Rising temperatures hinder Indian wheat production

Geographers at the University of Southampton have found a link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production.Researchers Dr John Duncan, Dr Jadu Dash and Professor Pete Atkinson have shown that recent warmer temperatures in the country’s major wheat belt are having a negative effect on crop yield. More specifically, they found a rise in nighttime temperatures is having the most impact.Dr Jadu Dash comments: “Our findings highlight the vulnerability of India’s wheat production system to temperature rise, which is predicted to continue in the coming decades as a consequence of climate change. We are sounding an early warning to the problem, which could have serious implications in the future and so needs further investigation.”The researchers used satellite images taken at weekly intervals from 2002 to 2007 of the wheat growing seasons to measure ‘vegetation greenness’ of the crop — acting as an indicator of crop yield. The satellite imagery, of the north west Indo-Gangetic plains, was taken at a resolution of 500m squared — high enough to capture variations in local agricultural practices. The data was then compared with climate and temperature information for the area to examine the effect on growth and development of the crop.The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, found that:warmer temperature events have reduced crop yield in particular, warmer temperatures during the reproductive and grain-filling (ripening) periods had a significant negative impact on productivity warmer minimum daily temperatures (nighttime temperatures) had the most significant impact on yield In some areas of the Indian wheat belt, growers have been bringing forward their growing season in order to align the most sensitive point of the crop growth cycle with a cooler period. However, the researchers have also shown that in the long-term this will not be an effective way of combating the problem, because of the high level of average temperature rise predicted for the future.Dr Dash comments: “Our study shows that, over the longer period, farmers are going to have to think seriously about changing their wheat to more heat tolerant varieties in order to prevent temperature-induced yield losses.”Currently in India, 213 million people are food insecure and over 100 million are reliant on the national food welfare system, which uses huge quantities of wheat. This underlines how crucial it is to consider what types of wheat need to be grown in the coming decades to secure production.”We hope that soon, we will be able to examine agricultural practices in even greater detail — with the launch of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites which will provide regular data at even higher spatial resolution.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Genome analysis helps in breeding more robust cows

Genome analysis of 234 bulls has put researchers, including several from Wageningen Livestock Research, on the trail of DNA variants which influence particular characteristics in breeding bulls. For example, two variants have proven responsible for disruptions to the development of embryos and for curly hair, which is disadvantageous because more ticks and parasites occur in curly hair than in short, straight hair. These are the first results of the large 1000 Bull Genomes project on which some 30 international researchers are collaborating. They report on their research in the most recent edition of the science journal Nature Genetics.Most breeding characteristics are influenced by not one but a multiplicity of variants. It is therefore important to be able to use all the variants in breeding, say the Wageningen researchers. In order to make this possible, Rianne van Binsbergen, PhD researcher at the Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre of Wageningen UR, investigated whether the genomes of all the common bulls in the Netherlands can be filled with the help of these 234 bulls. Currently, these bulls have been genotyped with markers of 50,000 or 700,000 DNA variants. The positive results indicate the direction for further research into the practical use of genome information in breeding.Dairy and beef cattle The project demonstrates how useful large-scale DNA analyses can be, says Professor Roel Veerkamp, Professor of Numerical Genetics at Wageningen University and board member of the 1000 Bull Genomes project. He emphasises that the requirements for dairy and beef cattle are becoming ever more exacting: “Until the mid nineties, a cow primarily had to produce a lot of milk. But since then, expectations have gone up. …

