Sterilizing, not killing, weeds suggested


WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Agriculture Department scientists say using herbicides to sterilize instead of killing weedy grasses might be more economical and environmentally sound.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service said exotic annual grasses such as Japanese brome, cheatgrass and medusahead are harming millions of acres of grassland in the western United States. But herbicides used to control the invasive grasses also sometimes damage desirable perennial grasses.

In contrast, when used properly, scientists said growth regulators don’t greatly harm desirable perennial grasses and can control broadleaf weeds in wheat, other crop grasses and on rangelands.

ARS ecologist Matt Rinella and colleagues said they knew when dicamba and other growth regulator herbicides were applied to cereal crops late in their growth stage, just before seed formation, the plants produced far fewer seeds.

The scientists decided to see what occurred on the invasive weed Japanese brome. They found picloram (Tordon) reduced seed production nearly 100 percent when applied at the late growth stage of the weed. Dicamba (Banvel/Clarity) was slightly less effective but still nearly eliminated seed production, while 2,4-D was much less effective.

Rinella said since annual grass seeds only survive in soil a year or two, it should only take one to three years to greatly reduce the soil seed bank of annual weedy grasses without harming perennial grasses.

The research appeared in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

Received and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Moth spit produces bigger potatoes


ITHACA, N.Y. (UPI) — Spit from a caterpillar helps Colombian Andes potatoes grow larger, a finding that could benefit farmers worldwide, scientists said.

The saliva of the potato moth larvae, Tecia solanivora, increases the rate of photosynthesis in the Colombian Andes potato plant, Solanum tuberosum, researchers from Cornell University said.

More photosynthesis means more carbon is drawn into the plant, which creates more starch and larger tubers, said co-author Andre Kessler, who teaches ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell.


The plant may be compensating for tubers lost to damage from the caterpillar, a major pest, researchers from Cornell and the National University of Colombia said in a release Thursday.

“This could be an example where the co-evolutionary arms race led to a beneficial outcome for both,” Kessler said.

Future experiments will test more commercial varieties of potatoes, as well as wild potatoes, Kessler and his team wrote in a recent issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

Received and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Coupled Water Tower/Wind Turbine Controller
Andras Tanczos
Helsinki, Finland

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altA jointed water tower/wind turbine controller stores wind energy in the water towers of the drinking water network. At strong winds, the extra electrical energy generated by the wind turbine can be used to pump water into the water tower. When there is no wind, this energy can be released with a hydro-turbine, and the water goes back to the wells. The pump of the water tower and the hydro-turbine are used to control the water level in the reservoir. The electricity from the wind turbine is used for pumping the water or for supplying the electrical grid. The controller can also be installed on existing water towers and water tanks placed on top of buildings.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009

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Is Pink Best pink-tick-rect-button

LED Color to Grow Plants?

Nabesei Co Ltd, a company specializing in electronic parts, exhibited plants grown under LED lights in three different colors at an exhibition that took place from April 15 to 17, 2009, in Tokyo.

Plants of the same size were continuously irradiated with light from a lighting device equipped with 630nm red LEDs, a device with 430nm blue LEDs and a pink-colored LED light composed of half red LEDs and half blue LEDs.

After three weeks of irradiation, the growths of the plants were compared with one another. As a result, it was discovered that the pink LED light most effectively promotes the growth of plants, the company said.

According to Nabesei, plants do not need all wavelengths in the visible light range for their growth, but they absorb light with certain wavelengths to grow. For example, when they perform photosynthesis or come into bloom, red light around a wavelength of 660nm, which is the absorption peak for chlorophyll, promotes the growth. Meanwhile, when the plants form flower buds, blue light around a wavelength of 450nm promotes the growth.

When comparing the plants under the three kinds of light, those under the red LED light grew slower than others and were smaller as a whole. The plants under the blue LED light had fewer leaves and were spindly on the whole. On the other hand, the plants under the pink LED light had larger leaves and had generally grown in a more balanced way.

However, the wavelength ranges that affect the growth of plants are slightly different depending on the plant type. Therefore, field tests to evaluate the irradiation time and other issues should be conducted at agricultural experiment stations from now on, Nabesei said.

