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Lettuce grower in Australia now producing young plants in a retractable roof greenhouse

Lettuce grower in Australia now producing young plants in a retractable roof greenhouse

Koala Produce in Gatton, QLD is now producing all of their young plants inside their new retractable roof greenhouse. This is the first time that Koala has produced their own seedlings so they had no experience growing in any type of greenhouse. According to Anthony Staatz of Koala, the retractable roof greenhouse design reinforced their vision of growing their plants outside to grow them strong and hardy but with the ability to protect the plants from the extreme rain, hail, wind and heat. Even though the greenhouse management team had no previous greenhouse experience, “the results have exceeded expectations”. They found that water management was easier than they expected since they installed irrigation booms.  If plants were too dry, they could easily water them and if plants were too wet, it was easy to dry out the plants simply by retracting the roof.

To incorporate the materials handling requirements into the overall greenhouse layout and ensure that all growing areas were the same size, the greenhouse was designed with a series of 10m wide houses with 12.8m wide houses being used where internal roadways are located. Koala constructed the greenhouses themselves with the assistance of a local construction builder who had never built a greenhouse before.

For more information:
Cravo Equipment Ltd
Benjamin Martin
Canada
Toll Free: (CDA/ US) 888 738 7228
Office:  +(1) 519 759 8226 x260
Mobile:  +(1) 905 317 3546
Skype: benjamin_cravo
[email protected]
www.cravo.com

Publication date: 9/26/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Genetically modified tobacco plants as an alternative for producing bioethanol

Tobacco, a high-density crop which is mown several times throughout its cycle, can produce as much as 160 tonnes of fresh matter per hectare and become a source of biomass suitable for producing bioethanol. As Jon Veramendi, head of the plant Agrobiotechnology research group, explained, “tobacco plants as a source of biomass for producing bioethanol could be an alternative to traditional tobacco growing which is in decline in the USA and in Europe because it cannot compete with emerging countries like China.”

In the course of the research, which has been echoed by the journal Molecular Breeding, tobacco plants of the Virginia Gold and Havana commercial cultivars have been grown. The plants were genetically modified to increase their production of starch and sugars, which contributes to the increase in ethanol production. The basis of this work is the PhD thesis by Ruth Sanz-Barrio, read at the NUP/UPNA last year. The researchers Imma Farrán, Jon Veramendi, Alicia Fernández-San Millán, María Ancín and Luis Larraya have participated in this work.

As Prof Veramendi explained, “what has been done now is fieldwork with these two tobacco cultivars and it has been found that the starch and sugars in the tobacco leaf are in fact higher.” Traditional tobacco growing allows the plant to develop and the leaves to grow and get bigger, as the nicotine is synthesised when the plant is more mature. However, if the plants are used for producing biofuels, the researchers go for a higher-density crop similar to that of forage crops: “the tobacco plants are sown very close to each other and various mowings are made throughout the cycle. When the plant has grown to a height of about 50 cm, it is cut and the output is taken to the biomass processing factory. That way, it is possible to obtain up to 160 tonnes of matter per hectare over the whole cycle .”

What is more, when the tobacco is integrated into a biorefinery, it is possible to extract interesting by-products like proteins (they constitute up to 30% of the dry weight of the plant and are nutritionally more complete and have a greater protein efficiency rate than those from cow’s milk or soya, so they could be used to feed humans or animals), solasenol (used to produce vitamins E and K) and xanthophylls (an additive in chicken feeds).

Over the last ten years, the surface area devoted to tobacco growing has been cut in Europe by 45%. In Spain, the main tobacco-growing area is Extremadura, followed by Andalusia. The researchers consider that one of the alternatives to the traditional use of tobacco could be to produce biofuel. From now on, high-density cultivation tests will need to be carried out to see whether the results obtained in the fieldwork, where the cultivated surfaces are very small, are confirmed.

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

Peru: Blueberry producing companies will double this year

Peru: Blueberry producing companies will double this year

This year, there will be 20 companies competing in the blueberry production market, export volume will triple reaching 3,000 tonnes, and there will be 1,000 hectares of the crop.

This year, more of the country’s agricultural companies will opt to include blueberries in their portfolio because of the fruit’s export potential.

According to Federico Beltran, CEO of Terra Business, the number of blueberry producing companies, 10 by the end of 2013, would double to 20 by the end of this year.

Some of the current blueberry production companies include Talsa, Camposol and Intipa Foods. “It’s very probable that there will be two foreign companies among this year’s new competitors,” he said.

Prospects are good for blueberries in 2014, as Peru has gained a good reputation for the export of this product. The country has also generated a commercial space in the international export market between the months of September and November, Mr. Beltran added.

“In these three months, there isn’t much fruit present at the international competitive level. It is also a period of high prices,” he said.

He stressed that there was potential for export growth in countries like the U.S., China and Europe.

Source: Diariogestion.com.pe

Publication date: 1/14/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Genetically modified tobacco plants are viable for producing biofuels

Oct. 14, 2013 — In her PhD thesis Ruth Sanz-Barrio, an agricultural engineer of the NUP/UPNA-Public University of Navarre and researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology (mixed centre of the CSIC-Spanish National Research Council, Public University of Navarre and the Government of Navarre), has demonstrated, for the first time, the viability of using specific tobacco proteins (known as thioredoxins) as biotechnological tools in plants. Specifically, she has managed to increase the amount of starch produced in the tobacco leaves by 700% and fermentable sugars by 500%. “We believe that these genetically modified plants,” she explained, “could be a good alternative to food crops for producing biofuels, and could provide an outlet for the tobacco-producing areas in our country that see their future in jeopardy owing to the discontinuing of European grants for this crop.”

Thioredoxins (Trxs) are small proteins present in most living organisms. In the course of her research Ruth Sanz demonstrated the capacity of the thioredoxins f and m in tobacco as biotechnological tools not only to increase the starch content in the plant but also to increase the production of proteins like human albumin. “For some time Trxs have been known to have a regulating function in living organisms, but in the thesis we have shown that they can also act by helping other proteins to fold and structure themselves so that they become functional.”

Human albumin is the most widely used intravenous protein in the world for therapeutic purposes. It is used to stabilize blood volume and prevent the risk of infarction, and its application in operating theatres is almost a daily occurrence. It is also used in burns, surgical operations, haemorrhages, or when the patient is undernourished or dehydrated, and in the case of chronic infections and renal or hepatic diseases.

Although commercial albumin is extracted from blood, the lack of a sufficient volume in reserve has prompted many researchers to seek new formulas for obtaining this protein on a large scale economically and safely. “We have come up with an easier, cheaper procedure for producing it in the tobacco plant and extracting it. By fusing the genes encoding the Trxs f or m, we increased the amount of recombinant protein (the albumin, in this case). We also managed to improve the solubility and folding of the albumin, which helps to extract it from the plant and lowers the costs involved in this process.”

Tobacco for producing bioethanol

As the research progressed, thioredoxin f was shown for the first time in vivo to be more efficient than Trx m in regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates, as it causes “a significant increase in the amount of starch in the leaves, which can reach 700% with respect to the amount obtained from non-modified control plants.” Ruth Sanz explained that this was also new, since “up until now both Trxs were thought to act in the same way, but we have shown that this is not so.”

Once the regulating function of Trx f in starch synthesis had been proven, the researcher focussed on its possible application in energy crops used to produce bioethanol: “We saw that the leaves of the genetically modified tobacco plants were releasing 500% more fermentable sugars. With these sugars, which could later be turned into bioethanol, one could obtain up to 40 litres of bioethanol per tonne of fresh leaves — according to the theoretical calculation provided by the National Centre for Renewable Energies where the enzymatic test was conducted — which would mean an almost tenfold increase in bioethanol yield with respect to the control tobacco plant that had not been modified.”

Genetically enhanced tobacco could be an alternative source of biomass in areas like Extremadura and Andalusia, the traditional tobacco producers. The estimated calculations of the starch production of these enhanced varieties would be the equivalent to those of crops like barley or wheat. “As cereals are currently being used as the raw material to produce bioethanol, genetically enhanced tobacco could be an alternative source of biomass and for obtaining clean energies.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Urban agriculture: The potential and challenges of producing food in cities

Sep. 17, 2013 — In many cities around the world, patrons of high-end restaurants want quality food that is flavorful and fresh. To satisfy their guests, chefs are looking closer and closer to home — to locally grown produce from neighboring farms or even from their own, restaurant-owned gardens.

“You can’t find fresher food anywhere,” says Sam Wortman, assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Chefs are literally picking produce the same day they’re cooking it in the restaurants.”

As the concept of local food and urban gardening gains popularity, urban agriculture, with its benefits and obstacles, is coming to many cities. The issues surrounding food production in urban areas are outlined in a paper recently published by Wortman and Sarah Taylor Lovell in the September-October issue of Journal of Environmental Quality.

The benefits of urban agriculture are many. Urban gardens are often built on previously unused lots, increasing the beauty and value of the neighborhood. They provide recreation opportunities and a social network for the gardeners involved. Urban food production also means that healthy, fresh produce is readily available to city dwellers.

In light of the benefits, urban gardens are popping up across the nation. But the challenges that organizers and growers face must be understood and addressed if urban gardens are to become widespread and even profitable. Several obstacles face planners and growers including soil contaminants, water availability, and changes in climate and atmospheric conditions.

Several contaminants can be found in urban soils, and lead is the most prevalent. While there is concern about plants taking up lead from soils, research suggests that they actually take up very little. “Even in roots, there is still a relatively small amount of lead compared to, for example, what we’re exposed to from drinking water,” says Wortman.

Direct ingestion of soil containing lead is a bigger threat than plant uptake. Soils can be directly ingested when children play in and eat soil, soil adheres to crops after they’re harvested, or soil particles blow in the air. Practices such as washing food well before eating and covering soils with mulch can help decrease these risks.

Finding reliable and safe water sources can be difficult for urban farmers. Technologies such as drip irrigation that precisely deliver water where and when it’s needed can help conserve water. Reusing rainwater and wastewater can provide additional water, but those sources must be monitored for contaminants, and perhaps treated.

Changes in atmospheric and climate conditions in cities compared to rural areas can also be obstacles for urban growers. For example, temperatures and vapor pressure deficits (the difference between saturated and actual vapor pressure at a specific temperature) are often higher in cities. Extreme temperatures during the day and higher nighttime temperatures can inhibit photosynthesis in plants and decrease yields. Likewise, when vapor pressure deficits are higher, plants have to use more water creating moisture stress and reducing photosynthesis.

To better understand the effects of varying climates and atmospheric states on food production, Wortman and his colleagues have a project underway. They are looking at six sites on a gradient from downtown Chicago to 40 miles west of the city. The sites all have the same, ideal soil conditions allowing the researchers to take soil factors out of the equation.

“We are trying to isolate the effects of the atmosphere,” explains Wortman. “We are monitoring concentrations of carbon dioxide, ozone, temperature, humidity, wind, and other factors across all of the sites.”

The study is still ongoing, but Wortman says the preliminary results are exciting. They are finding that crop yields are highly variable at the different sites with some crops growing better closer to the city center and others producing higher yields in more rural areas. The effects of atmospheric conditions on crops appear to be important.

Wortman and his colleagues have a two-fold goal for the project. First, they want to identify crops that grow well in any given urban environment. It may then be possible to develop new crops that are adapted to urban gardens and customized for the area.

Also, urban conditions with higher temperatures, ozone, and carbon dioxide are similar to the changes expected elsewhere with climate change. Urban gardens, then, provide a natural laboratory for studying how these climatic and atmospheric changes will affect plants and crop yields in the future.

“We’re looking at it from a very practical perspective of providing recommendations for urban farmers, but it also has an angle of how these different crops respond to altered environments,” says Wortman.

Looking ahead, Wortman and his colleagues hope to further the development of urban agriculture by optimizing the ways in which crops and soils are managed in urban areas. Finding more efficient ways to produce food in cities will help control costs. Research to increase both the productivity and profitability of urban farming is necessary if fresh produce is to be available not just in high-end restaurants but to anyone looking for local food options.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

The balancing act of producing more food sustainably

July 5, 2013 — A policy known as sustainable intensification could help meet the challenges of increasing demands for food from a growing global population, argues a team of scientists in an article in the journal Science.

The goal of sustainable intensification is to increase food production from existing farmland says the article in the journal’s Policy Forum by lead authors Dr Tara Garnett and Professor Charles Godfray from the University of Oxford. They say this would minimise the pressure on the environment in a world in which land, water, and energy are in short supply, highlighting that the environment is often overexploited and used unsustainably.

The authors, university researchers and policy-makers from NGOs and the UN, outline a new, more sophisticated account of how ‘sustainable intensification’ should work. They recognise that this policy has attracted criticism in some quarters as being either too narrowly focused on food production or as representing a contradiction in terms.

The article stresses that while farmers in many regions of the world need to produce more food, it is equally urgent that policy makers act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed. The authors emphasise that there is a need to produce more food on existing rather than new farmland because converting uncultivated land would lead to major emissions of greenhouse gases and cause significant losses of biodiversity.

Sustainable intensification is the only policy on the table that could create a sustainable way of producing enough food globally, argues the paper; but, importantly, this should be only one part of the policy portfolio. ‘It is necessary, but not sufficient,’ said Professor Charles Godfray of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. ‘Achieving a sustainable food system will require changes in agricultural production, changes in diet so people eat less meat and waste less food, and regulatory changes to improve the efficiency and resilience of the food system. Producing more food is important but it is only one of a number of policies that we must pursue together.’

Increasing productivity does not always mean using more fertilisers and agrochemicals as these technologies frequently carry unacceptable environmental costs, argue the authors. They say that a range of techniques, both old and new, should be employed to develop ways of farming that keep environmental damage to a minimum.

The authors of the paper accept that the intensification of agriculture will have some implications for other important policy goals, such as preserving biodiversity, animal welfare, human nutrition, protecting rural economies and sustainable development. Policy makers will need to find a way to navigate through the conflicting priorities on occasion.

Lead author Dr Tara Garnett, from the Food Climate Research Network at the Oxford Martin School, said: ‘Improving nutrition is a key part of food security as food security is about more than just calories. Around two billion people worldwide are thought to be deficient in micronutrients. We need to intensify the quality of the food we produce in ways that improve the nutritional value of people’s diets, preferably through diversifying the range of foods produced and available but also, in the short term, by improving the nutrient content of commonly produced crops.’

‘Sustainability requires consideration of economic, environmental and social priorities,’ added Dr Michael Appleby of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. ‘Attention to livestock welfare is both necessary and beneficial for sustainability. Policies to achieve the right balance between animal and crop production will benefit animals, people and the planet.’

Agriculture is a potent sector for economic growth and rural development in many countries across Africa, Asia and South America. Co-author Sonja Vermeulen, from the CGIAR Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), said: ‘It is sustainable intensification that can provide the best rewards for small-scale farmers and their heritage of natural resources. What policy-makers can provide is strategic finance and institutions that support sustainable and equitable pathways, rather than quick profits gained through depletion.’

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News