Category Archives: Uncategorized

Scientists: We’ve Cracked Wheat’s Genetic Code

Associated Press.  27 August 2010.  British scientists have decoded the genetic sequence of wheat — one of the world’s oldest and most important crops — a development they hope could help the global staple meet the challenges of climate change, disease and population growth.

Hard Red Winter Wheat, Lodi, California

Wheat is grown across more of the world’s farmland than any other cereal, and researchers said Friday they’re posting its genetic code to the Internet in the hope that scientists can use it as a tool to improve farmers’ harvests. One academic in the field called the discovery “a landmark.”

“The wheat genome is the holy grail of plant genomes,” said Nick Talbot, a professor of biosciences at the University of Exeter who wasn’t involved in the research. “It’s going to really revolutionize how we breed it.”  read more

Drought-Tolerance Key To Increasing Food Production

Croplife.  9 August 2010.  Increasing agriculture productivity to meet growing global demand for food must be accompanied by an intense, innovative effort to enhance the environmental imprint of farming to be sustainable, according to DuPont executive vice president Jim Borel.

“We face the daunting challenge of nearly doubling agriculture production to meet the demands of the estimated 9 billion people expected by 2050,” Borel says. “Success in this endeavor will require new and sustained levels of innovation, such as improvements in drought tolerance, to increase productivity of the global food supply without increasing the stress upon our natural resources or the environment.

“Drought tolerance technologies are part of the next great wave of agricultural innovation that will improve agronomic characteristics of plants so they more efficiently use available resources,” Borel says. “They will further empower farmers with better product choices to meet growing demand while reducing their environmental footprint.”

Many environmental factors can reduce agriculture productivity, but drought is by far the most damaging. In 2009 alone, drought cost farmers $14 billion worldwide. Eighty-five percent of the U.S. corn crop is affected by drought stress at some time during the growing season each year, and just four days of severe drought stress during the peak of summer can cut yields in half.

The drought research facility in Woodland, CA, is one of two managed stress facilities DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred uses to evaluate crop performance under targeted drought or nutrient stresses. It receives little or no precipitation during the growing season, allowing researchers to control the amount of water applied through precision irrigation.

The Coolest Forms of Life on Earth

ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2010) — Two UK scientists are travelling to one of the coldest places on Earth to help them understand how life could exist on other planets in our Solar System.

Professor Liane Benning (University of Leeds) and Dr Dominique Tobler (University of Glasgow) are travelling to Ny-Ålesund on the island of Svalbard to investigate how the snow and ice there was first colonised by extremophiles — organisms that thrive in harsh conditions.

The team will spend two weeks on Svalbard from 6 to 20 August as part of the Europlanet Research Infrastructure’s Transnational Access Programme. The expedition is part of the larger international AMASE project, which uses extreme environments on Earth as a test-bed for technology that will be used on future NASA and ESA ‘Search for Life’ missions to Mars.

“Glacial snow and ice is a good analogue for ice and frost-covered ground at the Martian poles or other icy bodies in the Solar System, like Europa,” said Professor Benning.

“Organisms that live here have evolved to thrive with very little food, large temperature fluctuations, dehydration and high levels of UV radiation. For example, snow algae make carotinoids pigments that protect them from UV radiation and cause the snow to turn bright red.

“If we can learn more about how life can form and thrive in these areas, and the survival strategies they adopt, it gives us a better chance of detecting life on other planets with similarly extreme conditions.”  read more

Alfalfa Sprouts Recall

American Vegetable Grower.  26 May 2010.  Caldwell Fresh Foods of Maywood, CA, is voluntarily recalling all of its alfalfa sprouts marketed under the Caldwell Fresh Foods, Nature’s Choice, and California Exotics brands. The recalled products have been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella infections in consumers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

The sprouts were distributed to a variety of restaurants, delicatessens, and retailers, including Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart stores.

Lost in Translation?

In a Japanese hotel: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.”

In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: “Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.”

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”

On the menu of a Polish hotel: “Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.”

A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: “It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.”