Better Beer by Biological Betterment

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Barley, like many other plants, faces worse growing conditions thanks to the ongoing climate crisis. Also like other plants, researchers are looking into ways to help the plant survive unpredictable weather changes. Biologists in Japan have modified the barley plant to survive early flooding which will help farmers get a good price for their crop while also ensuring we have a reliable source of a key ingredient for beer.?

The researchers are ecstatic to have hit gold in their plant biotechnology endeavor. Dr. Hisano exclaims, “We could successfully produce mutant barley that was resistant to pre-harvest sprouting, using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Also, our study has not only clarified the roles of qsd1 and qsd2 in grain germination or dormancy, but has also established that qsd2 plays a more significant role.”

Overall, this study serves as a milestone for present and future crop improvement research, using efficient gene manipulation like that offered by CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers are hopeful that they may be able to solve the food and environmental problems that human beings are currently facing worldwide, using their enhanced biotechnology techniques.

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Historians and Farmers Working Together will Help Crops Grow

Food price volatility and production due to climate change is upon us already, and you’ve probably noticed it at your local grocer through increase costs. Farmers are grappling with climate change’s impact on predictable weather, meaning crops are have a harder time growing and farmers have a hard time planning.

Historians provide a solution. By looking into how agrarian societies survived (and failed) in the past we can better see what our future holds. There are techniques, policies, and trading routes that we may need to revive from hundreds of years ago to ensure we can feed all on Earth.

Such policies and community projects, some of which I have had the privilege to be involved with, deal mostly with the present and the future. Yet for decades, climate historians have also looked to the past to more fully understand the relationship between human history and the Earth’s climate systems. Agriculture has been at the center of many of these studies, as many pre-industrial societies relied largely on arable crop outputs whose success was contingent on specific meteorological and ecological conditions. All methods of food production, from farming to hunting, fishing, and foraging, were intimately linked to seasonal, annual, and decadal variations in weather and climate. For agrarian societies who relied on arable staple crops such as wheat or rice, the success or failure of a harvest had multifold ramifications for individuals, communities, and economic systems. 

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Cleaner Air Produced $5 Billion in Crops

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Farmers can’t control the air quality of their farms, yet the air makes quite the difference to the success of the crops. Since air can’t respect property rights it requires governments to act, and that’s what happened back in the 1990s in the USA when environmental regulations to improve air quality were put in place. A study of the impact of those regulations revealed that $5 billion USD in crops can be traced back to improved air quality.

Protecting the environment is good for the planet and for profits!

Focusing on a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) that produces roughly two-thirds of national maize and soybean output, Lobell and study co-author Jennifer Burney, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, San Diego, set out to measure the impact on crop yields of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

“This has been a tricky problem to untangle because historically our measurements of different types of air pollutants and our measurements of agricultural yields haven’t really overlapped spatially at the necessary resolution,” explained Burney. “With the new high spatial resolution data, we could look at crop yields near both pollution monitors and known pollutant emissions sources. That revealed evidence of different magnitudes of negative impacts caused by different pollutants.”

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Peru bans GMO foods

Due to the unknown effects that genetically modified plants can have and the intellectual property issues around them (basically Monsanto sues everyone), Peru has joined other counties in banning GMO foods. This good to see since there are so many unknowns around growing and consuming GMO products.

Peru has said “no” to genetically modified foods — a 10-year ban on GMO foods takes effect this week. Peru’s ban on GMO foods prohibits the import, production and use of genetically modified foods. The law is aimed at safeguarding the country’s agricultural diversity and preventing cross-pollination with non-GMO crops. It will also help protect Peruvian exports of organic products.

Peru isn’t the first country to ban GMO foods or place restrictions on their use. Earlier this year, Russia suspended imports of Monsanto’s GMO corn after a French study linked the corn to cancer; France also has a temporary ban on the corn. Ireland has banned the growing of GMO crops since 2009. Japan and Egypt also ban the cultivation of GMO crops. In 2010, Switzerland extended a moratorium on genetically modified animals and plants, banning GMOs until 2013.

Read more here.

Organic Fertilizers Cost Effective and Better for Crops

Here’s a good story about how poor farmers in Kenya have shunned expensive chemical fertilizers for cheaper organic ones.

The organic fertiliser is sprayed onto maize two weeks after planting, and a month later.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services through Kenya Agriculture Research Institute have tested the fertiliser’s components and given an analytical report.

Mr Mosbei said the use of organic fertiliser, apart from rejuvenating soil quality, saves farmers about 70 percent of the cost of production.

“Whereas it takes a farmer in the North Rift 100kg of DAP and 50kg of top dressing to plant an acre of maize, all they require is only eight litres at Sh300 per litre for the same acre,” said Mr Mosbei.

“The organic fertiliser enriches the soil with minerals and maintains an ample PH level for the minerals required by plants for optimum yield,” added Mr Rono.

Read the full article.

Thanks Greg!

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