Read more

Leaf-mining insects destroyed with the dinosaurs, others quickly appeared

After the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period that triggered the dinosaurs’ extinction and ushered in the Paleocene, leaf-mining insects in the western United States completely disappeared. Only a million years later, at Mexican Hat, in southeastern Montana, fossil leaves show diverse leaf-mining traces from new insects that were not present during the Cretaceous, according to paleontologists.”Our results indicate both that leaf-mining diversity at Mexican Hat is even higher than previously recognized, and equally importantly, that none of the Mexican Hat mines can be linked back to the local Cretaceous mining fauna,” said Michael Donovan, graduate student in geosciences, Penn State.Insects that eat leaves produce very specific types of damage. One type is from leaf miners — insect larvae that live in the leaves and tunnel for food, leaving distinctive feeding paths and patterns of droppings.Donovan, Peter Wilf, professor of geosciences, Penn State, and colleagues looked at 1,073 leaf fossils from Mexican Hat for mines. They compared these with more than 9,000 leaves from the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, from the Hell Creek Formation in southwestern North Dakota, and with more than 9,000 Paleocene leaves from the Fort Union Formation in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. The researchers present their results in today’s (July 24) issue of PLOS ONE.”We decided to focus on leaf miners because they are typically host specific, feeding on only a few plant species each,” said Donovan. “Each miner also leaves an identifiable mining pattern.”The researchers found nine different mine-damage types at Mexican Hat attributable to the larvae of moths, wasps and flies, and six of these damage types were unique to the site.The researchers were unsure whether the high diversity of leaf miners at Mexican Hat compared to other early Paleocene sites, where there is little or no leaf mining, was caused by insects that survived the extinction event in refugia — areas where organisms persist during adverse conditions — or were due to range expansions of insects from somewhere else during the early Paleocene.However, with further study, the researchers found no evidence of the survival of any leaf miners over the Cretaceous-Paleocene boundary, suggesting an even more total collapse of terrestrial food webs than has been recognized previously.”These results show that the high insect damage diversity at Mexican Hat represents an influx of novel insect herbivores during the early Paleocene and not a refugium for Cretaceous leaf miners,” said Wilf. “The new herbivores included a startling diversity for any time period, and especially for the classic post-extinction disaster interval.”Insect extinction across the Cretaceous-Paleocene boundary may have been directly caused by catastrophic conditions after the asteroid impact and by the disappearance of host plant species. While insect herbivores constantly need leaves to survive, plants can remain dormant as seeds in the ground until more auspicious circumstances occur.The low-diversity flora at Mexican Hat is typical for the area in the early Paleocene, so what caused the high insect damage diversity?Insect outbreaks are associated with a rapid population increase of a single insect species, so the high diversity of mining damage seen in the Mexican Hat fossils makes the possibility of an outbreak improbable.The researchers hypothesized that the leaf miners that are seen in the Mexican Hat fossils appeared in that area because of a transient warming event, a number of which occurred during the early Paleocene.”Previous studies have shown a correlation between temperature and insect damage diversity in the fossil record, possibly caused by evolutionary radiations or range shifts in response to a warmer climate,” said Donovan. “Current evidence suggests that insect herbivore extinction decreased with increasing distance from the asteroid impact site in Mexico, so pools of surviving insects would have existed elsewhere that could have provided a source for the insect influx that we observed at Mexican Hat.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by A’ndrea Eluse Messer. …

Read more

Changes in agriculture increase high river flow rates

Just as a leaky roof can make a house cooler and wetter when it’s raining as well as hotter and dryer when it’s sunny, changes in land use can affect river flow in both rainy and dry times, say two University of Iowa researchers.While it may be obvious that changes in river water discharge across the U.S. Midwest can be related to changes in rainfall and agricultural land use, it is important to learn how these two factors interact in order to get a better understanding of what the future may look like, says Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, assistant research engineer at IIHR — Hydroscience & Engineering and lead author of a published research paper on the subject.”We wanted to know what the relative impacts of precipitation and agricultural practices played in shaping the discharge record that we see today,” he says. “Is it an either/or answer or a much more nuanced one?”By understanding our past we are better positioned in making meaningful statements about our future,” he says.The potential benefits of understanding river flow are especially great in the central United States, particularly Iowa, where spring and summer floods have hit the area in 1993, 2008, 2013 and 2014, interrupted by the drought of 2012. Large economic damage and even loss of life have resulted, says co-author Aaron Strong, UI assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and with the Environmental Policy Program at the UI Public Policy Center.”What is interesting to note,” says Strong, “is that the impacts, in terms of flooding, have been exacerbated. At the same time, the impacts of drought, for in-stream flow, have been mitigated with the changes in land use composition that we have seen over the last century.”In order to study the effect of changes in agricultural practices on Midwest river discharge, the researchers focused on Iowa’s Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa. The 9,000-square-kilometer watershed has the advantage of having had its water discharge levels measured and recorded daily for most of the 20th century right on up to the present day. (The study focused on the period 1927-2012). During that period, the number of acres used for corn and soybean production greatly increased, roughly doubling over the course of the 20th century.Not surprisingly, they found that variability in rainfall is responsible for most of the changes in water discharge volumes.However, the water discharge rates also varied with changes in agricultural practices, as defined by soybean and corn harvested acreage in the Raccoon River watershed. In times of flood and in times of drought, water flow rates were exacerbated by more or less agriculture, respectively. The authors suggest that although flood conditions may be exacerbated by increases in agricultural production, this concern “must all be balanced by the private concerns of increased revenue from agricultural production through increased cultivation.””Our results suggest that changes in agricultural practices over this watershed — with increasing acreage planted in corn and soybeans over time — translated into a seven-fold increase in rainfall contribution to the average annual maximum discharge when we compare the present to the 1930s,” Villarini says.The UI research paper, “Roles of climate and agricultural practices in discharge changes in an agricultural watershed in Iowa,” can be found in the April 15 online edition of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. …

