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Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

July 30, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

For decades, strategic seed collections that help preserve biodiversity have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather. A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. A new approach called simulation-based planning was used to recommend how seeds are saved and reintroduced.

Study: Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

July 2, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion...

A win-win-win solution: Biofuel, climate and biodiversity

June 25, 2014 10:44 pm | News | Comments

Fossil fuel emissions release billions of tons of...

How much fertilizer is too much for Earth's climate?

June 11, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

A study published by Michigan State Univ....

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Common bean genome sequence may help improve critical food crop

June 9, 2014 10:43 am | News | Comments

An international collaboration of researchers have sequenced and analyzed the genome of the common bean to begin to identify genes involved in critical traits such as size, flavor, disease resistance and drought tolerance. They learned that, unlike most other food crops, the common bean was domesticated twice by humans about 8,000 years ago. The results of the study may help guide modern breeding programs.

Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in caves, mines

May 13, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield. The technique could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines.

Enzyme study raises possibility of more productive plants

May 12, 2014 2:42 pm | News | Comments

Plant scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another. The research lead to the development of plants that can accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum.

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Food security may be increased by new agricultural production modeling

May 5, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Farmers optimize crop production on their own lands by rotating crops, or testing soils to choose the right amount of fertilizers to apply. But is it possible to optimize production across a much bigger area, such as the eastern U.S.? That’s the question a team of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scientists has begun to tackle by developing a sophisticated new modeling tool.

Scientists identify genes that could lead to tough, disease-resistant rice

April 1, 2014 3:28 pm | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

As the Earth’s human population marches toward 9 billion, the need for hardy new varieties of grain crops has never been greater. It won’t be enough to yield record harvests under perfect conditions; new grains must also be able to handle stress from climate changes. Researchers in Michigan have recently identified a set of genes that could be key to the development of the next generation of super rice.

Satellite shows high productivity from U.S. corn belt

March 31, 2014 12:39 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere's growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists who have figured out how to obtain plant fluorescence data from existing satellites.

Team converts sugarcane to a cold-tolerant, oil-producing crop

February 24, 2014 11:23 am | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30% and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. These are only the first steps in a bigger initiative that will turn the highly productive sugarcane and sorghum crop plants into even more productive, oil-generating plants.

Oil composition boost makes hemp a cooking contender

February 11, 2014 8:24 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have reported the development of hemp plants with a dramatically increased content of oleic acid. The new oil profile results in an attractive cooking oil that is similar to olive oil in terms of fatty acid content but has a much longer shelf life as well as greater heat tolerance and potentially more industrial applications. This could make hemp a more attractive break crop for cereal farmers.

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Study uses neutron scattering, supercomputing to demystify biofuel production

November 14, 2013 7:23 am | News | Comments

Researchers studying more effective ways to convert woody plant matter into biofuels have identified fundamental forces that change plant structures during pretreatment processes used in the production of bioenergy. Experimental techniques including neutron scattering and x-ray analysis with supercomputer simulations revealed unexpected findings about what happens to water molecules trapped between cellulose fibers.

Research grant seeks to reduce crops' fertilizer dependence

October 18, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

A research team including a Penn State chemical engineer was recently awarded a $3.9 million National Science Foundation grant to understand how blue-green algae convert nitrogen into oxygen. The objective is to learn how to "transplant" the nitrogen fixing capability of one species to another.

Study of photosynthesis clears the path to developing new super-crops

October 17, 2013 1:28 pm | News | Comments

Around 3% of all plants use an advanced form of photosynthesis, which allows them to capture more carbon dioxide, use less water, and grow more rapidly. This phenomenon had been a mystery, but researchers have used a mathematical analysis to uncover a number of tiny changes in the plants' physiology that allow them to grow more quickly, using a third as much water as other plants and capturing around 13 times more carbon dioxide.

Device speeds concentration step in food-pathogen detection

October 14, 2013 1:39 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods by using hollow thread-like fibers that filter out the cells. The machine, called a continuous cell concentration device, could make it possible to routinely analyze food or water samples to screen for pathogens within a single work shift at food processing plants.

“PhytoBot” captures plants growth in unprecedented detail

September 19, 2013 10:19 am | News | Comments

Watching a plant grow and develop roots can be a long and tiresome process, but watching this process closely can reveal what happens to a genetically modified organism. A recently developed system from IntelLiDrives and the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison uses robotic cameras and computerized motion control systems to make this process easier.

