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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

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

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

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

Climate: Meat turns up the heat as livestock emit greenhouse gases

Eating meat contributes to climate change, due to greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock. New research finds that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of animals. It is published by Climactic Change.

Carbon dioxide is the most-prevalent gas when it comes to climate change. It is released by vehicles, industry, and forest removal and comprises the greatest portion of greenhouse gas totals. But methane and nitrous oxide are also greenhouse gasses and account for approximately 28 percent of global warming activity.

Methane and nitrous oxide are released, in part, by livestock. Animals release methane as a result of microorganisms that are involved in their digestive processes and nitrous oxide from decomposing manure. These two gasses are responsible for a quarter of these non-carbon dioxide gas emissions and 9 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions overall.

The research team, including Dario Caro, formerly of Carnegie and now at the University of Siena in Italy, and Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, estimated the greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock in 237 countries over a nearly half a century and found that livestock emissions increased by 51 percent over this period.

They found a stark difference between livestock-related emissions in the developing world, which accounts for most of this increase, and that released by developed countries. This is expected to increase further going forward, as demand for meat, dairy products, and eggs is predicted by some scientists to double by 2050. By contrast, developed countries reached maximum livestock emissions in the 1970s and have been in decline since that time.

“The developing world is getting better at reducing greenhouse emissions caused by each animal, but this improvement is not keeping up with the increasing demand for meat,” said Caro. “As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock keep going up and up in much of the developing world.”

Breaking it down by animal, beef and dairy cattle comprised 74 percent of livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions, 54 percent coming from beef cattle and 17 percent from dairy cattle. Part of this is due to the abundance of cows, but it is also because cattle emit greater quantities of methane and nitrous oxide than other animals. Sheep comprised 9 percent, buffalo 7 percent, pigs 5 percent, and goats 4 percent.

“That tasty hamburger is the real culprit,” Caldeira said. “It might be better for the environment if we all became vegetarians, but a lot of improvement could come from eating pork or chicken instead of beef.”

Story Source:

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

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

Climate change provides good growing conditions for charcoal rot in soybeans

With over 100 diseases that can attack soybean crops, why would charcoal rot rise to the top of the most wanted list? University of Illinois scientists cite the earth’s changing climate as one reason that more research is needed on the fungus that causes charcoal rot.

Fungi may often be associated with cool, damp growing conditions but Macrophomina phaseolina, the fungus that causes charcoal rot, prefers hot and dry drought conditions.

“As the climate continues to change and we see more extremes in the weather, including hotter, drier summers, this fungus will have more favorable conditions to gain a foothold in soybean and other crops,” said Osman Radwan, a U of I molecular biologist. “If we look at diseases of soybean, we find that soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is at the top, but in the past decade or so, charcoal rot has become one of the top 10 diseases that affect soybean yield.”

In examining previous studies on charcoal rot, Radwan and his team noticed that worsening weather conditions associated with climate change, such as higher heat and drought, brought an increase in the incidence of charcoal rot in soybean. He suggests that a research strategy be created to develop a high-yielding soybean that is both resistant to charcoal rot and drought tolerant.

“Right now we are screening lines of soybean to charcoal rot and drought stress, in collaboration with Glen Hartman, a USDA-ARS and U of I plant pathologist,” Radwan said. “His team is screening for charcoal rot resistance, and I am screening for drought tolerance,” Radwan said. “Our ultimate goal is to identify the line that shows resistance to both charcoal rot and drought stress and in this way improve soybean tolerance to both the pathogen and the extreme weather conditions.”

The review of research on the subject has been written along with Hartman and Schuyler Korban from U of I. Radwan said that this background for what’s already been done on the topic will help them to develop a strategy for the next step.

Radwan emphasized that it’s not just soybean crops at risk. The fungus causes charcoal rot in about 500 other host plants, including corn, sorghum, sunflower, and other important crops. This fungus also grows in high concentrations of salt, which isn’t much of a problem to growers in the United States, but it is for farmers in developing countries where salinity is considered an issue. Consequently, the plant must be able to tolerate drought, salt, and resist this fungus at the same time.

One intriguing direction Radwan described that shows promise is that there may be interactions between M. phaseolina and other soil pathogens such as soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and sudden death syndrome (SDS).