Read more

Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., this August. Visitors will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.Lake will also host a special session on a “sense of place,” sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.”The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system,” said Lake. “To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system.”Lake, raised among the Yurok and Karuk tribes in the Klamath River area of northernmost California, began his career with an interest in fisheries, but soon realized he would need to understand fire to restore salmon. Fire exerts a powerful effect on ecosystems, including the quality and quantity of water available in watersheds, in part by reducing the density of vegetation.”Those trees that have grown up since fire suppression are like straws sucking up the groundwater,” Lake said.The convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers was historically one of the largest salmon bearing runs on the West Coast, Lake said, and the Miwok, Patwin and Yokut tribal peoples who lived in the area saw and understood how fire was involved.California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. …

Read more

New hope for powdery mildew resistant barley

New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes a year. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist.”Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.”In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore even more important.”The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.”Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material — a papillae — around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.”It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.”It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.”We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Increasing diversity of marketable raspberries

Raspberries are the third most popular berry in the United States. Their popularity is growing as a specialty crop for the wholesale industry and in smaller, local markets, and U-pick operations. As consumer interest in the health benefits of colorful foods increases, small growers are capitalizing on novelty fruit and vegetable crops such as different-colored raspberries. Authors of a newly published study say that increasing the diversity of raspberry colors in the market will benefit both consumers and producers. “Producers will need to know how fruit of the other color groups compare with red raspberries with regard to the many postharvest qualities,” noted the University of Maryland’s Julia Harshman, corresponding author of the study published in HortScience (March 2014).Raspberries have an extremely short shelf life, which can be worsened by postharvest decay. Postharvest susceptibility to gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) drastically reduces the shelf life of this delicate fruit. “The main goal of our research was to compare the postharvest quality of different-colored raspberries that were harvested from floricanes under direct-market conditions with minimal pesticide inputs,” Harshman said. The researchers said that, although there is abundant information in the literature regarding red raspberry production in regard to gray mold, very little research has been conducted on postharvest physiology of black, yellow, or purple raspberries.The researchers analyzed 17 varieties of raspberries at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, examining each cultivar for characteristics such as anthocyanins, soluble solids, titratable acids, pH, color, firmness, decay and juice leakage rates, ethylene evolution, and respiration.”In comparing the four commonly grown colors of raspberry, we drew several important conclusions,” they said. “The mechanisms controlling decay and juice leakage are distinct and mediated by both biotic and abiotic factors. The colors that performed well for one area are opposite the ones that did well in the other.” For example, firmness was expected to track closely with either leakage or decay resistance; however, the analyses did not indicate this.Red raspberries, in comparison with the other three colors analyzed during the study, had the highest titratable acids (TA) and the lowest ratio of soluble solids to TA, which, the authors say, accounts for the tart raspberry flavor consumers expect.Yellow raspberries had the lowest levels of anthocyanins and phenolics. …

Read more

Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change

Research published in Science today found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.”Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra CO2 in the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.”We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Northern Arizona University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

How Australia’s Outback got one million feral camels: Camels culled on large scale