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Sharing the risks and costs of biomass crops

September 4, 2013 4:09 pm | News | Comments

Farmers who grow corn and soybeans can take advantage of government price support programs and crop insurance, but similar programs are not available for those who grow biomass crops. A new study recommends a framework for contracts between growers and biorefineries to help spell out expectations and designate who will assume the risks and costs.

International collaborations to design crops of the future

August 23, 2013 12:19 pm | News | Comments

Four teams of researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom recently were awarded more than $12 million to begin a program of novel research to revolutionize current farming methods by giving crops the ability to thrive without using costly, polluting artificial fertilizers.

Existing cropland could feed 4 billion more people

August 1, 2013 3:24 pm | News | Comments

The world’s croplands could boost food available for people by 70% without clearing more land, according to research from the Univ. of Minnesota. This could be accomplished just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption, researchers say.

Gulf “dead zone” above average but not near record

July 31, 2013 8:02 am | by Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press | News | Comments

This summer's "dead zone" at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where there's so little oxygen that starfish suffocate, is bigger than average but doesn't approach record size as scientists had predicted, according to findings released this week. The area of low oxygen covers 5,840 square miles of the Gulf floor—roughly the size of Connecticut.

Technology could enable all crops to take nitrogen from the air

July 26, 2013 9:20 am | News | Comments

All plants need nitrogen to convert into ammonia, but only a small number of plants can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. The rest are helped by synthetic fertilizers, which have been blamed for nitrogen pollution. A scientist in the U.K., Edward Cocking, has found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. The technology is being commercialized.

Drought response identified in potential biofuel plant

July 15, 2013 10:39 pm | by Hannah Y Cheng, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Jatropha, a plant variety that has been pursued as possible source for biofuel, has seeds with high oil content. But the oil's potential as a biofuel is limited because, for large-scale production, this shrub-like plant needs the same amount of care and resources as crop plants. By focusing on the plant’s drought response and using engineered genetics, the scientists have learned more about potentially improving the plant’s function.

Robots to revolutionize U.S. farms, ease labor woes

July 15, 2013 8:09 am | by Gosia Wozniacka and Terence Chea, Associated Press | News | Comments

Researchers are now designing robots for the last frontier of agricultural mechanization: fruits and vegetables. Sensitive to bruising, these crops have resisted mechanization. But engineers from Silicon Valley have been working on the Lettuce Bot, which can thin a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 works to do the job by hand.

Scientists identify thousands of plant genes activated by ethylene gas

June 11, 2013 5:56 pm | News | Comments

Ways to ripen, or spoil, fruit have been known for thousands of years—as the Bible can attest—but now the genes underlying these phenomena of nature have been revealed. Researchers led by the Salk Institute have traced the thousands of genes in a plant that are activated once ethylene, a gas that acts as a plant growth hormone, is released. This study is the first such comprehensive genomic analysis of ethylene's biological trigger.

How do you feed 9 billion people?

June 10, 2013 9:23 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has developed crop models to better forecast food production to feed a growing population—projected to reach 9 billion by mid-century—in the face of climate change. The team recently unveiled an all-encompassing modeling system that integrates multiple crop simulations with improved climate change models.

Platinum nanoparticles may keep fruit fresh longer

May 13, 2013 8:16 am | News | Comments

Ripening fruit, vegetables, and flowers release ethylene, which works as a plant hormone. Ethylene accelerates ripening, so other unripened fruit also begins to ripen—fruit and vegetables quickly spoil and flowers wilt. researchers in Japan have now introduced a new catalytic system for the fast and complete degradation of ethylene. This could keep the air in warehouses ethylene-free, keeping perishable products fresh longer.

Team creates potential food source from non-food plants

April 16, 2013 8:25 am | News | Comments

Starch is one of the most important components of the human diet and provides 20 to 40% of our daily caloric intake. A team of Virginia Tech researchers has succeeded in transforming cellulose into starch in a process that could provide a previously untapped nutrient source from plants not traditionally thought of as food crops. The process works with cellulose from any plant.

Dow AgroSciences opens new facility at global headquarters

April 11, 2013 2:57 am | News | Comments

The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences officially opened a new 175,000-square-foot R&D facility this week. Part laboratory, part greenhouse, the laboratory is part of a global growth plan for Dow AgroSciences’ research efforts for the development and commercialization of new crop protection and seed, traits, and oils products for growers around the world.

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