“We have some assumptions about whether SCN can increase or decrease the incidence of charcoal rot as resistance to both pathogens might be controlled by two different pathways,” Radwan said. He explained that biotrophic pathogens such as SCN need plant tissue to survive, but the fungus that causes charcoal rot is necrotrophic, meaning that it kills the plant tissue, then lives on the dead plant cells.

“We need to understand at the molecular level how these two pathogens interact when they are present in soybean fields. Understanding the mechanisms of molecular interactions between SCN and M. phaseolina will help molecular biologists and breeders to design an effective method to control both diseases and to breed soybean for resistance to both pathogens,” he said.

Although no plants have complete immunity from the fungus, some soybean lines have been shown to have partial resistance to it. Hartman’s group has already begun screening many lines in soybean for resistance to charcoal rot.

In controlled greenhouse conditions, Radwan grows a variety of soybean cultivars in sandy soil and then stops watering the plants to simulate drought. The susceptible ones wilt and, even after adding water, don’t recover. Those that are tolerant to drought survive.

“If we screen for drought stress, we hope to find some cultivars that are charcoal rot resistant and others that are drought tolerant so that we can cross them,” Radwan said. “Of course, they also must have good agronomic traits, such as having a high yield potential, in order to be acceptable to farmers.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Drop in global malnutrition depends on agricultural productivity, climate change

Global malnutrition could fall 84 percent by the year 2050 as incomes in developing countries grow — but only if agricultural productivity continues to improve and climate change does not severely damage agriculture, Purdue University researchers say.

“The prevalence and severity of global malnutrition could drop significantly by 2050, particularly in the poorest regions of the world,” said Thomas Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics. “But if productivity does not grow, global malnutrition will worsen even if incomes increase. Climate change also adds a good deal of uncertainty to these projections.”

Hertel and doctoral student Uris Baldos developed a combination of economic models — one that captures the main drivers of crop supply and demand and another that assesses food security based on caloric consumption — to predict how global food security from 2006 to 2050 could be affected by changes in population, income, bioenergy, agricultural productivity and climate.

According to the models, income growth coupled with projected increases in agricultural productivity could raise more than half a billion people out of extreme hunger by mid-century.

Income is also set to eclipse population as the dominant driver of food security, a “historical first,” said Baldos.

“We expect that the population driver will diminish relative to per capita income in the coming decades, especially in the developing world,” he said.

Growth in income will allow people to increase the amount of food they consume and “upgrade” their diets by adding more meat and processed foods to staples such as crops and starches. The shift toward a diet higher in calories and richer in protein could lift many in hunger-stricken regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, China and Mongolia above the malnutrition line.

Globally, the volume of food consumed per capita could increase by about 31 percent. In developing regions with strong growth in income and population, consumption could rise by about 56 to 75 percent.

But these projections depend heavily on corresponding increases in agricultural productivity, Hertel said. Productivity is a measure of crop yields relative to the inputs used in producing them such as land, labor and fertilizers. Increased global productivity improved the availability of food over the last 50 years, but this trend must continue between now and 2050 to buttress food security.

“There is a clear link between productivity growth in agriculture and the number of malnourished people,” Hertel said. “Boosting productivity tends to lower food prices, and declines in the cost of food in turn can allow for better nutrition. Income growth alone will not be enough to solve the malnutrition problem.”

Historically, agricultural productivity has been driven by investments in agricultural research and development. The researchers said improvements in food security depend on increasing research spending, especially over the next two decades.

“The decisions we make now about funding for agricultural research will have implications for a number of malnourished people in 2050,” Hertel said. “If agricultural productivity stagnates, there will be far more malnourished people in the future, particularly in regions where chronic hunger is already present.”

The researchers also cautioned that the impacts of a changing climate on crop yields remain uncertain.

Rising temperatures could extend the growing season in northern latitudes, and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could benefit some crops by improving water efficiency. But climate change is complicated, Hertel said.

“Up to 2050, there could be some pluses for agriculture,” he said. “But in the longer run, adverse temperatures will likely become overwhelming, and rising carbon dioxide concentrations won’t help after a certain point. Eventually, you drop off a cliff.”

The models show that climate change is a less influential driver of global food security than income, population and productivity — but it could still pose a significant risk to the nutrition levels of people living in the world’s poorest regions, Baldos said.

“People living in the most hunger-stricken areas will be the most vulnerable to climate change.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Natalie van Hoose. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Retailers should act on climate change

In early May, the White House released its National Climate Assessment detailing ways climate change is already impacting the U.S. and what to expect in the future. One of the major topics in the report was agriculture.