A new study by a University of Exeter researcher has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia’s remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled on a large scale.Sarah Crowley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, explored the history of the camel in Australia, from their historic role helping to create the country’s infrastructure through to their current status as unwelcome “invader.”The deserts of the Australian outback are a notoriously inhospitable environment where few species can survive. But the dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) prospers where others perish, eating 80% of native plant species and obtaining much of their water through ingesting this vegetation.Yet for numerous Australians, particularly ranchers, conservation managers, and increasingly local and national governments, camels are perceived as pests and extreme measures — including shooting them with rifles from helicopters — are being taken to reduce their population.In her article, published in the journal Anthrozos, Crowley proposes that today’s Australian camels exemplify the idea of “animals out of place” and discusses how they have come to inhabit this precarious position.She said: “Reports estimate there are upwards of a million free-ranging camels in Australia and predict that this number could double every eight years. As their population burgeons, camels encroach more frequently upon human settlements and agricultural lands, raising their media profile and increasing local animosity toward them.”The camel was first brought to Australia in the 1800s when the country was in the midst of a flurry of colonial activity. The animals were recognized by pioneers as the most appropriate mode of transport for the challenging environment because they require significantly less water, feed on a wider variety of vegetation, and are capable of carrying heavier loads than horses and donkeys.Camels therefore played a significant role in the establishment of Australia’s modern infrastructure, including the laying of the Darwin-Adelaide Overland Telegraph Line and the construction of the Transnational Railway.Once this infrastructure was in place, however, and motorized transport became increasingly widespread, camels were no longer indispensable. In the early part of the 20th century they rapidly lost their economic value and their displaced handlers either shot their wards or released them into the outback where, quite discreetly, they thrived.It was not until the 1980s that surveys hinted at the true extent of their numbers, and only in 2001 that reports of damage caused by camels were brought to the general populace.Camels are not the most dainty of creatures. Dromedaries are on average six feet tall at the shoulder, rendering cattle fencing no particular obstacle to their movement. By some accounts, camels may not even see small fences and consequently walk straight through them.Groups of camels arriving on agricultural properties and settlements in Australia, normally in times of severe drought, can also cause significant damage in their search for water.In 2009, a large-scale culling operation began. There were objections from animal welfare groups and some landowners who were concerned that the method of culling from helicopters, leaving the bodies to waste, is inhumane. Most objectors, however, were primarily concerned that culling is economically wasteful and felt that the camels should be mustered for slaughter or export.There are also concerns regarding the global environment, as camels may contribute to the desertification of the Australian landscape. They are also ruminants and thus produce methane, adding to Australia’s carbon emissions. …

Read more

Rice gets trendy, adds nutrients, so much more

In the April issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Senior Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about rice becoming a trendy culinary selection of many restaurant menus but also the go-to solution for consumers looking for gluten-and allergen-free choices rich in nutrients.The National Restaurant Association’s 2014 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast predicts diners will see more rice selections on restaurant menus including black rice and red rice. Food scientists are looking for new ways to incorporate rice into many consumer products.Rice ingredients can enrich food and beverage products with nutrients, improve textural attributes, replace common food allergens, function in gluten-free formulations, and act as a thickening agent, while providing a cost-effective protein source.The article highlighted food scientists using sprouted brown rice to increase protein in bars, powdered shakes, soups, pastas, ready-to-drink beverages, cereals and sweet and savory snacks. Rice starches are being used to provide a variety of texture options in both food and beverages, from smooth and creamy to crispy and crunchy. Rice is also being used to enrich diets with more fiber.The article online can be found at: http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2014/april/columns/ingredients.aspxStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Food quality will suffer with rising carbon dioxide, field study shows

For the first time, a field test has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants’ assimilation of nitrate into proteins, indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies.Findings from this wheat field-test study, led by a UC Davis plant scientist, will be reported online April 6 in the journal Nature Climate Change.”Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.”Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” he said.The assimilation, or processing, of nitrogen plays a key role in the plant’s growth and productivity. In food crops, it is especially important because plants use nitrogen to produce the proteins that are vital for human nutrition. Wheat, in particular, provides nearly one-fourth of all protein in the global human diet.Many previous laboratory studies had demonstrated that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide inhibited nitrate assimilation in the leaves of grain and non-legume plants; however there had been no verification of this relationship in field-grown plants.Wheat field studyTo observe the response of wheat to different levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the researchers examined samples of wheat that had been grown in 1996 and 1997 in the Maricopa Agricultural Center near Phoenix, Ariz.At that time, carbon dioxide-enriched air was released in the fields, creating an elevated level of atmospheric carbon at the test plots, similar to what is now expected to be present in the next few decades. Control plantings of wheat were also grown in the ambient, untreated level of carbon dioxide.Leaf material harvested from the various wheat tests plots was immediately placed on ice, and then was oven dried and stored in vacuum-sealed containers to minimize changes over time in various nitrogen compounds.A fast-forward through more than a decade found Bloom and the current research team able to conduct chemical analyses that were not available at the time the experimental wheat plants were harvested.In the recent study, the researchers documented that three different measures of nitrate assimilation affirmed that the elevated level of atmospheric carbon dioxide had inhibited nitrate assimilation into protein in the field-grown wheat.”These field results are consistent with findings from previous laboratory studies, which showed that there are several physiological mechanisms responsible for carbon dioxide’s inhibition of nitrate assimilation in leaves,” Bloom said.3 percent protein decline expectedBloom noted that other studies also have shown that protein concentrations in the grain of wheat, rice and barley — as well as in potato tubers — decline, on average, by approximately 8 percent under elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”When this decline is factored into the respective portion of dietary protein that humans derive from these various crops, it becomes clear that the overall amount of protein available for human consumption may drop by about 3 percent as atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches the levels anticipated to occur during the next few decades,” Bloom said.While heavy nitrogen fertilization could partially compensate for this decline in food quality, it would also have negative consequences including higher costs, more nitrate leaching into groundwater and increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, he said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Ancient nomads spread earliest domestic grains along Silk Road: Findings push back earliest known East-West interaction by 2,000 years

Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.”Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia,” said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.”Ancient wheat and broomcorn millet, recovered in nomadic campsites in Kazakhstan, show that prehistoric herders in Central Eurasia had incorporated both regional crops into their economy and rituals nearly 5,000 years ago, pushing back the chronology of interaction along the territory of the ‘Silk Road’ more than 2,000 years,” Frachetti said.The study, to be published April 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, establishes that several strains of ancient grains and peas had made their way across Eurasia thousands of years earlier than previously documented.While these crops have been known to exist much earlier in ancient China and Southwest Asia, finding them intermingled in the Bronze Age burials and households of nomadic pastoralists provides some of the earliest concrete signs for east-west interaction in the vast expanse of Eurasian mountains and the first botanical evidence for farming among Bronze Age nomads.Bread wheat, cultivated at least 6,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, was absent in China before 2500 B.C. while broomcorn millet, domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, is missing in southwest Asia before 2000 B.C. This study documents that ancient grains from eastern China and soutwest Asia had made their way to Kazakhstan in the center of the continent by 2700-2500 B.C. (nearly 5,000 years ago).”This study starts to rewrite the model for economic change across Eurasia,” said first author Robert Spengler, PhD, a paleoethnobotanist and research associate in Arts & Sciences at WUSTL.”It illustrates that nomads had diverse economic systems and were important for reshaping economic spheres more generally.”Findings are based on archaeobotanical data collected from four Bronze Age pastoralist campsites in Central Eurasian steppe/mountains: Tasbas and Begash in the highlands of Kazakhstan and Ojakly and Site 1211/1219 in Turkmenistan.”This is one of the first systematic applications of archaeobotany in the region, making the potential for further future discovery very exciting,” Spengler said.Frachetti and a team of WUSTL researchers led the on-site excavations, working closely with archaeologists based in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Italy. Spengler conducted the paleoethnobotany laboratory work at WUSTL, under the directorship of Gayle J. Fritz, PhD, professor of archaeology and expert in human-plant relationships.”Finding this diverse crop assemblage at Tasbas and Begash illustrates first evidence for the westward spread of East Asian and Southwest Asian crops eastward, and the surprise is that it is nomads who are the agents of change,” Frachetti said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. The original article was written by Gerry Everding. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

