Ecology Science Debate Science Policy 

Could Agriculture Save US Water Supply?

By Mackenzie Myers This article is part of a series about key science policy issues. Please use these articles to become an informed voter, ask political candidates about the issues, and put every candidate on record about science. This time of year in California’s Central Valley, it’s easy to see where the Golden State gets its nickname. Golden sun shines on golden grasses of rolling golden hills, parched after so many months without rain, which is unlikely to return for at least several more weeks. Even so, there are signs…

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Biology Botany Education 

Curing “Plant Blindness” with Botanical Gardens and Farms

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) What was the last plant you saw? Have you ever seen a grain of wheat? How many varieties of rice are there? Although many of us desire a green environment, more and more people, especially urban dwellers, are becoming oblivious to the plants around them—so much so that just over two decades ago, researchers even coined a term for this phenomenon: “plant blindness.”  Much of the food we eat today is the result of thousands of years of plant cultivation and breeding by our ancestors. As…

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Maize Biology 

Do We Really Need Fertilizers To Grow Crops?

By Radhika Desikan We all learn that plants can make their own food via a complex process called photosynthesis. However, to make their food, and to grow properly, plants need nutrients (chemicals) such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium from the soil. Although these chemicals are naturally present in most soils, years of intensive farming have depleted soils of these nutrients. As a result, humans have resorted to using artificial fertilizers, which are basically synthetic nutrients manufactured through a process that uses a lot of energy, and produces a lot…

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Honeybees Are Attracted to Fungicides and Herbicides Animals Environment 

Honeybees Are Attracted to Fungicides and Herbicides

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore Whenever you eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts, take a moment to thank honeybees for their pollination services that contribute $17 billion to the US economy each year. In fact, almonds are almost solely dependent on honeybees for pollination. Populations of these much-needed pollinators have mysteriously plunged over the past decade, and many studies suggest a link to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides among other factors such as climate change and disease. Recently, scientists found that honeybees prefer sugar water laced with the fungicide chlorothalonil and the…

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Urban Life of Bees: A Pollination-Parasite Trade-Off Animals Biology Botany Environment 

Urban Life of Bees: A Pollination-Parasite Trade-Off

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic   Few people would consider cities the ideal home for bees, but what if these dense population centers could provide the means for healthy cohabitation? Scientists from Europe recently examined how bumblebees visit and pollinate flowers across urban and agricultural regions and found that urban areas can have a surprisingly beneficial effect on pollination rates. The reasons behind these results not only provide insight into how cities could be designed to better care for bees but also signal yet another danger of farming monocultures. Urban sanctuary…

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GMOs and the Risk to Our Genetic Heritage Biology Environment 

GMOs and the Risk to Our Genetic Heritage

By Alex Taylor In 2001, high in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca mountains of southern Mexico, UC Berkeley graduate student David Quist hiked along some of the world’s oldest cornfields. Quist was sampling cobs for DNA testing, and what he found kicked off a scientific firestorm and brought attention to a subtle threat to the future of global agriculture. In those ancient Mexican corn varieties, Quist detected the DNA signature of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A living genetic repository Hike down those Oaxacan mountains and into village marketplaces, and you…

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Endangered Primates: Researcher Gonedele Sere (left) holds a cocoa plant found at an illegal farm in the Dassioko Forest Reserve in Ivory Coast (Photo by W. Scott McGraw, Courtesy of Ohio State University) Animals Biology Environment 

Illegal Cocoa Farms Threaten Primates

When a team of researchers set out to count the endangered primates in Ivory Coast national parks and forest reserves, they expected to find monkeys. Instead they found that most of the protected areas had been deforested and turned into illegal cocoa farms. The team surveyed 23 protected areas in West Africa and found about three-quarters of the land in each area was being used for cocoa production. Most of the trees and the monkeys that lived in them were gone. Bitter Chocolate: Illegal Cocoa Farms “The world’s demand for…

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Medicine for sick bees: A bumble bee collects nectar containing iridoid glycoside secondary metabolites from a turtlehead flower. (Leif Richardson) Biology Environment 

Nature’s Medicine Cabinet for Sick Bees

By Kate Stone Around the world, honey bees are in decline and under constant threat from parasites. This ongoing problem threatens fruits, vegetables and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people. However, naturally occurring chemicals found in flowers of certain plants could be just the right prescription for sick bees, according to new research from Dartmouth College. The chemicals that occur naturally in floral nectar “may play a vital role in reducing bee-parasite interactions,” according to researcher Rebecca Irwin. The study found that chemicals in…

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