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In line with the ban on the sale of incandescent bulbs in 2012, the company plans to focus on the application of LEDs to illumination equipment for growing chrysanthemums. The irradiation of red LED light can delay the formation of buds on chrysanthemums. Moreover, LED light keeps bugs away because the LED emission spectrum is deviated from the bugs’ visibility curve.

In addition, Nabesei exhibited a completely watertight LED light in a tank. The product is also available in a bendable type, which is suitable for interior lighting and plant cultivation requiring water sprinkling, the company said.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st JULY 2009

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EPA bans carbofuran in food crops

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WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revoked all regulations permitting small amounts of the residue of carbofuran in food.

The EPA’s Monday decision was hailed by the American Bird Conservancy as marking “a huge victory for wildlife and the environment.”

The action involves a pesticide sold under the name “Furadan” by the FMC Corp. The EPA said the toxic insecticide does not meet current U.S. food safety standards. The EPA said its ruling will eliminate residues of carbofuran in food, including imports. Ultimately, the federal agency said, it will remove the pesticide from the market.

The conservancy said the agency’s announcement confirms a proposed action first announced in July. FMC Corp. will have 90 days to challenge the decision. Once the rule becomes final, the EPA will proceed with the cancellation of registration for all uses of the pesticide.
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“Carbofuran causes neurological damage in humans, and one of the most deadly pesticides to birds left on the market,” said George Fenwick, president of the conservancy. “It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and migratory songbirds. This EPA decision marks a huge victory for wildlife and the environment.”
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The EPA said it was encouraging growers to “switch to safer pesticides or other environmentally preferable pest control strategies.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 18thn May 2009

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Plants to Detect Land Mines

The United Nations estimates that there are 110,000,000 land mines around the world which kill or maim 2000 people every month, and with highly specialised recovery personnel able to clear only 2 square metres each day the numbers are going up, not down. But GM technology may be able to reverse these horrific statistics. Scientists recently announced that they have developed a genetically modified plant which changes colour in the presence of a land mine.

Show Transcript            arttrans

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009

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Chocolate beer 3000 years old


mmm, chocolate

People were enjoying chocolate 3000 years ago, but in the form of alcoholic brews or beers drunk at births and weddings (Source: iStockphoto)

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People in Central America were drinking beverages made from cacao before 1000 BC, hundreds of years earlier than once thought, a new study shows.

These early cacao beverages were probably alcoholic brews, or beers, made from the fermented pulp of the cacao fruit.

These beverages were around 500 years earlier than the frothy chocolate-flavored drink made from the seed of the cacao tree that was such an important feature of later Mesoamerican culture.

But in brewing this primitive beer, or chicha, the ancient Mesoamericans may have stumbled on the secret to making chocolate-flavoured drinks, the paper says.

“In the course of beer brewing, you discover that if you ferment the seeds of the plant you get this chocolate taste,” says John Henderson, a professor of anthropology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and lead author of the paper.

“It may be that the roots of the modern chocolate industry can be traced back to this primitive fermented drink.”

The cacao bean played an important role in Mesoamerican civilisation, the native civilisation in parts of Mexico and Central America prior to the Spanish exploration and conquest of the 16th century.

The bean was a form of currency in Aztec society, and the frothed chocolate drink made from fermented beans or seeds was central to social and ritual life throughout Mesoamerica.

In the 16th century, invading Europeans acquired a taste for the beverage and brought it back to Europe, which led to the rise of the modern chocolate industry.

An elite drink

The archaeological evidence recovered by Henderson and colleagues from a site in Puerto Escondido in modern-day Honduras suggests that the beer that probably preceded the chocolate beverage was popular among wealthy people at least as early as 1100 BC.

Chemical analysis of residues found on fragments of pottery vessels recovered from the site tested positive for theobromine, a compound found in cacao trees that were limited to Central America.

The vessels were found in the “fancier, bigger houses” in the village of Puerto Escondido in the Ulua Valley in northern Honduras, says Henderson.