First peanut genome sequenced

The International Peanut Genome Initiative — a group of multinational crop geneticists who have been working in tandem for the last several years — has successfully sequenced the peanut’s genome.Scott Jackson, director of the University of Georgia Center for Applied Genetic Technologies in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, serves as chair of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, or IPGI.The new peanut genome sequence will be available to researchers and plant breeders across the globe to aid in the breeding of more productive and more resilient peanut varieties.Peanut, known scientifically as Arachis hypogaea and also called groundnut, is important both commercially and nutritionally. While the oil- and protein-rich legume is seen as a cash crop in the developed world, it remains a valuable sustenance crop in developing nations.”The peanut crop is important in the United States, but it’s very important for developing nations as well,” Jackson said. “In many areas, it is a primary calorie source for families and a cash crop for farmers.”Globally, farmers tend about 24 million hectares of peanuts each year and produce about 40 million metric tons.”Improving peanut varieties to be more drought-, insect- and disease-resistant can help farmers in developed nations produce more peanuts with fewer pesticides and other chemicals and help farmers in developing nations feed their families and build more secure livelihoods,” said plant geneticist Rajeev Varshney of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics in India, who serves on the IPGI.The effort to sequence the peanut genome has been underway for several years. While peanuts were successfully bred for intensive cultivation for thousands of years, relatively little was known about the legume’s genetic structure because of its complexity, according to Peggy Ozias-Akins, a plant geneticist on the UGA Tifton campus who also works with the IPGI and is director of the UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics.”Until now, we’ve bred peanuts relatively blindly, as compared to other crops,” said IPGI plant geneticist David Bertioli of the Universidade de Braslia. “We’ve had less information to work with than we do with many crops, which have been more thoroughly researched and understood.”The peanut in fields today is the result of a natural cross between two wild species, Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis, which occurred in north Argentina between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. Because its ancestors were two different species, today’s peanut is a polyploid, meaning the species can carry two separate genomes, designated A and B subgenomes.To map the peanut’s structure, researchers sequenced the genomes of the two ancestral parents because together they represent the cultivated peanut. The sequences provide researchers access to 96 percent of all peanut genes in their genomic context, providing the molecular map needed to more quickly breed drought- and disease-resistant, lower-input and higher-yielding varieties of peanuts.The two ancestor wild species had been collected in nature, conserved in germplasm banks and then used by the IPGI to better understand the peanut genome. The genomes of the two ancestor species provide excellent models for the genome of the cultivated peanut. A. duranenis serves as a model for the A subgenome of the cultivated peanut while A. …

Read more

Biochar stimulates more plant growth but less plant defense, research shows

In the first study of its kind, research undertaken at the University of Southampton has cast significant doubt over the use of biochar to alleviate climate change.Biochar is produced when wood is combusted at high temperatures to make bio-oil and has been proposed as a method of geoengineering. When buried in the soil, this carbon rich substance could potentially lock-up carbon and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The global potential of biochar is considered to be large, with up to 12 percent of emissions reduced by biochar soil application.Many previous reports have shown that biochar can also stimulate crop growth and yield, providing a valuable co-benefit when the soil is treated with biochar, but the mechanism enabling this to happen is unknown.Professor Gail Taylor, Director of Research at the University’s Centre for Biological Sciences and research colleagues, in collaboration with National Research Council (CNR) scientists in Italy and The James Hutton Institute in Scotland, have provided an explanation why biochar has this impact. They have published their findings in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy.They found that when thale cress and lettuce plants were subjected to increasing amounts of biochar mixed with soil, using the equivalent of up to 50 tonnes per hectare per year, if applied in the field, plant growth was stimulated by over 100 percent. For the first time, the response of more than 10,000 genes was followed simultaneously, which identified brassinosteroids and auxins and their signalling molecules as key to the growth stimulation observed in biochar. Brassinosteroids and auxins are two growth promoting plant hormones and the study goes further in showing that their signalling molecules were also stimulated by biochar application.However, the positive impacts of biochar were coupled with negative findings for a suite of genes that are known to determine the ability of a plant to withstand attack from pests and pathogens. These defence genes were consistently reduced following biochar application to the soil, for example jasmonic and salcyclic acid and ethylene, suggesting that crops grown on biochar may be more susceptible to attack by pests and pathogens.This was a surprising finding and suggests that if reproduced in the field at larger scales, could have wide implications for the use of biochar on commercial crops.Professor Taylor, who co-ordinated the research, says: “Our findings provide the very first insight into how biochar stimulates plant growth — we now know that cell expansion is stimulated in roots and leaves alike and this appears to be the consequence of a complex signalling network that is focussed around two plant growth hormones. However, the finding for plant defence genes was entirely unpredicted and could have serious consequences for the commercial development and deployment of biochar in future. Any risk to agriculture is likely to prevent wide scale use of biochar and we now need to see which pest and pathogens are sensitive to the gene expression changes..”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

New Capsicum annuum pepper contains high concentrations of beneficial capsinoids

Researchers have released a new Capsicum annuum pepper germplasm that contains high concentrations of capsinoids. The release was announced in the January 2014 issue of HortScience by researchers Robert L. Jarret from the USDA/Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Georgia, in collaboration with Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Maine.According to the report, the germplasm called “509-45-1” is a small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper. Fruit of 509-45-1 contain high concentrations of capsiate in both immature and mature fruit. “The release of 509-45-1 will provide researchers and plant breeders with a new source of capsinoids, thus facilitating the production of and further research on these non-pungent biologically active compounds,” Jarret said.Pungent capsaicinoids–the compounds found in the capsicum family of plants that give them their signature heat–have many benefits. Unfortunately, their use as ingredients in foods and pharmaceuticals has been limited by the very characteristic that makes them popular as a spice–their pungency. Non-pungent capsinoids, analogs of capsaicinoids, were first isolated from a sweet pepper cultivar. Capsinoids offer similar types of biological activity as capsaicinoids without the pungency, and are known to provide antioxidant activity, enhance adrenal function, promote metabolism, and suppress body fat accumulation.The scientists began the breeding process in 2005 by screening 120 Capsicum annuum cultivars for the occurrence of capsinoids. …

