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Just what makes that little old ant… change a flower’s nectar content?

TGF-FruitImageApr. 24, 2013 — Ants play a variety of important roles in many ecosystems. As frequent visitors to flowers, they can benefit plants in their role as pollinators when they forage on sugar-rich nectar. However, a new study reveals that this mutualistic relationship may actually have some hidden costs. By transmitting sugar-eating yeasts to the nectar on which they feed, ants may be indirectly altering the nectar-chemistry and thus affecting subsequent pollinator visitations.

Many species of plants benefit from interacting with ants, and some even secrete special sugary substances to attract ants. Plants produce sugar, in the form of nectar, and in exchange ants provide services such as pollination or protection from herbivores.

The main components of nectar that attract pollinators include three dominant sugars — sucrose, fructose, and glucose — and amino acids (or proteins). The chemical composition of nectar differs among plant species and has been thought to be a conservative trait linked to pollinator type. For example, plants pollinated by hummingbirds tend to have nectar with high amounts of sucrose. In addition, nectar composition is thought to be regulated by the plant.

“When people think about how flowers are pollinated, they probably think about bees,” notes Clara de Vega, a postdoctoral researcher at the Estación Biológica de Doñana, Spain. “But ants also pollinate flowers, and I am interested in the role ants play in pollination since it is still poorly understood.”

De Vega joined forces with Carlos M. Herrera, an evolutionary ecologist at the Estación Biológica de Doñana, to investigate the relationship between ant pollinators and nectarivorous yeasts. Nectar-dwelling yeasts, which consume sugars, have recently been discovered in the flowers of many temperate and tropical plant species. De Vega and Herrera have already discovered that some ant species not only carry certain types of sugar-metabolizing yeasts on their bodies, but they also effectively transmit these yeasts to the nectar of flowers they visit.

In their most recent work, published in the American Journal of Botany, De Vega and Herrera investigated whether flowers visited by these ants differed from flowers that were not visited by ants in their sugar chemistry, and whether sugar-chemistry was correlated with the abundance of ant-transmitted yeasts found in the nectar.

By excluding ants from visiting inflorescences of a perennial, parasitic plant, Cytinus hypocistis, and comparing the nectar chemistry to inflorescences that were visited by ants, the authors tested these ideas experimentally.

When the authors compared the sugar content in the nectar of flowers visited by ants versus those enclosed in nylon mesh bags to exclude ants, they found that nectar of flowers exposed to ants had higher levels of fructose and glucose, but lower levels of sucrose compared with the ant-excluded flowers.

Interestingly, in flowers visited by ants, there was a high correlation between yeast cell density and sugar content. Nectar that had higher densities of yeast had more fructose and less sucrose, suggesting that the types of yeasts change the sugar content of the nectar. Flowers that were excluded from ants did not have any yeast in their nectar.

“Our study has revealed that ants can actually change the nectar characteristics of the flowers they are pollinating,” says de Vega. “The microorganisms, specifically yeasts, that are present on the surface of ants change the composition of sugar in the flower´s nectar.”

“This means that nectar composition is not completely controlled by the flower — it is something created in cooperation with the ants that visit the flower,” she notes. “We also think that these ant-transported yeasts might have the potential to affect plant reproduction.”

Indeed, if a plant cannot control the sugar content of its nectar, then it may lose some of its target pollinators, which would potentially affect overall seed set and plant fitness.

Moreover, if introducing these yeasts to nectar changes the chemistry of the very components that serve to attract pollinators, then perhaps ants are indirectly changing the foraging behavior of subsequent flower visitors and thereby affecting seed dispersal patterns.

This study has revealed an additional layer in the complex association between ants and flowering plants, as pollinating ants alter sugar-nectar chemistry in flowers via sugar-consuming yeasts. But the story does not end here. De Vega plans to continue researching the role that these nectarivorous yeasts play on the reproduction of plants.

“I plan to study the whole interaction of plants, yeasts, and pollinators — how are they interrelated and what mechanisms shape these relations?”

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by American Journal of Botany, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. de Vega, C. M. Herrera. Microorganisms transported by ants induce changes in floral nectar composition of an ant-pollinated plant. American Journal of Botany, 2013; 100 (4): 792 DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1200626

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Impact of climate change on the soil ecosystem

The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development NEIKER-Tecnalia has had a Microbial Observatory in the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Nature Reserve (Huesca Pyrenees) since 2011. Its purpose is to evaluate the impact of climate change on the ecosystems of the soil by monitoring its microbial properties over time. The research areas are located at altitudes of between 1,500 and 2,600 metres, which provides a broad range of different climate conditions and makes it possible to observe how the altitude affects the properties of the soil and the micro-organisms living in it. Preliminary results indicate that microbial properties are highly dependent on the physical and chemical properties of the soil on a small scale and on the environmental conditions existing at the moment when the samples are gathered.