Increased temperatures and variations in precipitation will greatly affect what America can grow. For example, the report forecasts sizeable reductions in yields of certain crops in California’s Central Valley over the next century.

“Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation and retailing,” researchers said in the report.

While supermarkets may not be directly involved in agriculture, food availability and pricing certainly has a major impact on their business. There is much the industry could do to take action on climate change and its effects.

Some retailers and growers are looking at alternative methods of food production. As recently reported in SN, the Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the store with greens, herbs and tomatoes.

In St. Paul, Minn., a company called Urban Organics grows greens and tilapia through aquaponics, a process that it says uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. Currently, Lund Food Holdings sells the products in a handful of area stores. (Look for that story in the next issue of SN.)


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On a much larger scale, Walmart has made significant strides in promoting sustainability across its supply chain, including in agriculture. Last month, the retailer held its first Sustainable Product Expo for suppliers, attended by top executives from Walmart, as well as Monsanto, Cargill, Kellogg Company and others.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon noted at the Expo that 90% of the retailer’s footprint comes from its supply chain. With that in mind, Walmart and event attendees outlined major sustainability commitments in the agricultural sector in everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting better use of land and water.

“We collectively have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said at the Expo.

While McLaughlin was speaking specifically about Walmart and its suppliers, the same holds true for the food retail industry as a whole. Sustainability in agriculture is not just a feel-good message for consumers — it’s a necessity for food retailers if they want to ensure they will still have products to sell in the future.

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Supermarket News

Retailers should act on climate change

In early May, the White House released its National Climate Assessment detailing ways climate change is already impacting the U.S. and what to expect in the future. One of the major topics in the report was agriculture.

Increased temperatures and variations in precipitation will greatly affect what America can grow. For example, the report forecasts sizeable reductions in yields of certain crops in California’s Central Valley over the next century.

“Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation and retailing,” researchers said in the report.

While supermarkets may not be directly involved in agriculture, food availability and pricing certainly has a major impact on their business. There is much the industry could do to take action on climate change and its effects.

Some retailers and growers are looking at alternative methods of food production. As recently reported in SN, the Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the store with greens, herbs and tomatoes.

In St. Paul, Minn., a company called Urban Organics grows greens and tilapia through aquaponics, a process that it says uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. Currently, Lund Food Holdings sells the products in a handful of area stores. (Look for that story in the next issue of SN.)


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


On a much larger scale, Walmart has made significant strides in promoting sustainability across its supply chain, including in agriculture. Last month, the retailer held its first Sustainable Product Expo for suppliers, attended by top executives from Walmart, as well as Monsanto, Cargill, Kellogg Company and others.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon noted at the Expo that 90% of the retailer’s footprint comes from its supply chain. With that in mind, Walmart and event attendees outlined major sustainability commitments in the agricultural sector in everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting better use of land and water.

“We collectively have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said at the Expo.

While McLaughlin was speaking specifically about Walmart and its suppliers, the same holds true for the food retail industry as a whole. Sustainability in agriculture is not just a feel-good message for consumers — it’s a necessity for food retailers if they want to ensure they will still have products to sell in the future.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

Retailers should act on climate change

In early May, the White House released its National Climate Assessment detailing ways climate change is already impacting the U.S. and what to expect in the future. One of the major topics in the report was agriculture.

Increased temperatures and variations in precipitation will greatly affect what America can grow. For example, the report forecasts sizeable reductions in yields of certain crops in California’s Central Valley over the next century.

“Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation and retailing,” researchers said in the report.

While supermarkets may not be directly involved in agriculture, food availability and pricing certainly has a major impact on their business. There is much the industry could do to take action on climate change and its effects.

Some retailers and growers are looking at alternative methods of food production. As recently reported in SN, the Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the store with greens, herbs and tomatoes.

In St. Paul, Minn., a company called Urban Organics grows greens and tilapia through aquaponics, a process that it says uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. Currently, Lund Food Holdings sells the products in a handful of area stores. (Look for that story in the next issue of SN.)


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


On a much larger scale, Walmart has made significant strides in promoting sustainability across its supply chain, including in agriculture. Last month, the retailer held its first Sustainable Product Expo for suppliers, attended by top executives from Walmart, as well as Monsanto, Cargill, Kellogg Company and others.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon noted at the Expo that 90% of the retailer’s footprint comes from its supply chain. With that in mind, Walmart and event attendees outlined major sustainability commitments in the agricultural sector in everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting better use of land and water.