Read more

Combating obesity with new Okinawan rice

In recent years, Okinawa has recorded the dubious distinction of having the highest obesity rate in Japan. Preventing obesity-related diseases is an urgent issue. Professor Hidetoshi Saze of the OIST Plant Epigenetics Unit is leading a new research project to develop a new strain of rice that produces digestion-resistant starch to prevent these diseases. The project, fostered by the Okinawan government, involves three activities by the medical, agricultural, and food industries: development of the new rice strain, nutritional and physiological analyses, and processing and sales.Nanshoka-Mai, or rice with digestion-resistant starch is a new breed of rice rich in starch that does not as readily break down into glucose. This rice strain was first developed by a research team at Kyushu University 30 years ago. The starch from most grains, which consist largely of an unbranched glucose polymer known as amylose, is normally broken down into glucose during the digestive process and serves as our primary energy source. However, excessive consumption of sugars (simple carbohydrates) can cause life-style-related diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. This new strain of rice is expected to serve as an alternative preventative measure. In addition to its anti-obesity effect, gathering evidence suggests that the rice with digestion-resistant starch may also provide other benefits, such as lower blood sugar levels, reduced neutral fat, and harmful cholesterol levels, and prevention of lipid accumulation in the liver.Despite its great promise, when researchers planted the original strain of resistant-starch rice in Okinawa, the yield per hectare was about half that achieved in mainland Japan. Prof. …

Read more

Satellite shows high productivity from US corn belt

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.Healthy plants convert light to energy via photosynthesis, but chlorophyll also emits a fraction of absorbed light as fluorescent glow that is invisible to the naked eye. The magnitude of the glow is an excellent indicator of the amount of photosynthesis, or gross productivity, of plants in a given region.Research in 2013 led by Joanna Joiner, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., demonstrated that fluorescence from plants could be teased out of data from existing satellites, which were designed and built for other purposes. The new research led by Luis Guanter of the Freie Universitt Berlin, used the data for the first time to estimate photosynthesis from agriculture. Results were published March 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.According to co-author Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., “The paper shows that fluorescence is a much better proxy for agricultural productivity than anything we’ve had before. This can go a long way regarding monitoring — and maybe even predicting — regional crop yields.”Guanter, Joiner and Frankenberg launched their collaboration at a 2012 workshop, hosted by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, to explore measurements of photosynthesis from space. The team noticed that on an annual basis, the tropics are the most productive. But during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the U.S. Corn Belt “really stands out,” Frankenberg said. “Areas all over the world are not as productive as this area.”The researchers set out to describe the phenomenon observed by carefully interpreting the data from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment 2 (GOME-2) on Metop-A, a European meteorological satellite. Data showed that fluorescence from the Corn Belt, which extends from Ohio to Nebraska and Kansas, peaks in July at levels 40 percent greater than those observed in the Amazon.Comparison with ground-based measurements from carbon flux towers and yield statistics confirmed the results.The match between ground-based measurements and satellite measurements was a “pleasant surprise,” said Joiner, a co-author on the paper. …

Read more

Warming climate may spread drying to a third of earth: Heat, not just rainfall, plays into new projections

Increasing heat is expected to extend dry conditions to far more farmland and cities by the end of the century than changes in rainfall alone, says a new study. Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to increase, say the researchers.The study is one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought. Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere is considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. The study excludes Antarctica.”We know from basic physics that warmer temperatures will help to dry things out,” said the study’s lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Even if precipitation changes in the future are uncertain, there are good reasons to be concerned about water resources.”In its latest climate report, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that soil moisture is expected to decline globally and that already dry regions will be at greater risk of agricultural drought. The IPCC also predicts a strong chance of soil moisture drying in the Mediterranean, southwestern United States and southern African regions, consistent with the Climate Dynamics study.Using two drought metric formulations, the study authors analyze projections of both rainfall and evaporative demand from the collection of climate model simulations completed for the IPCC’s 2013 climate report. Both metrics agree that increased evaporative drying will probably tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes like the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China into aridity. If precipitation were the only consideration, these great agricultural centers would not be considered at risk of drought. …