To conduct this research, NEIKER-Tecnalia is using the most advanced techniques in the matter of molecular biology, which have revolutionised microbial ecology. Specifically, massive sequencing analyses are being carried out right now; they allow a large number of genes to be sequenced and identified within a short space of time. The genetic sequencing of the subterranean biosphere is seeking to gain a better understanding of the structure and function of the microbial communities across the altitude gradient.

NEIKER-Tecnalia’s Microbial Observatory will contribute towards improving the current understanding of the effects of climate change on soil microbial communities and associated ecological processes. The alpine area where it is located is particularly suitable for a climate change observatory. Firstly, it is a remote spot relatively isolated from direct anthropogenic impacts, which means that global effects like climate change can be clearly perceived without the interference of more local environmental factors. Secondly, the altitude gradients that exist in the mountains in turn create clearly marked climate gradients within short distances; in other words, different climate conditions can be found at different altitudes.

Micro-organisms adapt more quickly than plants and macro-organisms

Micro-organisms adapt more quickly to changes than plants or other macro-organisms, which means they are ideal bioindicators of the impact of sources of environmental stress on the functioning of ecosystems. It is very important to have a record of the alterations gradually occurring in the soil ecosystem as a result of climate change to be able to more accurately predict what future scenarios are going to be in store. It is important to stress that the soil is our most important resource; it is the basis of the terrestrial ecosystem and 95% of our food comes directly or indirectly from it.

The role of micro-organisms in relation to the functioning of the soil ecosystem is fundamental. The soil, which has been traditionally regarded as an inanimate item made up of minerals and chemical substances, contains a myriad of micro-organisms that are responsible for many of its vital functions and, consequently, its health. These functions include the decomposition and recycling of nutrients from dead plant and animal tissue, nitrogen fixing, the maintaining of soil structure and the elimination of contaminants.

It can be predicted that, in the long term, climate change will cause the biota of mountain soil to migrate towards higher altitudes in the quest for the optimum bioclimatic environment. The problem is that this migration has a limit, which is the summit of the mountain, beyond which no migration or escape is possible.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Basque Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Produce groups urge the FDA to change off-farm packinghouse rules under FSMA

WASHINGTON — Different standards for packinghouses under the Food Safety Modernization Act based on their location will cause confusion within the industry and are not science-based, produce industry groups told officials at the Food & Drug Administration during a Thursday public meeting on FSMA changes.

Under the FDA’s current interpretation of FSMA, on-farm packinghouses would need to meet produce safety standards, but off-farm operations, which must register with the FDA, would have to meet more extensive and costly preventive control requirements.

Registered facilities that only handle raw agriculture commodities and don’t conduct further processing should be covered under the produce safety rule, Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, argued during the meeting held in College Park, MD. Food safety and public heath benefits are likely to be best served by a single rule, he said.

“The current regulation as proposed will result in confusion in the produce industry by requiring those actually subject to registration to establish an independent food-safety program for raw agricultural commodities rather than those established by the produce rule,” he said, adding that all the additional recordkeeping, staffing and testing requirements for off-farm operations based “only on the physical location of the operation is not practical.”

David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at the United Fresh Produce Association, urged the FDA to add language to the FSMA rules that would allow off-farm facilities that meet produce safety requirements to automatically satisfy preventive controls.

FDA staff acknowledged the issue has not been put to rest by the latest fixes to its farm definition.

“We’re considering [this issue] ourselves,” Rebecca Buckner, the FDA’s implementation manager, said during the day-long meeting.

But the issue is not easy to resolve because the statute requires facilities registered with the FDA to meet preventive controls, said Jenny Scott, senior adviser at the Office of Food Safety at the FDA. Only farms and retail operations are exempted from registering with the FDA as facilities.

“We are looking at all those definitions and what can and can’t change,” said Scott. “We certainly appreciate your thoughts of how a facility that has to register could be moved into the produce rule that applies to farms.

“I’m sure that’s an area where you have your legal counsel looking at very carefully,” she quipped.

Gombas also urged the FDA to back off product testing as a verification tool for raw agricultural commodities.

“You test one strawberry or apple, you’ve tested one strawberry or apple,” he said. “The results tell you nothing about the rest.”

He also proposed a simpler, modified approach to water testing and urged the FDA to move away from its complicated testing standard in the produce safety rule.

In other comments, consumer groups urged the FDA to scrap its current proposed small business definition of less than $ 1 million in annual food sales for the preventive controls rule, suggesting the large number of exempted processors and foreign suppliers will put consumers at risk.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Produce groups urge the FDA to change off-farm packinghouse rules under FSMA

WASHINGTON — Different standards for packinghouses under the Food Safety Modernization Act based on their location will cause confusion within the industry and are not science-based, produce industry groups told officials at the Food & Drug Administration during a Thursday public meeting on FSMA changes.

