Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants with jobs

28.09.2015

Two University of Toronto Scarborough scientists have developed a new research framework for the agricultural sector that offers evidence-based understanding of the relationship between short-term yields, long-term sustainability and biodiversity.

In a paper published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Marney Isaac, Canada Research Chair in Agroecosystems and Development and her co-author Adam Martin, describe how an approach known as "functional trait-based ecology" can apply to agricultural research and management. Rather than analyzing genetics or measuring yields, functional-trait research focuses on how plants both respond to and affect changes to their environment.


Plant diversity in agroecosystems -- coffee agroforestry in Central America.

Credit: Adam Martin - U of T Scarborough

"Historically, the way we try to understand how crop diversity influences yield and the environment has been limited," says Isaac. "We propose a rigorous approach rooted in ecological science to measure agricultural impacts."

Isaac and Martin's framework can help answer many questions like: How do certain species cycle nutrients? Can they repel certain pests? Do they mitigate the effects of drought?

"Environmental changes and agricultural practices can affect the size of crops, their leaf and root characteristics, and their reproductive patterns," says Isaac. "Trait-based approaches tell us about the causes and consequences of these changes - not just in terms of yield, but also in terms of how crops interact with other plants, insects, microbes, and their surrounding environment."

In other ecological contexts, functional-trait research has a long and successful track record, but it is only just starting to find purchase in agriculture.

"Trait-based studies have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of ecological patterns in natural and experimental ecosystems," says Martin. "We wanted to create a blueprint for applying this approach to agricultural systems."

"Commodity crops often result in heavily intensified monocultures where you have just one crop species covering a whole plot of land," says Martin. "Monocultures can result in terrible environmental conditions, but they tend to maximize yield."

Monocultures can be more vulnerable and less resilient to drought, disease, invasive species and herbivorous pests. But an effort solely aimed at increasing species diversity might not solve the problem. The authors cite the example of coffee plantations, which can become "Rainforest Alliance Certified" if they diversify sufficiently.

"You may have 15 different tree species and three crop species on your farm," says Martin. "This is a great start, but functional ecology could improve such certifications. Our framework can provide data about how to choose species that play complementary roles that better foster resilience and sustainability."

Martin and Isaac hope their framework will help researchers consolidate functional-trait data about the world's most common crops.

"Once consolidated, we expect this data can help us better understand how agro-ecosystems function, and ideally inform sustainable agricultural management strategies," says Isaac.

###

Funding for this research comes from Isaac's Canada Research Chair as well as from a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Media Contact

Don Campbell
dcampbell@utsc.utoronto.ca
416-208-2938

 @UofTNews

http://www.utoronto.ca 

Don Campbell | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Plants crop crop species ecology invasive species species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>