“We collectively have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said at the Expo.

While McLaughlin was speaking specifically about Walmart and its suppliers, the same holds true for the food retail industry as a whole. Sustainability in agriculture is not just a feel-good message for consumers — it’s a necessity for food retailers if they want to ensure they will still have products to sell in the future.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

Retailers should act on climate change

In early May, the White House released its National Climate Assessment detailing ways climate change is already impacting the U.S. and what to expect in the future. One of the major topics in the report was agriculture.

Increased temperatures and variations in precipitation will greatly affect what America can grow. For example, the report forecasts sizeable reductions in yields of certain crops in California’s Central Valley over the next century.

“Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation and retailing,” researchers said in the report.

While supermarkets may not be directly involved in agriculture, food availability and pricing certainly has a major impact on their business. There is much the industry could do to take action on climate change and its effects.

Some retailers and growers are looking at alternative methods of food production. As recently reported in SN, the Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a rooftop greenhouse that supplies the store with greens, herbs and tomatoes.

In St. Paul, Minn., a company called Urban Organics grows greens and tilapia through aquaponics, a process that it says uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. Currently, Lund Food Holdings sells the products in a handful of area stores. (Look for that story in the next issue of SN.)


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


On a much larger scale, Walmart has made significant strides in promoting sustainability across its supply chain, including in agriculture. Last month, the retailer held its first Sustainable Product Expo for suppliers, attended by top executives from Walmart, as well as Monsanto, Cargill, Kellogg Company and others.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon noted at the Expo that 90% of the retailer’s footprint comes from its supply chain. With that in mind, Walmart and event attendees outlined major sustainability commitments in the agricultural sector in everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting better use of land and water.

“We collectively have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said at the Expo.

While McLaughlin was speaking specifically about Walmart and its suppliers, the same holds true for the food retail industry as a whole. Sustainability in agriculture is not just a feel-good message for consumers — it’s a necessity for food retailers if they want to ensure they will still have products to sell in the future.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

Effects of climate change on Tempranillo grape wines studied

Climate change is set to affect the quality of the wines of the Tempranillo grape variety, according to the conclusions of a piece of research conducted by the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development Neiker-Tecnalia, in collaboration with the University of Navarre and the Aula Dei (EEAD) Experimental Station of the National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Scientists from these bodies have studied the behaviour of the vines in conditions of climate change; in other words, higher temperature, increased presence of CO2 and greater environmental aridity. The result is a must with a lower anthocyanin content, which leads to wines with less colour and therefore lower quality. The results of the research, led by the agricultural engineer Urtzi Leibar, have been presented at the conference of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), held in Vienna (Austria).

The research has been conducted in a greenhouse environment with vines of the species ‘Vitis vinifera cv. Tempranillo’. The three factors studied were climate change, water stress of the plant and soil texture. To analyse the effect of climate change on the grapes, some vines were placed in conditions of a greater presence of CO2, higher temperature and lower relative humidity, while other vines were situated in current climate conditions.

In addition to the CO2 and temperature changes, climate change is expected to cause a reduction in rainfall, with this rainfall being distributed across more extreme events. That is why the researchers subjected the vines to two different treatments. One with properly hydrated plants (20-35% of water content in the soil) and the other treatment consisted of plants subjected to water stress, and which were irrigated with 40% less water. As regards the soil, three different textures were studied with clay contents of 9%, 18% and 36%.

Among the most significant results as regards production and qualitative parameters, climate change was found to bring forward the grape harvest by nine days. This reduced the anthocyanin concentration, which resulted in red wines with less colour. It also caused an increase in the pH of the must. The pH level is a factor of interest for wineries, since it has to be low if the wines are going to be preserved optimally.

The water shortfall, for its part, delayed ripening -the grape harvest was carried out ten days later- and the growth of the vine was reduced. This fact also meant an increase in the pH of the must and a reduction in polyphenol content. Polyphenols are found in grape skin and pips and give wines aroma, colour and taste. As regards soils, the sandiest ones -with the lowest clay content- produced musts with a higher anthocyanin level, which yields wines with more colour.

Information of interest for the wine growing sector

The final aim of the study by Neiker-Tecnalia, the University of Navarre and the EEAD-CSIC is to make available information that will assist the wine growing sector in mitigating possible damage by the anticipated climate conditions or, where appropriate, to take advantage of the opportunities that may present themselves.

