Food Production

The genome of millet sequenced

Le pilon et le mortier s'utilisent pour égrener les céréales et les moudre. Village aux alentours de Réo, Burkina Faso. © IRD / Daina Rechner

A study coordinated by an international consortium of French (IRD), Indian and Chinese researchers has enabled the genome sequence for millet to be obtained for the first time. This discovery improves our understanding of the organisation and evolution of the genome of this cereal, which provides food security of the poorest people in the world. Secondly, because it provides new prospects for selecting or improving varieties of millet which may be better equipped to cope with climate change for almost 100 millions people. Read more »

Weed cover in olive orchards enhances the ecosystem’s capacity as a CO2 sink

In the experiment, instruments measuring high frequency (10Hz) variables like CO2 concentration in the air, wind velocity and direction.

Scientists at the University of Granada (UGR) studied the effects and benefits of maintaining vegetation, or weed cover, in olive grove soil. In a recently-published article in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, these scientists showed their results after a year of measuring an olive grove in Jaen (SE Spain), which show that weed cover significantly increases carbon uptake, acting as a sink for one of the principal greenhouse effect gases, CO2. Read more »

Neonicotinoid insecticides linked to wild bee decline across England

English oil seed rape field (© Heather Lowther / Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)

Exposure to neonicotinoid seed treated oilseed rape crops has been linked to long-term population decline of wild bee species across the English countryside, according to research published in Nature Communications. Read more »

Greater biodiversity in grasslands leads to higher levels of ecosystem services

A meadow in Thuringia: one of the 150 grasslands where research was carried out. (credit: WWU/Klaus Vakentin)

The more it swarms, crawls and flies the better for humans, who benefit from the varied services provided for free by nature. This is the finding of a study by more than 60 researchers from a number of universities, including the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, in Germany. Read more »

China’s honey bee losses are low compared with West

Honeybee (credit Steve Burt - Flickr)

Since concern about widespread honey bee colony losses began ten years ago, there have been surveys carried out to assess winter losses in North America and many European countries. So far, the picture in China, the largest beekeeping country in the world, has been unclear. Now for the first time, information about winter losses from a large-scale survey carried out from 2010-13 has been published. Read more »

Study reveals disturbing hunger trends in world's highland areas

While global hunger figures are decreasing, the number of food insecure people in mountain areas rose 30 percent between 2000 and 2012, according to a new study, released today by FAO and the Mountain Partnership on International Mountain Day. Read more »

New research shows that honey bee queens are highly vulnerable to two neonicotinoid insecticides

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A marked honey bee queen used during the study. She is shown on a wax comb with adult workers, capped cells containing maturing workers, and open cells containing eggs that will develop into workers. (Photo: Geoffrey Williams, University of Bern)

Throughout the northern hemisphere beekeepers have struggled to maintain adequate numbers of honey bee colonies for crop pollination and honey production due to dramatic increases in colony deaths each year. Recent surveys of beekeepers suggest that poor queen health is an important reason for these losses, but why queen health is now being affected is not understood. Read more »

Paying farmers to help the environment works, but ‘perverse’ subsidies must be balanced

Vast pivot irrigator shows farming encroaching on wilderness in New Zealand. Credit: Peter Scott (www.abovehawkesbay.co.nz)

New research suggests that offering financial incentives for farming industries to mitigate the impact agriculture has on the environment, by reducing fertiliser use and ‘sparing’ land for conservation, for example, actually has a positive effect on critical areas such as greenhouse gas reduction and increased biodiversity. Read more »

Non-hooked birds: how to avoid seabird bycatch in the Mediterranean?

Seabirds are the most endangered bird species in the world due to fishing practices, predation and the loss of breeding habitat (image: Vero Cortés, UB-IRBio)

Night setting; bird scaring lines; weighted branchlines that sink rapidly; fish offal and bait covered on board so it doesn’t attract seabirds to the boats; deck lights kept at the minimum level, and discards not thrown back into the sea. Read more »

Climate-smart agriculture and new approaches to food systems needed to cope with climate change

Overcoming climate change is central to achieving a sustainable future for the planet's growing population, and food security must lie at the heart of that effort, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a speech at the UN Climate Summit in New York this September (2014). Read more »

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