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On World Soil Day, scientists warn of underground extinction risks

December 8th, 2015 / Science

It’s time for ecologists and conservation biologists to better understand the threats facing soil creatures key to healthy ecosystems and our food supply. Some studies have documented local extinctions of earthworms and wood-decomposing fungi because of species invasions or changing environmental conditions. Now, a suite of new tools, including advanced …

Study: Crop biotechnology essential to feeding more people on same arable land

December 8th, 2015 / Genetic Literacy Project

Looking at trends from large sets of data on population, resources and food production shows there are good reasons to be optimistic about our ability to meet the food requirements of the projected 9-10 billion people on our planet by the middle of this century. It also appears we are …

Fighting witchweed in sub-Saharan Africa

December 8th, 2015 / African Farming

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has approved funding of US$1.5mn for research to eradicate a destructive weed in sub-Saharan Africa. Funding from the foundation is going to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which will conduct scientific research towards eradicating the Striga hermonthica weed that affects croplands throughout …

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say

December 7th, 2015 / The Guardian, UK

The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, scientists have warned. New research has calculated that nearly 33% of the world’s adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been …

Using CRISPR to edit crops ensures no transgenes, undercuts anti-GM ‘foreign gene’ criticism

December 7th, 2015 / Genetic Literacy Project

A team of scientists from the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory have shown that the very latest gene-editing technology CRISPR can be used to make targeted changes or edits to specific genes in two UK crops – a broccoli-like brassica and barley – and that these edits are …

Extreme weather to foil Sahel knowledge

December 7th, 2015 / SciDev.net

Technology and expertise from outside are needed to support traditional knowledge and help people in Africa’s arid Sahel region cope with climate change, according to researchers. A side event at COP 21, the UN’s climate change summit in Paris, France, heard that those living in the region have …

Beta carotene-fortified potatoes paving way for biofortified African cassava

December 4th, 2015 / Genetic Literacy Project

The humble potato has potential to become an important source of beta-carotene and may lead to more nutritious cassava crops in developing countries, thanks to newly patented research from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI). Scientiests are looking to apply lessons learned in potatoes to cassava plants. Biofortified cassava roots could …

Efforts to ‘turbocharge’ rice and reduce world hunger enter important new phase

December 4th, 2015 / Danforth Center

A long-term project aimed at improving photosynthesis in rice is entering its third stage, marking another step on the road to significantly increased crop yields that will help meet the food needs of billions of people across the developing world. Led by scientists at Oxford University, this phase of the …

The elephant in the room at Paris climate talks: why food production must change

December 4th, 2015 / The Conversation

The grand political narratives around the COP21 conference in Paris will barely touch on one crucial aspect – food. Getting the whole food system to change is a seriously big challenge. But one thing is clear: no change in how we produce food means no gain in climate change prevention. …

A hidden side of climate change adaptation: identifying and developing drought-tolerant crops

December 3rd, 2015 / Thomas Reuters Foundation

Through conventional yet smart plant breeding, ICRISAT aims to create new drought-tolerant and productive crop varieties in a faster way, so that smallholder farmers in Africa or South Asia have the right climate-adapted crops to cope with a 2 degrees warmer climate. Read …