Under the FDA’s current interpretation of FSMA, on-farm packinghouses would need to meet produce safety standards, but off-farm operations, which must register with the FDA, would have to meet more extensive and costly preventive control requirements.

Registered facilities that only handle raw agriculture commodities and don’t conduct further processing should be covered under the produce safety rule, Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, argued during the meeting held in College Park, MD. Food safety and public heath benefits are likely to be best served by a single rule, he said.

“The current regulation as proposed will result in confusion in the produce industry by requiring those actually subject to registration to establish an independent food-safety program for raw agricultural commodities rather than those established by the produce rule,” he said, adding that all the additional recordkeeping, staffing and testing requirements for off-farm operations based “only on the physical location of the operation is not practical.”

David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at the United Fresh Produce Association, urged the FDA to add language to the FSMA rules that would allow off-farm facilities that meet produce safety requirements to automatically satisfy preventive controls.

FDA staff acknowledged the issue has not been put to rest by the latest fixes to its farm definition.

“We’re considering [this issue] ourselves,” Rebecca Buckner, the FDA’s implementation manager, said during the day-long meeting.

But the issue is not easy to resolve because the statute requires facilities registered with the FDA to meet preventive controls, said Jenny Scott, senior adviser at the Office of Food Safety at the FDA. Only farms and retail operations are exempted from registering with the FDA as facilities.

“We are looking at all those definitions and what can and can’t change,” said Scott. “We certainly appreciate your thoughts of how a facility that has to register could be moved into the produce rule that applies to farms.

“I’m sure that’s an area where you have your legal counsel looking at very carefully,” she quipped.

Gombas also urged the FDA to back off product testing as a verification tool for raw agricultural commodities.

“You test one strawberry or apple, you’ve tested one strawberry or apple,” he said. “The results tell you nothing about the rest.”

He also proposed a simpler, modified approach to water testing and urged the FDA to move away from its complicated testing standard in the produce safety rule.

In other comments, consumer groups urged the FDA to scrap its current proposed small business definition of less than $ 1 million in annual food sales for the preventive controls rule, suggesting the large number of exempted processors and foreign suppliers will put consumers at risk.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

“Change to Spanish season a disaster”

Peter Davis – Davis Workdwide
“Change to Spanish season a disaster”

UK company Davis Worldwide started up back in 1999 in Lincolnshire, England and also has an office near the fresh produce hub Barendrecht in The Netherlands. The UK office deals mainly in the fruit and vegetable imports from Spain, France, Italy and Morocco, while the Dutch office handles produce from further afield such as South America, New Zealand, South Africa etc.

Peter Davis, owner of the company said that facilities at the Port of Rotterdam were second to none as far the fresh produce business was concerned, “It is faster for us to get the produce from the ship in Rotterdam then truck it over to England, it is also cost effective. We also have a platform in Perpignan where we can split loads and then reload for specific destinations, by consolidating the loads the trucks have less stops making us very fast on deliveries.”

90% of Davis’s Spanish and French produce is packed on the farms, it can be repacked in Lincolnshire, but as Peter explains they prefer not to do this and keep handling of the produce to an absolute minimum.

Peter said the change over to the Spanish vegetable season has been a bit of a disaster this year, mainly due to the weather, “So much rain fell in Almeria last week and more is forecast, which affects both quality and availability, but Morocco will start in two weeks time which should give a bit of stability to the market. In particular, cucumber has been very expensive, you need to have very deep pockets to fill the contracts at the moment.”

One saving grace, according to Peter has been the melon market Spain has just finished and now the Brazilian melons are on the market and getting a good price.

He goes on to say that the European apple season is going to be very challenging due to the huge amounts of fruit on the market, this of course is compounded by the ban on European exports to Russia.

“The supermarket price wars are not helping the situation either, the discounters Aldi and Lidl never had as much impact on the UK market as they did in Germany but that has now changed as they are selling more well known brands and turnover has increased, supermarkets in general are using low cost fresh produce to get customers through the doors, although they will promote the English apple, some still have south African apples on the shelves because they’re much cheaper than new season European ones,” comments Davis.

He also reckons that much more Moroccan produce will go directly to Russia, thus side stepping the European importers, “The Moroccans will just send to Russia directly, last year our grower sent 10 tonnes of Moroccan salad products to Russia this year he has already sent 40. Spain is also loosing out to Morocco as they improve growing techniques and quality, Spain will also suffer from the very wet weather especially in products such as courgettes. It has been warm and wet, producing very humid conditions which leads to problems with mildew which will mean big problems for the growers.”

