Some big food makers are getting serious about making sure farmers grow crops in ways that minimize damage to water, soil and the environment, according to a report released this week that calls for more companies to demand sustainable supplies.
Companies including Walmart, Coca-Cola, General Mills and Unilever have taken steps to work with suppliers on environmental improvements, the report says, but adds that measurable goals and firm deadlines are necessary to make real improvements.
The next time you visit the bathroom, consider the valuable resources you’re flushing away.
“Urine contains all the essential components for plant growth, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium,” says the Univ. of Technology, Sydney’s Dena Fam. “Yet our sewers carry these nutrients essential for agricultural production away from our urban centers and discharge them into waterways where they have the potential to negatively impact aquatic ecosystems.”
The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to help Central American farmers fight a devastating coffee disease — and hold down the price of your morning cup.
At issue is a fungus called coffee rust that has caused more than $1 billion in damage across Latin American region. The fungus is especially deadly to Arabica coffee, the bean that makes up most high-end, specialty coffees. Already, it is affecting the price of some of those coffees in the U.S.
At the elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 anticipated by around 2050, crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Given that an estimated two billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change.
“This study is the first to resolve the question of whether rising CO2 concentrations — which have been increasing steadily since the Industrial Revolution —threaten human nutrition,” says Samuel Myers, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and the study’s lead author.
The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops – this is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen Univ. & Research Centre. This would prove highly practical if we ever decide to send people on a one-way trip to the red planet. After all, if we are going to live anywhere in outer space in the future Mars stands a good chance of being the place.
In a unique pilot experiment Wamelink tested the growth of 14 plant varieties on artificial Mars soil over 50 days. NASA composed the soil based on the volcanic soil of Hawaii. To his surprise, the plants grew well; some even blossomed.
New York’s alcoholic beverage industry was on display at a summit this week organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to focus on bolstering the business. Cuomo said that New York is home to more than 600 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries and ranks third in the nation in wine and grape production.
New York’s alcoholic beverage industry employed 85,000 people and the combination of manufacturing, agriculture, distribution and retail had an economic impact of $27 billion in 2012, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and New York Wine and Grape Foundation.
A recent discovery could lead to easier genetic modification of plant varieties considered recalcitrant to standard methods, including varieties of economically important crops.
A Purdue Univ. research team identified a gene that influences susceptibility to infection by Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a bacterium that is used as a tool to insert genes into plants to produce traits such as resistance to pests, diseases or harsh environmental conditions or to improve the nutrition or shelf life of a crop.
Univ. of Adelaide researchers have developed a new web-based tool to help unlock the complex genetics and biological processes behind grapevine development.
Published in the journal BMC Genomics, the researchers describe their online database that can be used to examine how almost 30,000 genes work together in groups and networks to produce the vine and its grapes.
Co-products from Human Food Industry Can Benefit Pigs
Co-products from the human food industry offer a lower-cost alternative to cereal grains in diets fed to pigs. Research at the Univ. of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences is helping to determine the nutritional value of these ingredients so that producers can make informed choices about incorporating them into swine diets, says Hans Stein, a U of I animal science researcher.
Researchers led by Stein conducted two experiments using corn and corn co-products. In the first experiment, they measured the concentrations of digestible and metabolizable energy in distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), hominy feed, bakery meal, corn gluten meal, corn gluten feed and corn germ meal. In the second experiment, they determined the standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus in pigs fed diets containing these ingredients without or with the addition of microbial phytase.
Wildfires May Degrade Air Quality, Health in the Future
As the American West, parched by prolonged drought, braces for a season of potentially record-breaking wildfires, new research suggests these events not only pose an immediate threat to people’s safety and their homes, but also could take a toll on human health, agriculture and ecosystems. The study, appearing in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, could help societies map out a plan to mitigate these effects in wildfire-prone regions.
Biocides used in the food industry at sublethal doses may be endangering, rather than protecting, public health by increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria and enhancing their ability to form harmful biofilms, according to a study published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, published by the American Society for Microbiology. This is among the first studies to examine the latter phenomenon.