Environment

Climate change impacts could mean uncertain transformations of global agriculture systems by 2050, according to a new paper from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. 


Why did the earliest farmers in the Fertile Crescent, an arc of land in western Asia from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, domesticate some cereal crops 10,000 years ago and not others?


The Roman empire stretched over three continents, had 70 million people, and had a logistics and infrastructure system that kept them going for centuries.

They had smart agricultural practices and an extensive grain-trade network that enabled them to thrive even where water was scarce - but they knew their limits according to a paper in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.


The European Food Safety Authority, most famous for declaring that water does not cure thirst, is now thinking about how to ban acrylamide, which is a chemical that can form in some foods during frying, roasting, or baking. No, it is not due to BPA, it has been present for as long as mankind has cooked food, but it was only discovered in 2002 and then in 2010 a paper was written showing it could be harmful to rats in extremely high doses.

The $105 billion organic food industry is not terribly worried about yields. Their customers are primarily wealthy and concerned more about the perception of benefit than they are cost.

But to the real evangelists, who insist that the organic process can feed the world, yield differences are a substantial hurdle to overcome. The low hanging fruit in food has already been picked, as it were, wealthy people educated by advertising are already buying organic food, and the rest of the marketplace thinks about price. So yields are a killer.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) found in flame retardant cloth, paint, adhesives and electrical transformers, have been banned since 1979, but if you live on top of a waste disposal site or you have a 40 year old couch, you could still be exposed to them.



Honeybees pollinate a third of Australia's food crops. Losing them due to varroa might would cost the economy billions of dollars. David McClenaghan, Author provided

By Gary Fitt, CSIRO

A nationwide outbreak of foot and mouth disease; an invasion of a devastating wheat disease; our honeybees completely wiped out. These are just three possible disastrous scenarios facing Australia; they’re considered in the Australia’s Biosecurity Future report published today by CSIRO and its partners.

Take a spot that only gets 6 to 8 inches of rain per year, with erosion causing such blinding dust that there is zero visibility, and build a wheat farm.

Wait, why would you do that? Washington State University researchers do it in the Horse Heaven Hills of south-central Washington to understand summer fallow management practices that can mean efficient water and soil conservation and help farmers everywhere.


Last week, in Part I of this two part series, "Bee Deaths Mystery Solved?

Vegetable juice ice-melt?  Ice-free pavement? "Smart snowplows"?  

Cold-climate researchers at Washington State University are clearing the road with 'green' alternatives to salt.