting of cucumbers.



Ecuador: Deforestation destroys more dry forest than climate change
Tropical forests worldwide are at risk. Two of the main threats are the deforestation for arable land and climate change. Scientists compared the losses due to deforestation with those that would result in extreme climate change scenarios in Ecuador. Although global warming is likely to change the distribution of species, deforestation will result in the loss of more dry forests than predicted by climate change damage.



More rice, please: 13 rice genomes reveal ways to keep up with ever-growing population
Rice provides 20% of daily calories consumed globally. We will need more as population grows toward 9-10 billion by 2050. A vast new genetic resource based on comparison of 13 rice genomes and published this week will accelerate efforts to develop new rice varieties, guiding breeders to the genes plants use to resist pests, thrive in inhospitable environments, and produce abundant amounts of grain.



Central Valley soil emissions a large source of California's nitrogen oxide pollution
A previously unrecognized source of nitrogen oxide is contributing up to about 40 percent of the NOx emissions in California, according to a new study. The study traces the emissions to fertilized soils in the Central Valley region.



Viruses prefer cultivated areas to natural areas
Cultivated areas are more affected by viral epidemics than non-cultivated areas.



Heritage turkey production research profitable but more difficult
To meet increasing consumer demand for heritage-breed turkeys to be the centerpiece of holiday and other meals, researchers are studying methods producers can use to raise the historical birds.



Wetlands provide landscape-scale reduction in nitrate pollution
A new study provides new insights to demonstrate that multiple wetlands or 'wetland complexes' within a watershed are extremely effective at reducing harmful nitrate in rivers and streams. These wetlands can be up to five times more efficient per unit area at reducing nitrate than the best land-based nitrogen mitigation strategies.



Plotting the path of plant pathogens
In a sneak attack, some pathogenic microbes manipulate plant hormones to gain access to their hosts undetected. Biologists have exposed one such interloper by characterizing the unique biochemical pathway it uses to synthesize auxin, a central hormone in plant development.



Basic mechanisms for root growth and cell replenishment
Interdisciplinary collaboration between physics and molecular biology enabled researchers to solve fundamental questions on plant root growth. These findings provide opportunities to create more drought-resistant plants, which is one of the most important problems in the current context of the climate change.



Nutritionally-speaking, soy milk is best plant-based milk
A new study looks at the four most-commonly consumed types of milk beverages from plant sources around the world -- almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk -- and compares their nutritional values with those of cow's milk. After cow's milk, which is still the most nutritious, soy milk comes out a clear winner.



Think of honeybees as 'livestock,' not wildlife, argue experts
Contrary to public perception, die-offs in honeybee colonies are an agricultural not a conservation issue, argue researchers, who say that manged honeybees may contribute to the genuine biodiversity crisis of Europe's declining wild pollinators.



For global invasion, Argentine ants use chemical weapons
Researchers show how Argentine ants use chemical secretions as weapons in their interactions with harvester ants, which are native to California. The findings could help in the development of new pest control strategies.



Root microbiome critical to growth and health of plants
Just as the microorganisms in our gut are increasingly recognized as important players in human health and behavior, new research demonstrates that microorganisms are equally critical to the growth and health of plants. For example, plants that are able to recruit particular bacteria to their root microbiomes are much more drought resistant than their fellows.



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