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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.

Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boar
Growing populations of wild boar (Sus scrofa L.) are causing more and more damage to agricultural land in Europe, requiring hundreds of thousands of Euros in compensation. A new drone-based method allows estimating crop damage in a fast, standardized and objective manner.



How honey bee gut bacteria help to digest their pollen-rich diet
The honey bee gut is colonized by specialized bacteria that help digest components of the floral pollen diet and produce molecules that likely promote bee health. Researchers have now uncovered which bacterial species perform which specific digestive functions in the bee gut.



Radar tracking reveals how bees develop a route between flowers
As bees gain foraging experience they continually refine both the order in which they visit flowers and the flight paths they take between flowers to generate better and better routes, according to researchers.



Reductions in individual plant growth sometimes boost community resilience
In sports, sometimes a player has to take one for the team. The same appears to be true in the plant world, where reduced individual growth can benefit the broader community.



Innovative system images photosynthesis to provide picture of plant health
Researchers have developed a new imaging system that is designed to monitor the health of crops in the field or greenhouse. The new technology could one day save farmers significant money and time by enabling intelligent agricultural equipment that automatically provides plants with water or nutrients at the first signs of distress.



New discovery, more bees mark Michigan's first, full bee census
The first complete bee census in Michigan has confirmed a new species and revealed that the actual number of bee species in Michigan exceeded earlier estimates.



Exploring a world without food animals
What would happen if U.S. farmers stopped producing animals for food and Americans went vegan? Some have called for a move in that direction to address increasing concerns about U.S. health, eating habits, and climate change. Researchers recently explored those questions and found surprising results.



Head start through human intervention: Study on the spread of European plant species on other continents
A new study has investigated the spread of European plant species on other continents.



'Stressed out' cocoa trees could produce more flavorful chocolate
Most people agree that chocolate tastes great, but is there a way to make it taste even better? Perhaps, according to scientists who looked at different conditions that can put a strain on cocoa trees. They say that although the agricultural method used to grow cocoa trees doesn't matter that much, the specific weather conditions do. 



Dahl's toad-headed turtle threatened by fragmented habitat, shrinking populations
A recent study shows that the Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle (Mesoclemmys dahli), a rare reptile found only in Colombia, is threatened with extinction due to alarmingly small and fragmented populations and high levels of inbreeding.



Farm to school program boosts fruit, veggie intake
It’s one thing to offer students fruits and vegetables for school lunch; it’s another for them to actually eat them. Children who attend schools with Farm to School programs eat more fruits and vegetables, new research shows.



How ant colonies behave in different environments
A new article finds that some ant colonies defend more gallantly than others, revealing that colonies themselves may have personalities. Trees that have more active, aggressive colonies have less leaf damage, suggesting that colony personality may play an important role in plant health and survival.



Shining a light on plant growth and development
Researchers have identified the portion of a plant photoreceptor responsible for light-dependent changes in gene expression.



From Alaska to Amazonia: First global maps of traits that drive vegetation growth
Detailed global maps of key traits in higher plants have been made available for the first time.



Bottle gourd genome provides insight on evolutionary history, relationships of cucurbits
Researchers have produced the first high-quality genome sequence for the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and a reconstructed genome of the most recent Cucurbitaceae ancestor.



Drought-resistant plant genes could accelerate evolution of water-use efficient crops
Scientists have identified a common set of genes that enable different drought-resistant plants to survive in semi-arid conditions, which could play a significant role in bioengineering and creating energy crops that are tolerant to water deficits.



More mammoth bones recovered from Michigan farm where skull, tusks and dozens of intact bones of an ice age mammoth were found
Paleontologists conducted a second excavation this week at the Chelsea-area farm where the skull, tusks and dozens of intact bones of an ice age mammoth were pulled from the ground in late 2015.



Rise of ampicillin resistance began years before human use
Low doses of penicillin routinely fed to livestock in the 1950s in North America and Europe may have encouraged antibiotic-resistant bacteria to evolve and spread, report scientists. Bacteria that can pass on genes resistant to ampicillin, one of the most commonly used antibiotics today, emerged several years before the widespread use of this antibiotic in humans, according to new research.



Preventing psoriasis with vanillia extract
Small amounts of artificial vanilla extract, also known as vanillin, are in a wide range of products, from baked goods to perfumes. But vanillin's versatility doesn't stop there. In a recent mouse study researchers report that this compound could also prevent or reduce psoriatic skin inflammation.



Getting a better handle on methane emissions from livestock
Cattle, swine and poultry contribute a hefty portion to the average American's diet, but raising all this livestock comes at a cost to the environment: The industry produces a lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Just how much gas the animals release, however, is the subject of debate. Now, one group reports that a new approach could shed light on how accurate current data are.



Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
How serious is the loss of species globally? Are material cycles in an ecosystem with few species changed? In order to find this out, the 'Jena Experiment' was established in 2002, one of the largest biodiversity experiments worldwide. Ecologists now report on two unexpected findings of the long-term study: Biodiversity influences almost half the processes in the ecosystem, and intensive grassland management does not result in higher yields than high biodiversity.