For more information:
Peter Davis
Davis Worldwide
Tel: 0044 1507 600969
Email: [email protected]
www.davisworldwide.co.uk

Publication date: 10/17/2014
Author: Nichola Watson
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Product availability more and more difficult due to climate change

Rogier Albas, Arava Holland:
Product availability more and more difficult due to climate change

Israeli herb growers are preparing themselves for the new season. “We still have rosemary, thyme, cilantro and dill available, but we are waiting for the ‘winter crop’ that will become available in October. From that time onwards the volumes will have to increase by the day,” says Rogier Alblas from Arava Holland. Arava Holland is, as of recently, located in Poeldijk

Arava Holland in Poeldijk acts as the European sales office for Israeli fruit and vegetables. Sales of herbs go from the United Kingdom to Czech Republic and from Scandinavian countries to Italy. “Right now Germany is the biggest buyer,” says Rogier. He looks back at a good herb season. “Spring made its appearance early and that had an effect on sales. All in all it went well. For the coming season the growing areas will remain quite similar, although you are always looking for ways to expand.”

The consequences from the Russian boycott on European herbs has been limited for Arava Holland. “We export directly from Israel to Russia. From what I am hearing, the orders from Russia are increasing, but this has not yet had any consequences on the availability of herbs on the European market,” says Rogier.

The developments in the global weather patterns are making it harder to ensure product availability. “Every year it is getting harder, that is why the supply from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco is increasing. We also import goods from Kenya and Ethiopia and the quality of those products are good.”

For more information:
Rogier Alblas
Arava Holland
ABC Westland 403
2685 DE Poeldijk
Mob: 0031 6 41728074
[email protected]
www.arv.co.il

Publication date: 9/17/2014
Author: Katrina Conrad
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

FDA’s Taylor says food-safety inspections to change in post-FSMA

WASHINGTON — The Food & Drug Administration is retooling inspectors to be more specialized in food and teaching them to assess a company’s food-safety culture for the first time when deciding whether to return for another inspection, Mike Taylor, the FDA ‘s food-safety chief, said Sept. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here.

This was just one of several messages he brought to the breakfast meeting of the conference as he mapped out the FDA’s plan for assuring compliance with the massive Food Safety Modernization Act.

While attendees had hoped Taylor would detail the new provisions of the produce safety proposal, he arrived to the meeting empty-handed as the White House has yet to complete the final review.

But Taylor laid out the “sea change” its field force is undergoing to prepare for the new food-safety law.

Bringing companies into compliance will be the new benchmark of FDA’s field force, not collecting evidence for enforcement actions, Taylor pledged. The FDA is shifting away from general inspectors who are trained to check drug, food and medical device firms for a more specialized food inspector who can call technical experts at FDA for advice during plant assessments.

A company’s food-safety culture will influence how often inspectors will check on a firm, whether it’s the food-safety commitment of the top leaders at a company or the effort a facility takes in developing the right plans, he said.

“This focuses us on those few that aren’t there, don’t have a food safety culture for whatever reason and need our attention to get compliance,” he said.

While the new produce safety and preventive controls are not out yet, Taylor said the industry should expect to see greater flexibility in the water quality and testing provisions and a different direction on the raw manure-compost section.

“You will see important new ideas in there,” he said. “This next round will be very important.”

Later, United Fresh conference packed two busloads of attendees to the FDA’s College Park, MD, office to discuss a wide range of issues with regulators in charge of drafting the FSMA rules and overseeing various sampling programs.

One FDA official told the group to expect new supplier verification and product testing requirements in the supplemental FSMA rules expected as early as this month.

Expect a fix to the problem of neighboring farms being designated facilities if they pack other farms’ produce.

“This is an area we considered when developing the supplemental,” said Samir Assar, FDA’s produce safety staff director.

Avocados, sprouts on FDA sampling list

Besides FSMA, Amy Barringer, FDA’s director of field programs and guidance, briefed the group on the 2014 sampling pilot program and its new emphasis on taking a larger number of statistically significant samples of fewer commodities to check for pathogens.

This year, the FDA is in the process of taking thousands of samples of avocados, certain raw milk cheeses and sprouts, and Barringer said the agency is wrestling with a way to share data with stakeholders before releasing a final report. Cheese and sprout testing will be wrapped up in January, and avocados in June.

In response to a question of why avocados were targeted, Barringer said FDA has seen an uptick of illnesses from processed foods that may contain avocados, such as salsa, but the agency had little data.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

FDA’s Taylor says food-safety inspections to change in post-FSMA

WASHINGTON — The Food & Drug Administration is retooling inspectors to be more specialized in food and teaching them to assess a company’s food-safety culture for the first time when deciding whether to return for another inspection, Mike Taylor, the FDA ‘s food-safety chief, said Sept. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference, here.

This was just one of several messages he brought to the breakfast meeting of the conference as he mapped out the FDA’s plan for assuring compliance with the massive Food Safety Modernization Act.

While attendees had hoped Taylor would detail the new provisions of the produce safety proposal, he arrived to the meeting empty-handed as the White House has yet to complete the final review.

But Taylor laid out the “sea change” its field force is undergoing to prepare for the new food-safety law.

Bringing companies into compliance will be the new benchmark of FDA’s field force, not collecting evidence for enforcement actions, Taylor pledged. The FDA is shifting away from general inspectors who are trained to check drug, food and medical device firms for a more specialized food inspector who can call technical experts at FDA for advice during plant assessments.

A company’s food-safety culture will influence how often inspectors will check on a firm, whether it’s the food-safety commitment of the top leaders at a company or the effort a facility takes in developing the right plans, he said.

“This focuses us on those few that aren’t there, don’t have a food safety culture for whatever reason and need our attention to get compliance,” he said.

While the new produce safety and preventive controls are not out yet, Taylor said the industry should expect to see greater flexibility in the water quality and testing provisions and a different direction on the raw manure-compost section.

“You will see important new ideas in there,” he said. “This next round will be very important.”

Later, United Fresh conference packed two busloads of attendees to the FDA’s College Park, MD, office to discuss a wide range of issues with regulators in charge of drafting the FSMA rules and overseeing various sampling programs.

One FDA official told the group to expect new supplier verification and product testing requirements in the supplemental FSMA rules expected as early as this month.

Expect a fix to the problem of neighboring farms being designated facilities if they pack other farms’ produce.

“This is an area we considered when developing the supplemental,” said Samir Assar, FDA’s produce safety staff director.

Avocados, sprouts on FDA sampling list

Besides FSMA, Amy Barringer, FDA’s director of field programs and guidance, briefed the group on the 2014 sampling pilot program and its new emphasis on taking a larger number of statistically significant samples of fewer commodities to check for pathogens.

This year, the FDA is in the process of taking thousands of samples of avocados, certain raw milk cheeses and sprouts, and Barringer said the agency is wrestling with a way to share data with stakeholders before releasing a final report. Cheese and sprout testing will be wrapped up in January, and avocados in June.

In response to a question of why avocados were targeted, Barringer said FDA has seen an uptick of illnesses from processed foods that may contain avocados, such as salsa, but the agency had little data.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change

Healthier diets and reducing food waste are part of a combination of solutions needed to ensure food security and avoid dangerous climate change, say the team behind a new study.

A new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, suggests that — if current trends continue — food production alone will reach, if not exceed, the global targets for total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2050.

The study’s authors say we should all think carefully about the food we choose and its environmental impact. A shift to healthier diets across the world is just one of a number of actions that need to be taken to avoid dangerous climate change and ensure there is enough food for all.

As populations rise and global tastes shift towards meat-heavy Western diets, increasing agricultural yields will not meet projected food demands of what is expected to be 9.6 billion people — making it necessary to bring more land into cultivation.

This will come at a high price, warn the authors, as the deforestation will increase carbon emissions as well as biodiversity loss, and increased livestock production will raise methane levels. They argue that current food demand trends must change through reducing waste and encouraging balanced diets.

If we maintain ‘business as usual’, say the authors, then by 2050 cropland will have expanded by 42% and fertiliser use increased sharply by 45% over 2009 levels. A further tenth of the world’s pristine tropical forests would disappear over the next 35 years.

The study shows that increased deforestation, fertilizer use and livestock methane emissions are likely to cause GHG from food production to increase by almost 80%. This will put emissions from food production alone roughly equal to the target greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 for the entire global economy.

The study’s authors write that halving the amount of food waste and managing demand for particularly environmentally-damaging food products by changing global diets should be key aims that, if achieved, might mitigate some of the greenhouse gases causing climate change.

“There are basic laws of biophysics that we cannot evade,” said lead researcher Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who authored the study with colleagues from Cambridge’s departments of Geography and Plant Sciences as well as the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

“The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans. The losses at each stage are large, and as humans globally eat more and more meat, conversion from plants to food becomes less and less efficient, driving agricultural expansion and land cover conversion, and releasing more greenhouse gases. Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here — but our choice of food is,” said Bajzelj.

“It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland. Food production is a main driver of biodiversity loss and a large contributor to climate change and pollution, so our food choices matter.”

The team analysed evidence such as land use, land suitability and agricultural biomass data to create a robust model that compares different scenarios for 2050, including scenarios based on maintaining current trends.

One scenario investigated by the team is on the supply side: the closing of ‘yield gaps’. Gaps between crop yields achieved in ‘best practice’ farming and the actual average yields exist all over the world, but are widest in developing countries — particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers say that closing these gaps through sustainable intensification of farming should be actively pursued.

But even with the yield gaps closed, projected food demand will still require additional land — so the impact on GHG emissions and biodiversity remains. Bajzelj points out that higher yields will also require more mineral fertiliser use and increased water demand for irrigation.

Food waste, another scenario analysed by the team, occurs at all stages in the food chain. In developing countries, poor storage and transportation cause waste; in the west, wasteful consumption is rife. “The latter is in many ways worse because the wasted food products have already undergone various transformations that require input of other resources, especially energy,” said Bajzelj.

Yield gap closure alone still showed a greenhouse gas increase of just over 40% by 2050. Closing yield gaps and halving food waste still showed a small increase of 2% in greenhouse gas emissions. When healthy diets were added, the model suggests that all three measures combined result in agricultural GHG levels almost halving from their 2009 level — dropping 48%.

“Western diets are increasingly characterised by excessive consumption of food, including that of emission-intensive meat and dairy products. We tested a scenario where all countries were assumed to achieve an average balanced diet — without excessive consumption of sugars, fats, and meat products. This significantly reduced the pressures on the environment even further,” said the team.

The ‘average’ balanced diet used in the study is a relatively achievable goal for most. For example, the figures included two 85g portions of red meat and five eggs per week, as well as a portion of poultry a day.

“This is not a radical vegetarian argument; it is an argument about eating meat in sensible amounts as part of healthy, balanced diets,” said Cambridge co-author Prof Keith Richards. “Managing the demand better, for example by focusing on health education, would bring double benefits — maintaining healthy populations, and greatly reducing critical pressures on the environment.”

Co-author Prof Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen said: “unless we make some serious changes in food consumption trends, we would have to completely de-carbonise the energy and industry sectors to stay within emissions budgets that avoid dangerous climate change. That is practically impossible — so, as well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat.”

“Cutting food waste and moderating meat consumption in more balanced diets, are the essential ‘no-regrets’ options,” added Bajzelj.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Trade Association Wants FDA to Change and Reissue FSMA Transport Rule

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) wants the Food and Drug Administration to make significant changes to its proposed rule for sanitary food transportation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In addition, the association is asking that FDA reissue language for parts of the rule like it plans to do with the produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and Foreign Supplier Verification Program rules.

“Given the very significant nature of these regulations, we believe that a second opportunity for stakeholder comment is essential to ensure that the requirements in the final rule are practical, achievable and foster the safe transport and distribution of human and animal food,” read the NGFA comments submitted to FDA on July 30. “Further, we believe FDA has the ability and authority to re-propose the regulations and still comply with the court-ordered deadline to publish a final rule by March 31, 2016.”

FDA has informed Food Safety News that it does not currently have plans to re-release parts of the rule.

NGFA believes in the responsibility of rail carriers and truck transporters to provide clean conveyances and transportation equipment suitable for the type of human and animal food shipped, but it considers some of the proposed FSMA requirements to be excessive and could add unnecessary burdens and costs “without a commensurate improvement in product safety.”

Some of the changes the association requests include:

  • Identifying only the immediate previous haul in bulk trucks or rail cars, rather than the three previous ones.
  • Eliminating the requirement that electronic records be kept in order to comply with rules that “stipulate extensive computer validation.”
  • Doing away with the proposal to exempt shippers, carriers and receivers that have less than $ 500,000 in total annual sales.
  • Deleting the requirement for hand-washing facilities unless human contact with the food could cause it to become adulterated or unfit for human or animal consumption.
  • Clearer definitions for several terms. For example, they say “shipper” should only apply to the party that loads a shipment instead of brokers or third-party logistics operators.

NGFA also recommends that FDA develop guidance on good transportation practices, as well as user-friendly educational materials, pertaining to the safe transport of such products by farms.

In addition, the association wants additional exemptions to be provided for transfers of food between facilities owned by the same parent or corporate entity and for trucks and rail lines that transport the same type of food continually, such as shuttle trains and privately owned railcars that haul grains and oilseeds on a dedicated circuitous route.

The comments express support for various aspects of the proposed rule, including FDA’s tentative conclusion to exempt the transport of live food-producing animals from the regulation and the agency’s intent to provide flexibility to shippers, carriers and receivers concerning appropriate sanitary transportation practices (including not prescribing specific sanitation practices).

NGFA also supports the decision, given constrained U.S. transportation capacity and severe rail service disruptions, not to restrict access for human and animal food to certain classes or types of rail or truck conveyances or transportation equipment.

Food Safety News

Conservation scientists asking wrong questions on climate change impacts on wildlife

Scientists studying the potential effects of climate change on the world’s animal and plant species are focusing on the wrong factors, according to a new paper by a research team from the Wildlife Conservation Society, University of Queensland, and other organizations. The authors claim that most of the conservation science is missing the point when it comes to climate change.

While the majority of climate change scientists focus on the “direct” threats of changing temperatures and precipitation after 2031, far fewer researchers are studying how short-term human adaptation responses to seasonal changes and extreme weather events may threaten the survival of wildlife and ecosystems much sooner. These indirect effects are far more likely to cause extinctions, especially in the near term.