Read more

Increasing longevity of seeds with genetic engineering

A study developed by researchers of the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMCP), a joint center of the Universitat Politcnica de Valncia and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Unit for Plant Genomics Research of Evry, France (URGV, in French) has discovered a new way of improving the longevity of plant seeds using genetic engineering. Plant Physiology magazine has published the research results.The key is the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene. This gene encodes a protein that regulates gene expression, producing a new mutant that gives the seed new properties. Researchers have proven that this mutant has more gibberellin -the hormone that promotes plant growth-, which means the seed coat is reinforced as well. “The seed coat is responsible for preventing oxygen from entering the seed; the increase in gibberellin strengthens it and this leads to a more durable and longer lasting seed,” explains Eduardo Bueso, researcher at the IBMCP (UPV-CSIC).This mechanism is new, as tolerance to stresses such as aging has always been associated with another hormone, abscisic acid, which regulates defenses based on proteins and small protective molecules, instead of producing the growth of structures like gibberellin does.The study has been made on the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a species that presents great advantages for molecular biology research. Researchers of the IBMCP traced half a million seeds, related to one hundred thousand lines of Arabidopsis mutated by T-DNA insertion, using the natural system of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. “Finally, we analyzed four mutants in the study and we proved the impact on the seed longevity when the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene is introduced,” states Ramn Serrano, researcher at the IBMCP.Researchers compared the longevity of genetically modified Arabidopsis seeds and seeds which were not modified. In order to do this, they preserved them for thirty months under specific conditions of room temperature and humidity. After thirty months, only 20% of the control plants germinated again, whereas almost the all of the modified plants (90%) began the germination process again.Researchers of the IBMCP are now trying to improve the longevity of different species that are of agronomical interest, such as tomatoes or wheat.Biodiversity and benefits for farmersThis discovery is particularly significant for the conservation of biodiversity, preserving seed species and, especially, for farmers.”In the past, a lot of different plant species were cultivated, but many of them are dissapearing because high performance crops have now become a priority. Seed banks were created in order to guarantee the conservation of species, but they require a periodical regeneration of the seeds. …

Read more

‘Best practices’ nutrition measurement for researchers

At first glance, measuring what the common fruit fly eats might seem like a trivial matter, but it is absolutely critical when it comes to conducting studies of aging, health, metabolism and disease. How researchers measure consumption can make all the difference in the accuracy of a study’s conclusions.Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed what amounts to a best practices guide to the most accurate way of measuring fruit fly food consumption that could lead to more informed research and better decisions about directions in further studies.”While our study isn’t the final technical reference on measuring fly food consumption, it will help guide researchers to think more carefully about nutrition and nutrient intake in their own studies,” said TSRI Assistant Professor William Ja, who led the study, which was published online ahead of print on March 30, 2014 by the journal Nature Methods.Researchers, Ja said, generally haven’t given sufficient thought to feeding and nutrient intake when it comes to measuring fruit fly behavior, metabolism and health.”If you’re making a huge effort to change an animal’s diet and trying to draw conclusions about what nutrition and nutrients do to animal health and lifespan,” he said, “then one of the most fundamental parameters is accurately measuring food intake.”TSRI Research Associate Sonali Deshpande, a first author of the study with graduate student Ariadna Amador and former TSRI Research Associate Gil Carvalho, underlined the importance of using the best measurement methods. “Drug studies, in particular, where compounds are added to fly food, are difficult to interpret without proper measurement of food and drug intake,” she said.In the study, the team determined that radioisotope labeling food is the most sensitive and consistently accurate feeding method now available — levels of accumulated isotope are later measured in the animals. This method’s main limitation appears to be underestimation of consumption due to excretion.For the most accurate measurement, the study suggested pairing radioisotope labeling with a more low-tech approach, such as the capillary feeder (CAFE). The CAFE assay, introduced by Ja in 2007, is similar to a water dispenser used for pet hamsters, but on a smaller scale.”In a significant number of studies, we found that researchers appeared indifferent to the impact feeding might have on the experiment,” Ja said. “This doesn’t seem like good science to me. Can you imagine doing a mouse experiment, saying that you watched mice for four hours and saw no difference in feeding, then make conclusions about total caloric intake over days or longer?”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Scripps Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close