Neurotoxin discovered in Lake Winnipeg
BMAA -- a toxin linked to several neurodegenerative diseases -- is present in high concentrations during cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Winnipeg, report scienitsts.



Brazilian ethanol can replace 13.7 percent of world's crude oil consumption
Expansion of sugarcane cultivation for biofuel in areas not under environmental protection or reserved for food production could also reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide by up to 5.6%, according to a study by researchers in Brazil, the US and Europe.



Winter wheat feasible cover crop for Rolling Plains cotton
Interest in using cover crops to improve soil health continues to grow in the Texas Rolling Plains region, but the nagging concern of reductions in soil moisture and effects on yields of subsequent cash crops still exists. A research team is releasing the results of a recent simulation study that builds on field research.



Laws of attraction: Pollinators use multiple cues to identify flowers across continents
Although at least 75 percent of our crop species depend on animal pollinators, little is known about their flower preferences. As global insect populations decline, it is of utmost importance for us to understand what factors attract wild pollinators to flowers, and how these preferences differ in the face of environmental change. Now, an international team of scientists have discovered that a group of generalist pollinators use a multiple cues to identify flowers on different continents.



Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
The western corn rootworm continues to be on the rise in Europe. Why attempts to biologically target this crop pest by applying entomopathogenic nematodes have failed, can be explained by the amazing defense strategy of this insect. A new study shows that the rootworm larvae are able to sequester plant defense compounds from maize roots in a non-toxic form and can activate the toxins whenever they need them to protect themselves against their own enemies.



Fighting plant disease at warm temperatures keeps food on the table
An issue of global concern is the anticipated shortage of agricultural output to meet the steady rise in human population. Scientists understand that overcoming crop loss due to disease and adverse weather will be key in achieving this goal.



Harvesting the sun for power and produce: Agrophotovoltaics increases the land use efficiency by over 60 percent
Until now, acreage was designated for either photovoltaics or photosynthesis, that is, to generate electricity or grow crops. An agrophotovoltaics (APV) pilot project, however, has now demonstrated that both uses are compatible. Dual use of land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and additionally opens up a new source of income for farmers, say researchers.



New technique can detect impurities in ground beef within minutes
Researchers have found a better way to identify unwanted animal products in ground beef. They used a laser-equipped spectrometer and statistical analysis to determine with 99 per cent accuracy whether ground beef samples included other animal parts. They were able to say with 80 per cent accuracy which animal parts were used, and in what concentration.



Return of the native wild turkey -- setting sustainable harvest targets with limited data
The recovery of the wild turkey is a great restoration success story. But concerns have been rising over the specter of declines in some areas. Lack of reliable tools to estimate abundance of turkeys has increased uncertainty for managers. So wildlife researchers have investigated how to harvest wild turkeys sustainably when information is imperfect.



Novel wheat microbiome analysis conducted under four management strategies
A novel study has been conducted on the microbial composition of wheat leaves, stems, and roots under four management strategies: conventional, no-till, organic, and reduced chemical inputs. They took 200-plus samples from each of 24 test plots, using DNA sequencing and culture collections to identify microbial communities, isolate potential strains of pathogen-resistant fungi, and ascertain the influence of management strategies on these communities. Learn more about their findings.



Earthworms can reproduce in Mars soil simulant
Two young worms are the first offspring in a Mars soil experiment. A biologist found them in a Mars soil simulant that he obtained from NASA. At the start he only added adult worms. The experiments are crucial in the study that aims to determine whether people can keep themselves alive at the red planet by growing their own crops on Mars soils.



To address hunger effectively, first check the weather, says new study
Understanding the climate context is important is determining how to best respond to food insecurity, according to a study of nearly 2,000 smallholder farms in Africa and Asia. Rainfall patterns determined whether financial supports or agricultural inputs or practices were the most effective intervention.



New discovery to accelerate development of salt-tolerant grapevines
A discovery is likely to improve the sustainability of the Australian wine sector and significantly accelerate the breeding of more robust salt-tolerant grapevines.



Ribbed mussels could help improve urban water quality
Ribbed mussels can remove nitrogen and other excess nutrients from an urban estuary and could help improve water quality in other urban and coastal locations, according to a study in New York City's Bronx River. The findings are part of long-term efforts to improve water quality in the Bronx River Estuary.



High yield, protein with soybean gene
Soybean growers face a challenge. It has proved difficult to develop soybean varieties with both high protein levels and high yields. However, new research suggest it might be possible to breed soybeans with higher protein concentration without significantly decreasing yields.



Correctly used neonics do not adversely affect honeybee colonies, new research finds
Amid mounting controversy over use of neonicotinoids and declining bee population, a new analysis of previously unpublished studies and reports commissioned by agri-chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta -- as well as published papers from the scientific literature -- shows no significant ill effects on honeybee colonies from three common insecticides made by the companies.



Refining pesticides to kill pests, not bees
Scientists have unlocked a key to maintain the insecticide's effectiveness in eliminating pests without killing beneficial bugs, such as bees. The study shows that molecular tweaks can make the difference.