The review appears online in the international journal Diversity and Distributions.

“A review of the literature exploring the effects of climate change on biodiversity has revealed a gap in what may be the main challenge to the world’s fauna and flora,” said the senior author Dr. James Watson, Climate Change Program Director and a Principle Research Fellow at the University of Queensland.

The research team conducted a review of all available literature published over the past twelve years on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. In their review, the authors classified studies examining the projected changes in temperature and precipitation as “direct threat” research. Direct threats also included changes such as coral bleaching, shifting animal and plant life cycles and distributions, and habitat loss from sea level rise. Human responses to climate change — including everything from shifting agriculture patterns, the construction of sea walls to protect cities from sea level rise, changes in human fishing intensity, diversion of water, and other factors — were classified as “indirect threats.”

The authors found that the vast majority of studies (approximately 89 percent of the research included in the review) focused exclusively on the direct impacts of climate change. Only 11 percent included both direct and indirect threats, and the authors found no studies focusing only on indirect threats.

“The reactions of human communities to these changes should be treated as a top priority by the research community,” said Dr. Watson. “The short-term, indirect threats are not merely ‘bumps in the road’ — they are serious problems that require a greater analysis of social, economic, and political issues stemming from changes already occurring.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Climate Change Increases Risk of Crop Slowdown in Next 20 Years

The world faces a small but substantially increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global crop yields because of climate change, new research finds.

The authors, from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), say the odds of a major production slowdown of wheat and corn even with a warming climate are not very high. But the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming, and it may require planning by organizations that are affected by international food availability and price.

“Climate change has substantially increased the prospect that crop production will fail to keep up with rising demand in the next 20 years,” said NCAR scientist Claudia Tebaldi, a co-author of the study.

Stanford professor David Lobell said he wanted to study the potential impact of climate change on agriculture in the next two decades because of questions he has received from stakeholders and decision makers in governments and the private sector.

“I’m often asked whether climate change will threaten food supply, as if it’s a simple yes or no answer,” Lobell said. “The truth is that over a 10- or 20-year period, it depends largely on how fast Earth warms, and we can’t predict the pace of warming very precisely. So the best we can do is try to determine the odds.”

Lobell and Tebaldi used computer models of global climate, as well as data about weather and crops, to calculate the chances that climatic trends would have a negative effect of 10 percent on yields of corn and wheat in the next 20 years. This would have a major impact on food supply. Yields would continue to increase but the slowdown would effectively cut the projected rate of increase by about half at the same time that demand is projected to grow sharply.

They found that the likelihood of natural climate shifts causing such a slowdown over the next 20 years is only 1 in 200. But when the authors accounted for human-induced global warming, they found that the odds jumped to 1 in 10 for corn and 1 in 20 for wheat.

The study appears in this month’s issue of Environmental Research Letters. It was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s sponsor, and by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

More crops needed worldwide

Global yields of crops such as corn and wheat have typically increased by about 1-2 percent per year in recent decades, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization projects that global production of major crops will increase by 13 percent per decade through 2030 — likely the fastest rate of increase during the coming century. However, global demand for crops is also expected to rise rapidly during the next two decades because of population growth, greater per-capita food consumption, and increasing use of biofuels.

Lobell and Tebaldi set out to estimate the odds that climate change could interfere with the ability of crop producers to keep up with demand. Whereas other climate research had looked at the crop impacts that were most likely, Lobell and Tebaldi decided to focus on the less likely but potentially more dangerous scenario that climate change would reduce yield growth by 10 percent or more.

The researchers used simulations available from an NCAR-based climate model (developed by teams of scientists with support from NSF and DOE), as well as several other models, to provide trends in temperature and precipitation over the next two decades for crop-intensive regions under a scenario of increasing carbon dioxide. They also used the same model simulations without human-caused increases in carbon dioxide to assess the same trends in a natural climate.

In addition, they ran statistical analyses to estimate the impacts of changes in temperature and precipitation on wheat and corn yields in various regions of the globe and during specific times of the year that coincide with the most important times of the growing seasons for those two crops.

The authors quantified the extent to which warming temperatures would correlate with reduced yields. For example, an increase of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) would slow corn yields by 7 percent and wheat yields by 6 percent. Depending on the crop-growing region, the odds of such a temperature increase in the next 20 years were about 30 to 40 percent in simulations that included increases in carbon dioxide. In contrast, such temperature increases had a much lower chance of occurring in stimulations that included only natural variability, not human-induced climate change.

Although society could offset the climate impacts by planting wheat and corn in cooler regions, such planting shifts to date have not occurred quickly enough to offset warmer temperatures, the study warned. The authors also found little evidence that other adaptation strategies, such as changes in crop varieties or growing practices, would totally offset the impact of warming temperatures.