The climate is the factor that exerts the greatest influence on the suitability of a region for vine growing and wine production, since it directly affects the development of the vineyard and grape quality. Climate change is therefore an aspect that the sector needs to take very much into consideration.

The vineyard surface area across Spain amounts to 954,000 hectares, which is 5.6% of the total cultivated surface. The wine growing sector is an hugely important activity in terms of the economic value it generates, the population it employs and the role it plays in environmental conservation.

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

Effects of climate change on Tempranillo grape wines studied

Climate change is set to affect the quality of the wines of the Tempranillo grape variety, according to the conclusions of a piece of research conducted by the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development Neiker-Tecnalia, in collaboration with the University of Navarre and the Aula Dei (EEAD) Experimental Station of the National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Scientists from these bodies have studied the behaviour of the vines in conditions of climate change; in other words, higher temperature, increased presence of CO2 and greater environmental aridity. The result is a must with a lower anthocyanin content, which leads to wines with less colour and therefore lower quality. The results of the research, led by the agricultural engineer Urtzi Leibar, have been presented at the conference of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), held in Vienna (Austria).

The research has been conducted in a greenhouse environment with vines of the species ‘Vitis vinifera cv. Tempranillo’. The three factors studied were climate change, water stress of the plant and soil texture. To analyse the effect of climate change on the grapes, some vines were placed in conditions of a greater presence of CO2, higher temperature and lower relative humidity, while other vines were situated in current climate conditions.

In addition to the CO2 and temperature changes, climate change is expected to cause a reduction in rainfall, with this rainfall being distributed across more extreme events. That is why the researchers subjected the vines to two different treatments. One with properly hydrated plants (20-35% of water content in the soil) and the other treatment consisted of plants subjected to water stress, and which were irrigated with 40% less water. As regards the soil, three different textures were studied with clay contents of 9%, 18% and 36%.

Among the most significant results as regards production and qualitative parameters, climate change was found to bring forward the grape harvest by nine days. This reduced the anthocyanin concentration, which resulted in red wines with less colour. It also caused an increase in the pH of the must. The pH level is a factor of interest for wineries, since it has to be low if the wines are going to be preserved optimally.

The water shortfall, for its part, delayed ripening -the grape harvest was carried out ten days later- and the growth of the vine was reduced. This fact also meant an increase in the pH of the must and a reduction in polyphenol content. Polyphenols are found in grape skin and pips and give wines aroma, colour and taste. As regards soils, the sandiest ones -with the lowest clay content- produced musts with a higher anthocyanin level, which yields wines with more colour.

Information of interest for the wine growing sector

The final aim of the study by Neiker-Tecnalia, the University of Navarre and the EEAD-CSIC is to make available information that will assist the wine growing sector in mitigating possible damage by the anticipated climate conditions or, where appropriate, to take advantage of the opportunities that may present themselves.

The climate is the factor that exerts the greatest influence on the suitability of a region for vine growing and wine production, since it directly affects the development of the vineyard and grape quality. Climate change is therefore an aspect that the sector needs to take very much into consideration.

The vineyard surface area across Spain amounts to 954,000 hectares, which is 5.6% of the total cultivated surface. The wine growing sector is an hugely important activity in terms of the economic value it generates, the population it employs and the role it plays in environmental conservation.

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

Irrigation, soil management strategies investigated for cold climate sweet cherry

Previous research efforts have identified several management strategies to improve establishment of new plantings of sweet cherry trees. These strategies include pulse fertigation, surface mulching, and polypropylene groundcover, which have been shown to improve nutrient and water acquisition. The authors of a new study say that, until now, little research has been conducted on water requirements for sweet cherry. Their study reveals important information about irrigation strategies for growers and includes recommendations that can inform management practices.

“There have been few studies on fruiting cherry trees with respect to novel irrigation strategies such as partial and deficit irrigation, which have been intensively researched worldwide for several other tree fruits,” said Gerry Neilsen, lead author of the study. Neilsen and colleagues Denise Neilsen, Frank Kappel, and T. Forge from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, conducted research to determine the response of two sweet cherry cultivars to a variety of nutrient and water management strategies (HortScience, February 2014). Experiments were conducted in a cold climate where variable spring temperatures among years allowed the team to evaluate climate effects on growth, productivity, and fruit quality.