Synthetic biology and bioengineering: Risks and opportunities
Human genome editing, 3-D-printed replacement organs and artificial photosynthesis - the field of bioengineering offers great promise for tackling the major challenges that face our society. But as a new article highlights, these developments provide both opportunities and risks in the short and long term.



Corn genetics research exposes mechanism behind traits becoming silent
For more than a century, plant geneticists have been studying maize as a model system to understand the rules governing the inheritance of traits, and a team of researchers recently unveiled a previously unknown mechanism that triggers gene silencing in corn.



Ancient barley took high road to China
First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year detour along the southern Tibetan Plateau, suggests new research.



Light green plants save nitrogen without sacrificing photosynthetic efficiency
Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant could reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.



Raindrops splash pathogens onto crops
Pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses or fungi, cause harmful plant disease and often lead to the destruction of agricultural fields. With many possible dispersal methods, it can often be difficult to assess the damage of a pathogen’s impact before it’s too late.



Drones could help crop management take off, research shows
Initial results of an ongoing study show that aerial imagery produced by multi-spectral sensors as well as less-expensive digital cameras may improve accuracy and efficiency of plant stand assessment in cotton.



Aquatic plant may help remove contaminants from lakes
A tiny aquatic plant called duckweed might be a viable option for remove phosphorus, nitrates, nitrites and even heavy metals from lakes, ponds and slow-moving waterbodies.



How Snapdragons keep their color: Signposting trick reveals evolutionary mechanism
A study of the colour patterns among wild flowers in a mountain valley has yielded a clue about how nature controls fundamental evolutionary change in all species.



Bacterium in a beetle makes it a leaf-eater
A leaf-eating beetle has evolved a symbiotic relationship that allows the insect to break down pectin. The findings on the novel function of the bacterium, which has a surprisingly tiny genome -- much smaller than previous reports on the minimum size required for an organism not subsisting within a host cell.



Gene discovery may halt worldwide wheat epidemic
A gene that enables resistance to a new devastating strain of stem rust, a fungal disease that is hampering wheat production throughout Africa and Asia and threatening food security worldwide, has been identified by scientists.



Down and dirty: Cleaning Okinawan pig farm wastewater with microbial fuel cells
Scientists have enhanced the productivity of green technology used to treat wastewater from pig farms, explains a new report.



Genomic study explores evolution of gentle 'killer bees' in Puerto Rico
A study of Puerto Rico's Africanized honey bees -- which are more docile than other so-called 'killer bees' -- shows they retain most of the genetic traits of their African honey bee ancestors, but that a few regions of their DNA have become more like those of European honey bees. These changes likely contributed to the bees' rapid evolution toward gentleness in Puerto Rico, a change that occurred within 30 years, and could spell hope for beekeeping in North America.



Where a leaf lands and lies influences carbon levels in soil for years to come
Whether carbon comes from leaves or needles affects how fast it decomposes, but where it ends up determines how long it's available.



Rising inequality charted across millennia
Researchers have found that the arc of prehistory bends towards economic inequality. In the largest study of its kind, the researchers saw disparities in wealth mount with the rise of agriculture, specifically the domestication of plants and large animals, and increased social organization.



Filling intercropping info gap
In some parts of Africa, farmers intercrop sorghum -- a grain -- and peanuts. But they face a major information gap. There hasn't been much research on optimal levels of fertilizer use for intercropping sorghum and peanuts in these areas. A new study has filled this information gap. Researchers have developed a method to help farmers determine how much fertilizer to apply when intercropping.



How to keep cows happy
New research now shows that removing splashes of colors, shadows or water puddles from corrals, keeping noise levels down and not using dogs and electric prods can dramatically reduce the stress cattle experience.



Organic farming can make an important contribution to world nutrition, research shows
A global conversion to organic farming can contribute to a profoundly sustainable food system, provided that it is combined with further measures, specifically with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed and less food waste, shows new research.



Flower attracts insects by pretending to be a mushroom
The mysterious flowers of Aspidistra elatior are found on the southern Japanese island of Kuroshima. Until recently, scientists thought that  A. elatior  had the most unusual pollination ecology among all flowering plants, being pollinated by slugs and amphipods. However, direct observation of their ecosystem has revealed that they are mainly pollinated by fungus gnats, probably thanks to their resemblance to mushrooms.



Tumbling bumblebee populations linked to fungicides
When a team of scientists analyzed two dozen environmental factors to understand bumblebee population declines and range contractions, they expected to find stressors like changes in land use, geography or insecticides. Instead, they found a shocker: fungicides, commonly thought to have no impact.



Disease-resistant apples perform better than old favorites
You may not find them in the produce aisle yet, but it's only a matter of time before new disease-resistant apple cultivars overtake favorites like Honeycrisp in popularity.



Pesticides may cause bumblebees to lose their buzz, study finds
Pesticides significantly reduce the number of pollen grains a bumblebee is able to collect, a new study has found.



Sun's role in mitigating fungal disease of mango fruit
The occurrence of stem end rot (SER) during storage means major losses for mango fruit growers and suppliers. Promising new research explores sunlight's role in cultivating a beneficial mix of microorganisms that help mitigate SER.



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