He suggests the elite members of society would have drunk the beverage to mark special occasions such as births and marriages.

Scientists make herbicide-resistant plants

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MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve developed a technique for modifying plant genes that could help provide sustainable food, fuel and fibre supplies.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital said their genome engineering tool can make a model crop plant herbicide-resistant without significant changes to its DNA.

“It’s still a (genetically modified organism), but the modification was subtle,” said Professor Daniel Voytas, lead author of the study and director of the university’s Center for Genome Engineering. “We made a slight change in the sequence of the plant’s own DNA rather than adding foreign DNA.”

Voytas said the technique has the potential to help scientists modify plants to produce food, fuel and fiber sustainably, while minimizing concerns about genetically modified organisms.

The scientists said they created a customized enzyme called a zinc finger nuclease to change single genes in tobacco plant cells. The altered cells were then cultured to produce mature plants that survived exposure to herbicides.

“This is the first real advance in technology to genetically modify plants since foreign DNA was introduced into plant chromosomes in the early 1980s,” Voytas said. “It could become a revolutionary tool for manipulating plant, animal and human genomes.”

The research was published online by the journal Nature.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 11th May 2009

Weather plays a role in swine flu outbreak

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (UPI) — With swine flu being reported in the United States, one might wonder whether weather has any part in spreading the flu — and the answer is maybe

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The main way swine flu is transmitted is through contact with an infected person or contact with a pig that is infected. In people, it’s thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

As to the question of the role weather conditions play in the outbreak, accuweather.com said the warmer weather means more people are gathering for events and, therefore, they can come into contact with infected people who potentially remain contagious for up to seven days following illness onset.

An infected person who sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth can theoretically allow a dispersion of the virus in crowded, public locations, thereby expanding the outbreak.
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And accuweather.com noted the warmer spring weather also means more vacations and more people traveling. That means some of the cases might be related to people traveling into Mexico, the outbreak’s epicenter.

Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity urges travelers to check the CDC Web site for information on restrictions due to the swine flu.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 30th April 2009

How To Save The Biodiesel

Industry

Government dithering and high commodity prices make for a tough environment.

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BURLINGAME, Calif.–Can the biodiesel industry be saved? It’s remotely possible–but not unless the government steps in to jump-start the besieged market.

Biodiesel, a low-carbon fuel usually made with soy, palm or canola oil, first grabbed the spotlight a few years ago. That was when Congress started promoting the green fuel as a replacement for traditional diesel. Private-equity firms started pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into companies like Seattle’s Imperium Renewables and Green Earth Fuels, of Houston, hoping to get in on the ground floor of a nascent market.

Federal government mandates and tax breaks, driven by the broader goal of fighting pollution and cutting reliance on foreign oil, were supposed to create a mass market, even though biodiesel was often more expensive than regular diesel fuel.

It hasn’t happened. Starting in mid-2007, prices of the canola and soy oils used to make biodiesel soared. That pushed up the cost of the green fuel and wounded producers’ bottom lines. With oil peaking at $147 a barrel last summer, biodiesel still made economic sense for some customers, since regular diesel prices climbed to an average $4.77 a gallon. Biodiesel didn’t look bad by comparison.

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But then petroleum prices tanked. That widened the price gap and made the green option uneconomical for even the most die-hard environmentalists. Commodity prices have since come down, but not enough to bridge the gap. The recession has damped demand for energy overall and made it nearly impossible for fledgling clean-fuel ventures, including biodiesel makers, to get credit to expand.

“The market conditions are very, very tough right now,” says Joe Jobe, head of the National Biodiesel Board in Jefferson City, Mo. Of the nation’s 176 biodiesel operators, “it’s very difficult to say how many of them are still operating.”

The industry’s woes illustrate the hazards of building a business around the prices of two volatile, and often unrelated, commodities–in this case, raw vegetable oil and petroleum. They also show that not all green fuels are created equal. Lots of environmentalists have hopped off the biodiesel bandwagon, charging that increased demand for commodities like palm oil will lead to deforestation and, in turn, even more greenhouse-gas emissions from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009