Curtin University in Perth, Australia is lighting the way to improved crop protection.
The university and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) are working on a new imaging tool that would help scientists monitor the development of fungal disease in plants.
Wax on: The lead researcher says the wax layer on a plant’s leaves gives off specific wavelengths of infrared light, which would help scientists understand how plants respond to infection by pathogens.
“We expect this discovery to reveal new information on the effect of disease on living plants, and the timeline through which diseases affect plant physiology, with implications not just for agriculture, but also to monitor environmental impacts such as pollution or climate change,” researcher Karina Khambatta said.
Path of least destruction: This research unveils big benefits for farmers and crop health, including:
- Genetic gain for disease resistance through plant breeding
- New methods for assessing crop health
- Judicious use of fungicides or other input decisions
- Cost savings for farmers
The more you know: If you’re feeling especially science-y, you can read the paper here.
The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s feed rations.
A new startup out of Sweden, Volta Greentech, is raising money ($2.07 million so far) to construct a facility that will produce seaweed with hopes to reduce methane emissions from Swedish cattle.
Algae philosophy: While the talk of using seaweed as cow feed isn’t necessarily a new concept, there’s a specific strain of algae showing a lot of potential in reducing cows’ carbon footprint.
The red Asparagopsis taxiformis variety has shown an impressive reduction in cattle methane emissions – as much as 80% – by blocking enzymes that produce methane in the rumen.
Low-carbon cows: The beef and dairy sectors are saying, “We sea you. And we like you.” They’re hoping to utilize the seaweed feed supplement, which would allow them to market their products as “low carbon.”
The seaweed factory: The seaweed production facility will commercially launch the supplement Volta Seafeed later this year, the first time it’ll be produced at scale.
Cash crops might be getting a new family member in the coming years, and they might want to prep for the big, warm hug from cousin cacti.
According to researchers at the University of Nevada, there’s a notion the low-maintenance cactus pear crop could provide fuel and food in places previously inhospitable to sustainable crops.
Prickly potential: The five-year-long research has shown the prickly pear cactus uses up to 80% less water than other crops to produce fruit. While crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat are a little pricklier about moisture, cactus plants are better equipped to withstand drought. With 42% of land area around the world classified as semi-arid or arid, the cactus’ potential could be sharp.
Carbon catchers: The cactus pear also works to succ(ulent) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in a sustainable way.
Growing the cactus in areas that aren’t suitable for other crops can also help expand bioenergy production. And it can be used for human and livestock consumption. Craving prickly pear cactus jelly yet?
Sticking to it: Further research is in the works to learn about a stunting disease and look at which genetic traits provide the greatest production.
Scientists in the Land Down Under may soon be putting your morning glass of milk under a lot of pressure.
The rundown: Naturo, an Australia-based company, just received the go-ahead to begin processing milk using the Haelen technique–an “alternative treatment to pasteurization of raw milk.”
The new method allows the milk to chillax under extreme pressure…killing harmful pathogens without turning up the heat.
To give you some context:
- 161˚F for 15 seconds: The industry standard for traditional milk pasteurization.
- 284˚F for 2 seconds: The industry standard for Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) milk processing.
The best thing since pasteurization: Naturo founder and CEO Jeff Hastings is calling Haelen “the biggest breakthrough in the global milk industry since pasteurization in 1864.”
Since it’s not subjected to traditional heat treatment, researchers tout that the milk will have higher levels of B-vitamins and essential enzymes while maintaining its natural flavor.
Oh, and this: With Haelen killing more germs than pasteurization and UHT, the milk will stay fresh longer…like, way longer. It’ll stay delicious in the fridge for at least two months.
Where this goes: Naturo says Queenslanders can expect to get their first glasses of the “Wholey Milk Company” brand early this year, with plans to expand to the international market in 2022.
Some fruitful new findings just gave peach producers a lot to look forward to.
Researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute discovered several powerful peach genes. Using 2,700 spots in the genome of 260 wild peach varieties, the scientists found links to 51 environmental factors sending breeders off to the races.
With the science in hand, new peach varieties can be developed to withstand stress in the form of cold, drought, or even high altitude UV radiation.
California’s ears just perked up: The #1 peach-producing state, California, provides 56% of the U.S. fresh peach crop and 96% of the country’s processed peaches.
New varieties also mean expanded growing regions, which might stretch up to the Pacific Northwest, where frost and cold snaps previously limited peach output.
Peaches time to shine: While most genetics-focused research and varietal development happens in commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and rice, peaches and other fruit crops are usually left in the dust. But now, the 24.5 million tons of global peach production can expand its vision and reduce waste.
Cheers to China’s case study: Researchers looked to the country as a model as wild peaches have adapted to lowland acres or colder climates. The U.S. crop will benefit from the environmental observations in the Asian nation.