Agricultural and Forestry Science

Rainforest researchers hit pay dirt

It shouldn’t be there, but it is. Deep in the central Amazonian rainforest lies a rich, black soil known locally as terra preta do Indio (Indian dark earth) that farmers have worked for years with minimal fertilization. A Brazilian-American archeological team believed terra preta, which may cover 10 percent of Amazonia, was the product of intense habitation by Amerindian populations who flourished in the area for two millennia, but they recently unearthed evidence that societies lived and farmed

Why plants’ soapy defences against disease don’t always wash

Natural soaps are an important weapon in the armoury that plants deploy to protect against disease attack, but a report today, in the international journal Nature, describes how disease-causing microbes can turn these plant defences to their own advantage. Scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory (SL)[1] Norwich, UK, have discovered that fungi that attack tomatoes break down the natural soaps that help protect the plant against infection. Even worse for the plant, these breakdown products then interfe

Report focuses on the science and safety of genetically modified crops

Events like the September 2000 discovery of biologically engineered corn in fast food tortillas have focused media attention and stirred controversy about genetically modified organisms. While new approaches in agricultural biotechnology have improved crop quality and yield, the incorporation of genes from other organisms into food plants has raised concerns about possible health risks and environmental consequences. A new report from the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) looks at the case of a

Cornell researchers turn conventional thinking about canned corn on its ear

Canned corn may be healthier for you than corn on the cob, according to a study by Cornell University scientists. The researchers say that heat processing of sweet corn significantly raises the level of naturally occurring compounds that help fight disease.
The findings are reported in the August 14 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Sweet corn is the number-

Late blight-resistant potato to help Russian farmers

Cornell University potato breeders are donating a disease-resistant potato to Russia in an effort to help combat aggressive strains of potato late blight that are threatening to devastate the nation’s essential small farms.

The Cornell-developed New York 121 potato, which also is able to fend off golden nematodes, scab and potato virus Y (PVY), will be given to Dokagene Technologies, a company specializing in producing pathogen-free seed in Russia, in a meeting and a field trip in Mosc

Beans and fungus may improve corn crop without expensive fertilizer

Corn, the preferred staple crop in many countries, requires large amounts of nitrogen for its growth. Usually fertilizer is necessary to sustain good yields. A Penn State graduate student, Ylva Besmer, is trying to find ways to improve corn yield for subsistence farmers in Zimbabwe without fertilizer.

“The government of Zimbabwe no longer provides a subsidy for fertilizer, resulting in significantly lower corn yields” says Besmer, a doctoral candidate in ecology. “The old-fashion use of legu

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