“Although further study may prove otherwise we do not anticipate adaptation being fast enough to significantly alter the near-term risks estimated in this paper,” they wrote.

“We can’t predict whether a major slowdown in crop growth will actually happen, and the odds are still fairly low,” said Tebaldi. “But climate change has increased the odds to the point that organizations concerned with food security or global stability need to be aware of this risk.”

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Socio-economic change more of a problem for nomads than climate change

Socio-economic change could have a much bigger impact than climate change on grazing lands in the world’s arid regions. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Cologne, who simulated ecological and social factors in a computer model. The negative effects of climate change can to a certain extent be offset by an increased herd mobility, write the researchers in a recent issue of the journal Global Environmental Change. However, higher income demands and less available grazing land make it increasingly difficult for nomads to move their herds around to secure their livelihoods.

Arid and semi-arid regions of the world account for around 40 per cent of earth’s land surface. The main source of income in these regions is livestock farming, which supports over a billion people. Since rainfall in these regions is low and irregular, many nomadic peoples have adapted their way of life and move their herds to wherever the vegetation offers the best grazing at the time. In doing so they also rest some parts of their grazing land, which is given a chance to recover — a positive ‘side-effect’ of mobility. Changing climate conditions, such as bigger rainfall fluctuations, could disrupt this sensitive system. For instance, some parts of north-west Africa are predicted to see a 10 to 20 per cent decrease in rainfall levels. The study therefore aimed to identify climate change limits, within which the livelihoods of households that depend on livestock could be maintained in the long term. The researchers also looked at socio-economic changes, combining a risk assessment with an environmental and economic model.

The evaluation showed that higher fluctuations in annual rainfall sums would have less of an impact on animal farming than a decrease in average levels of annual rainfall. Socio-economic changes, such as higher income requirements, raised the tolerance limits for rainfall fluctuations. “To a certain extent, mobility enables nomads to continue their pastoral farming practices in less productive systems, thereby offsetting negative effects of climate change,” reports Dr Romina Martin of the UFZ, who is now conducting research at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. However, higher income requirements and less access to grazing land make it increasingly difficult to maintain this mobility.

“Although our model focuses on nomadic grazing systems and only considers the most important drivers, it reflects the consequences of the dramatic change in land use patterns in arid regions,” says Prof. Karin Frank of the UFZ. “However, our approach is not restricted to studying grazing systems. It can be used anywhere where the dynamics of ecosystem services are closely linked to people’s livelihoods.”

“Our results emphasize the fact that the form of pastoralism practised by nomadic herdsmen enables sustainable use of sensitive ecosystems and that the ecosystems are resilient enough, when used in this way, to adapt to changes in rainfall and therefore to climate change,” says Dr Anja Linstädter of the University of Cologne. Dr Birgit Müller of the UFZ adds: “So we should not simply dismiss nomadism as an outdated tradition.” In many arid regions this could be the only sustainable form of land use — unlike intensive crop farming, which enables higher yields in those regions, but over-uses the soil and water resources to such an extent that agriculture soon stops being viable. In the authors’ view, this also casts a different light on the discussion about what, to western eyes, appears to be unused land in many parts of Africa. In reality, this communal grazing land represents an important basis for subsistence for local populations.

The study incorporated research findings from field studies conducted in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and Oriental region, and in the highlands of Tibet, as part of two interdisciplinary projects. Under the umbrella of the IMPETUS project at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn, Germany, climatologists, hydrologists, geographers, rangeland ecologists and ethnologists spent 12 years investigating the consequences of climate and land use change on natural resources in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Their data on rainfall fluctuations and on the productivity and regenerative capacity of pasture vegetation formed the basis for the ecological part of the model. By contrast, the Collaborative Research Centre for Difference and Integration at the German Research Foundation (DFG) focused on investigating the lives of nomadic peoples in the “Old World dry belt.” Archaeologists, ethnologists, geographers, historians and orientalists at the Universities of Halle and Leipzig, Germany, collaborated with colleagues from other institutes on this project for more than ten years because nomadic and settled cultures have existed side-by-side between Morocco and Tibet for over 5000 years.

Some unconventional methods have since been used to disseminate the findings: within the DFG’s Collaborative Research Centre for Difference and Integration, UFZ scientists worked with the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) to develop a strategic game to explain the connections between land use, rainfall and livestock capital to a broad public. In the game, up to six players take on the role of a nomadic herdsman. The aim is to increase the herdsman’s capital in the form of sheep. Players have to take decisions that depend not only on the state of the grazing land, but also on the day-to-day challenges of life in the steppes. The NomadSed board game is suitable for ages ten and over and is now also being used for development education, e.g. by the “Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Germany” in Kenya.

The study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, project SFB 586 ”Difference and Integration”), the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, project IMPETUS) and the Helmholtz Association.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily