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Posts Tagged "agriculture"

Anthropology in Practice

The Illegal Trade of Twine

Would you believe there was once an illegal trade in twine? | Photo by Rosa Money, CC. Click on image for license and information.

This is an installment in the On My Shelf series—reviews about books demonstrating anthropology in practice. Book details follow the post. I learned something recently: Twine was once a contraband item. Picture this: It’s almost harvest time, and it promises to be a good one—in fact, you’ve taken out a bank loan to cover your [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Satisfy Your Curiosity with Our New E-Book, Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food

Future of Food Cover

Still hungry after devouring our September 2013 single topic issue: Food? Engage in some guilt-free gluttony with our new companion eBook: Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food. With global population numbers projected to increase by 2 billion by 2050, a veritable food crisis is on the horizon. In this eBook, we examine [...]

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Brainwaves

The Science of Pomato Plants and Fruit Salad Trees

In an episode of Matt Groening’s animated science fiction sitcom Futurama, Leela offers her friend Fry an unusual housewarming gift: a bonsai tree sprouting tiny bananas, melons and plums. “It’s a miniature fruit salad tree,” she explains. Here’s the thing: fruit salad trees are real. In Australia, James and Kerry West grow and sell four [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Tea and Consequences: Unsustainable Cultivation Puts Honeybush Tea at Risk

honeybush tea infusion

The Web sites selling sweet-smelling honeybush tea proudly proclaim its supposed health benefits, which range from lowering cholesterol and improving respiration to controlling the symptoms of menopause. Although none of these claims have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is some minor research backing up a few of these benefits. That [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Endangered Falcon Lives Fast, Dies Young in Response to Habitat Loss

mauritius kestrel

Few species have undergone as spectacular a recovery as the Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctatus). Forty years ago the birds were nearly extinct, with only four of the small falcons remaining in the wild. But intense conservation efforts over the ensuing decades paid off. By 1994 the population had grown to a few hundred birds, enough [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Mexican Agouti

Mexican agouti

These large, shy rodents have lost most of their natural habitat to rapid development in their native Mexico. Species name: Mexican agouti (Dasyprocta mexicana). Where found: Southern Mexico, primarily in what’s left of their evergreen and second growth forests. An introduced population also lives in Cuba. Ten other agouti species exist throughout South and Central [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Shocking Study Finds Lions are Nearly Extinct in West Africa

west african lion

Physically and emotionally demanding. That’s how Philipp Henschel, Lion Program Survey Coordinator for the big-cat conservation organization Panthera, describes the six years he and other researchers spent combing the wilds of 17 nations looking for the elusive and rarely studied West African lion. The results of their quest were disheartening to say the least. Back [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Visayan Warty Pig

Visayan Warty Pig

This delightfully ugly, hairy, toothy pig has disappeared from most of its original range. But a few zoos are helping to save it from extinction. Species name: Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons) Where found: Just two islands in the Philippines. They used to be found on six islands, but that’s the way the habitat crumbles. [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Climate Change Could Wipe Out Amazing Baobab Trees in Madagascar

baobab

The Ewe people of Togo, Africa, have a proverb: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.” The proverb refers to the massive trees of the genus Adansonia that can live thousands of years, reach 30 meters into the sky and achieve trunk diameters of 10 meters or more. One baobab [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Giant Pandas at Risk from New Chinese Forestry Policies

giant panda

China’s efforts to conserve and grow its populations of endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are at odds with its own changing forestry policies, which could damage or destroy up to 15 percent of the pandas’ habitat, according to conservationists writing in the February 1 issue of Science. At the heart of the matter is a [...]

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Extinction Countdown

New Conservation Plan Will Protect Endangered Zebra Species

grevy's zebra

The governments of Kenya and Ethiopia agreed last week to develop a new action plan to help protect the endangered Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), the rarest zebra species and the largest equid species on the planet. The previous five-year conservation strategy for the species expired last year. Grevy’s zebra populations have declined from an estimated [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Bad News for Christmas: Frankincense Faces Uncertain Future

frankincense tree

Frankincense—that aromatic staple of the original Christmas story—could soon be “doomed” to near-extinction, according to research published December 21 in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in perfumes and incense. It comes from trees of the Boswellia genus, which grow mostly in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula. The [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Thylacine Hunted into Extinction for No Reason, Study Reveals

The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has long been the poster child for human-caused extinction. Hunted out of existence by Australian farmers who feared that the striped, canine-like marsupials would kill their sheep, the last thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo 75 years ago next week, on September 7, 1936 [...]

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Food Matters

Move Over, Kale, The New Super Vegetable Comes From The Sea. [VIDEO]

3d-farming-posterframe

Eat Kelp. It’s chock-full of nutrients, it mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon, improves oceans by soaking up excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and has potential as a valuable fertilizer and biofuel. It’s also delicious. Bren Smith,  owner of Connecticut-based Thimble Island Oyster Company, and director of the organization Greenwave started growing kelp and shellfish as a [...]

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Food Matters

Today I’m thankful for turkey, which means I’m thankful for corn, fish, gasoline, and much, much more.

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On Thursday, millions across the country will gather in dining rooms around fragrant, large, delicious dead birds, stuffed with even more delicious spoonfuls of cornbread, celery, and savory herbs. Gravy will flow. Potatoes will be mashed. And pie. Oh, the pie. The abundance on the table is meant to represent the abundance in our lives, [...]

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Food Matters

Organic Synthesis: Towards An Inclusion Of African Americans In Organic Farming

Minority Report: The number of African American farm operators is currently estimated to be less than 2 percent.

  George Washington Carver is widely known for his contributions to agriculture in the twentieth century. In the South, crops were predominantly monocultures such as cotton but Carver advocated a change to a polyculture that included more diverse crops including peanuts, soybeans and pecans. Carver and his work demonstrated that a shift away from monocultures [...]

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Food Matters

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Piglets feeding.

The following is a parable grounded in science with an aim toward Socratic questioning. It’s dinnertime somewhere. A kid pushes a small pile of sautéed broccoli to the plate’s edge and sighs wistfully. I wish the surprise dinner guest would hurry up, s/he thinks. Suddenly a man dressed in cream-colored bed sheets appears in the [...]

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Guest Blog

Stem Rust Ug99–the Agricultural Bully

Remember 1999? It was the year in which the European Union first unveiled its uniform currency and Y2K threatened to bring the technological rapture to global information systems. 1999, the year the artist then-known as Prince declared the benchmark for partying (although he sang it in 1982). It also marked the identification of a new [...]

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Guest Blog

Simply Brilliant Science: Creating Healthier Eggs for a Healthier You

When Omega Eggs (eggs containing Omega fatty acids) first appeared on the mass market in the early 2000s I had this bizarre image in my head of a semi-crazed scientist extracting the yolk with a giant syringe, swirling it about in a beaker with a neon blue solution to extract the bad fat, injecting it [...]

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Observations

The FDA’s Action on Agricultural Antibiotics Is Overdue—and Utterly Insufficient

Image: iStock/Thinkstock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug [...]

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Observations

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Kill at Least 23,000 People in the U.S. Each Year

Image: CDC

Each year, more than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result, says the first-ever national snapshot of the issue. That toll only rises when other conditions exacerbated by these infections are included in the count. Because it’s difficult to attribute a death [...]

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Observations

Live Chat: The Truth about Genetically Modified Food

Flickr/Chiot's Run

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are essential to feeding the world, proponents say. Tampering with nature is perilous, critics say. Who is right? Scientific American editor Michael Moyer hosted a 30-minute conversation on Tuesday, August 20  at noon EDT, to explore this question with David H. Freedman, journalist and author of Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And [...]

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Observations

Mystery Lingers around Origin of GM Wheat in Oregon

Triticum_polonicum_L_7

When the fresh wheat samples arrived at her lab this spring, Carol Mallory-Smith, a weed scientist, didn’t know what to expect. The concerned farmer who sent them had contacted her because a patch of wheat had refused to die after being treated with a powerful herbicide called Roundup. “The farmer asked me if the wheat [...]

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Observations

Your Meat Should Be Raised on Insects, U.N. Says

Black solider fly eyes

There has been a lot of press, both positive and negative, about a recent United Nations report in which scientists recommended that we start eating insects to fight world hunger. But the other U.N. recommendation—that farmers should consider feeding insects to poultry and aquacultured fish—did not garner nearly as much attention, despite seeming more feasible. [...]

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Observations

What Is Geodesign–and Can It Protect Us from Natural Disasters?

As New York, New Jersey and other states hit hard during Superstorm Sandy last fall begin their long road to recovery, the decisions they make on how to rebuild are crucial to determining how well they’re weather than next big storm. The choices range from installing large storm-surge sea barriers near Staten Island and at [...]

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Observations

Adaptation to Starchy Diet Was Key to Dog Domestication

Dog

They work with us, play with us and comfort us when we’re down. Archaeological evidence indicates that dogs have had a close bond with humans for millennia. But exactly why and how they evolved from their wolf ancestors into our loyal companions has been something of a mystery. Now a new genetic analysis indicates that [...]

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Observations

Will Humanity Face a Carbohydrate Shortage?

farmland-from-space

Photosynthesis is the single most important transformation on Earth. Using the energy in sunlight, all plants—from single-celled algae to towering redwoods—knit carbon dioxide and water into food and release oxygen as a byproduct. Every year, humanity uses up roughly 40 percent of the planet’s photosynthesis for our own purposes—from feeding a growing population to biofuels. [...]

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Observations

Food Safety: Romney and Obama Focus on Different Solutions

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

We now have responses to the Top Science Questions facing the US from Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. So I thought I’d look at some of the specifics in their answers to the next question in our weekly list–number 7, on agriculture and food safety. (For this election-year project, Scientific American partnered with [...]

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Observations

Are Zombie Bees Infiltrating Your Neighborhood?

parasite flies and zombie bee

Zombie bees are not science fiction. They are real—and real threat to already-threatened U.S. honeybee populations. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) in California and South Dakota have been observed acting zombielike, wandering away from their hives at night and crawling around blindly in circles. These insects have been rendered insensate by a parasitizing fly that lays eggs [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Women and Children First

Tantrum

For decades the science of child-rearing was guided by patriarchal ideas, but now the cradle rocks to an older rhythm. The infants had been arranged into neat rows, swaddled in aseptic white cloth the way precision instruments would be secured for shipping. Masked, hooded and gloved nurses cautiously moved down the aisle to record vital [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Commodity Traitors: Financial Speculation on Commodities Fuels Global Insecurity

Greed Square

“Food is always more or less in demand,” wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. While the founder of modern capitalism pointed out that the wealthy consume no more food than their poor neighbors, because the “desire of food is limited in every man by the narrow capacity of the human stomach,” the desire [...]

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Symbiartic

Agroecosystems, Illustrated

Featureimagesoil

I didn’t set out to draw science comics; I wanted to be an all-around science communicator. I just happened to find my voice with comics. But lately I’ve been wanting to do more–I want to explain current research in my Beatrice-y way. I took to Twitter to gauge interest in a science comic/illustrator/weirdo such as [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Monday Pets: Where Did Cats Come From?

ResearchBlogging.org

Why were cats domesticated in the first place? And how? Given their relatively poor ability to socially engage with humans, it isn’t exactly clear why or how they were domesticated, or how they came to play such a significant role in human culture.

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The Urban Scientist

Fork & Knife Politics: 5 Names in the Food Justice Movement you should know

cover_2013-09

The September 2013 Issue of Scientific American Magazine is a special issue devoted to the topic of food and the entire Scientific American Blog Network is celebrating Food Week September 2-6, 2013. As I was writing my post Appreciating what is on my plate (September 4, 2013) I was thinking of how how others are [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Appreciating what is on my plate

Tomatoes from my Mother's garden

Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers grew up during the Great Depression. That lean, harsh economic time made an indelible imprints on them – their spirits, their habits, and outlook on life. Those marks were especially present in each of their relationships to food, so much so, that 40-50 years later that I too was [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Connecting urban communities with agriculture

When I was in college (back in the early 1990′s), I learned that the bulk of the US food supply was provided by roughly 3-5% of this nation’s population.  At the time, that 3-5% were mostly family-run farms and ranches that toiled the land, raised livestock, and took the personal financial risks to feed the [...]

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