Research was conducted in a sweet cherry orchard of ‘Cristalina’ and ‘Skeena’ cultivars on the dwarfing rootstock Gisela 6 at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center in Summerland. Three soil management treatments were maintained throughout the experiment: an unamended control, a 10-cm wood waste mulch treatment, and an annual fertigated application of 20 g of phosphorus (as ammonium polyphosphate) per tree at full bloom.

Several soil management treatments, which improved establishment of sweet cherry on Gisela 6 rootstock, were continued for three fruiting seasons; two of these years had cool and wet springs. Analyses showed that high-frequency irrigation resulted in higher root zone soil moisture content relative to low-frequency irrigation despite reduced evaporative demand during part of the growing season. “An important factor affecting yield during the study period was weather, which affected cultivars differently. Low yield and cropload in two seasons were associated with cold, wet springs for ‘Skeena’ but not ‘Cristalina’. Differences in cultivar response were related to their different rates of phenological development,” Neilsen said.

Analyses revealed that cherry fruit size was minimally affected by soil and water management, although variations were closely associated with variations in cropload. The authors noted that low croploads during the study period may also have contributed to reduced effects of treatments on cherry quality characteristics other than size.

The researchers found that increased soluble solids concentration (SSC) occurred with low-frequency irrigation, while decreased SSC occurred with delayed harvest maturity in trees receiving phosphorus fertigation at bloom. “The mitigation of these effects at low cropload suggests that variations in cropload can make an important contribution to year-to-year variation in sweet cherry fruit quality and response to treatments,” the authors said.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Nitrogen pollution, climate and land use: Why what we eat matters

A new report quantifies for the first time how much our food choices affect pollutant nitrogen emissions, climate change and land-use across Europe.

The executive summary of the European Nitrogen Assessment Special Report on Nitrogen and Food, ‘Nitrogen on the Table’, was released today (Friday 25 April 2014). The Special report provides an assessment of what would happen if Europe were to decrease its consumption of meat and dairy products. It shows how much cutting down on meat and dairy in our diets would reduce nitrogen air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, while freeing up large areas of farmland for other purposes such as food export or bioenergy. It also considers the health benefits of reduced meat consumption. The full report is published next month.

Report lead author Henk Westhoek, program manager for Agriculture and Food at PBL (the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) said, “The report shows that the nitrogen footprint of meat and dairy is considerably higher than that from plant-based products. If all people within the EU would halve their meat and dairy consumption, this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 25 to 40%, and nitrogen emissions by 40%. The EU could become a major exporter of food products, instead of a major importer of for example soy beans.”

The work has been conducted by the ‘Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen’ of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). In 2011 the Task Force produced the first ‘European Nitrogen Assessment’ (ENA) which showed that better nitrogen management will help reduce air, water and soil pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, simultaneously reducing threats to human health, biodiversity and food security.

Co-author of the report Prof Mark Sutton, an Environmental Physicist at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said, “Human’s use of nitrogen is a major societal challenge that links environment, food security, and human health. There are many ways in which society could improve the way it uses nitrogen, and this includes actions by farmers and by ourselves. Our new study shows that adopting a demitarian* diet across Europe would reduce nitrogen pollution levels by about 40%, which is similar to what could be achieved by adopting low-emission farming practices.”

The UNECE Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen is tasked with providing policy makers in the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution with scientific evidence to support international decision making on environmental policies, especially as these link air pollution with water, soil, climate and biodiversity.

Professor Sutton said, “As the EU now starts to renegotiate the National Emissions Ceilings Directive, it is an open question to what extent countries will emphasize technical measures or such behavioural changes. One of the major barriers to action is the international trade in food commodities. The result is that countries fear that tackling nitrogen pollution will reduce their international competitiveness. The present study shows that there is huge power for pollution control in simply reducing our meat and dairy consumption.”

Dr Alessandra Di Marco, a co-author of the study and researcher at the Air Pollution Unit of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, has been involved in a number of food pilot projects in Italian schools. She said, “The school food pilot projects in Italy have shown added value environmental benefits and health benefits associated with ‘smart food’. This is a new concept in Italian schools where children are informed about health principle of nutrition, but it still misses the connection with environmental co-benefits of the healthy choice. Increasing the awareness of dietary choice in children is the starting point for cleaning the environment.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change

Research published in Science today found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.

Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

“Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”

In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra CO2 in the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.

“We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change

Research published in Science today found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.

Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

“Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”

In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra CO2 in the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.

“We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily