Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

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

18.09.2013
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.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.2134/jeq2013.01.0031.

The Journal of Environmental Quality is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.

Sam Wortman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.agronomy.org/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>