Scientists develop apple that won’t rot

Ever since somebody suggested that eating one a day kept the doctor away, the health benefits of the apple have been trumpeted by grandmothers and government ministers alike. The fruit's only drawback is its tendency to lose its glossy sheen and crunchy texture within a few days – a problem that a team of scientists in Australia now claims to have solved. For the past 20 years, researchers at Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF), a department of the Queensland government, have been developing a new variety of apple which they claim can stay fresh for months. Its name, RS103-130, might not have quite the same ring as popular varieties such as Golden Delicious, Pink Lady or Braeburn, but the scientists have described it as "the world's best apple" thanks to its sweet taste, longevity and ability to resist disease. The apple, which is a deep red in colour, stays "crispy" for up to 14 days if kept in a fruit bowl, and...
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Can the green movement save wool?

CAN the green tag reinvigorate wool demand? That’s the question circulating around the industry as vertically integrated wool marketing company, The Merino Company (TMC), becomes the first wool licensee of the highly respected EU Eco-label ‘Flower’ and offers it to its retail clients. The environmentally conscience label first hit European retail shelves in 1992 and at the beginning of 2009 more than 750 companies world-wide had been awarded the label as marketing managers attempted to benefit from the shiny green dollars by helping consumers find more environmentally friendly products and services. Growth spiraled 18 months ago when around 230 new companies were added to the green store catalogue. To become a licensee the credentials are tough, but in one promotional week in Denmark licensee holders reported a 600 per cent lift in sales. It is this consumer response that Stefan Bernerius, manager of TMC yarns, says is why the Eco-label is a significant marketing tool. "We recognise the importance placed on high quality natural fibres that...
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Drought-tolerant GM corn by 2012: Monsanto

MONSANTO’S director of scientific affairs Harvey Glick has shrugged off suggestions genetic modification advances have stalled and has predicted a boom period for biotech products as the 'second generation' of traits becomes available to growers. "I think we are just at the beginning of an exciting period, with crops being rolled out with new traits, especially in soybeans and corn," Dr Glick said. Canada-based Dr Glick said that it was not just more of the same herbicide resistance traits either. "We are working on more nitrogen efficient and drought tolerant lines, as well as oilseeds with higher oil levels." He dismissed claims that many of the new traits being developed were being done by conventional breeding regardless of genetic modification. "It's not fair to say its just being done with conventional traits." And work is still being done on perfecting existing traits. "Take a look at Roundup Ready soybeans," he said. "Roundup Ready is one of the most widely planted traits, but we are not just taking...
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Prototype corn cob harvester impresses farmers

Pre-commercial, prototype equipment for harvesting cobs for cellulosic ethanol production continues to improve. Several hundred farmers braved cold, wind and rain this week at Emmetsburg, Iowa, USA, to see the latest in pre-commercial equipment designed for harvesting corn cobs for cellulosic ethanol production. The event was the POET Project Liberty field day. Project Liberty is POET's effort to commercialise cellulosic ethanol. The project will be a 25 million-gallon-per year cellulosic ethanol plant located within the current grain ethanol plant. POET's pilot-scale plant in Scotland, South Dakota, is already producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of approximately 20,000 gallons per year. "We feel this can be a brand new revenue stream for farmers," said Jeff Broin, POET chief executive. "It's a tremendous opportunity for farmers and rural America. "We had 800 farmers here last year and the equipment continues to improve." Corn cobs are the feedstock of choice for POET. But collecting corn cobs can be a challenge while trying to get the harvest done on time. That's why a number of...
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Bill Gates bets a billion on ag research

Worth more than $40 billion, Microsoft founder Bill Gates could buy the world a Big Mac. But he’s more interested in helping fund a new green revolution, and he’s telling the world it should be “greener than the first.” Speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, Gates outlined his vision in his first major address on agriculture, calling governments, researchers, environmentalists and others to “set aside old visions and join forces” to help millions of farmers. He also announced a $120 million package of agriculture-related grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to nine institutions around the world. “Environmentalists are standing in the way of feeding humanity through their opposition to biotechnology, farm chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer,” Gates said. Dennis T. Avery, director of the Center for Global Food Issues and a former agriculture analyst for the U.S. Department of State, said, “Gates could have said with equal truth that the same environmentalists, by demanding organic-only farming, are...
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EUR 4 bln in Dobrogea wind farms

EUR 4 bln in Dobrogea wind farms According to MP Gheorghe Dragomir, a member of the Lower Chamber’s Budget Finances and Banks Commission, the investments in Dobrogea’s wind farms will top EUR 4 bln in the next three years. Eolica, CEZ, Enel, Energias de Portugal and Iberdrola are the companies that will develop wind power projects. The MP pointed out that at stake is finding solutions in order to avoid dependence on a single source of energy. That is why Romania has to quickly turn towards green energy. According to the aforementioned source, because wind farms are currently very expensive Romania has to focus on other policies such as energy storage. ‘We are talking about the difference between the energy produced at nighttime and the energy produced during the day. That concerns the natural gas-burning power plants and micro-power plants that accumulate energy during the night. The energy produced overnight can be stored and used during the day leading to important savings,’ Dragomir stated. At...
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Straight planting

New trends in the planting methods reveal higher benefits for soil preservation Direct planting, or “no tillage”, is a planting and fertilizing method involving the least possible movement of the soil at the moment of seed insertion, which is done through a small opening in the soil, which is then closed. In this way, the soil remains intact from planting until harvesting, leaving the residues from the previous harvest over the soil, which thus become organic fertilizers for the soil. This method not only allows preserving the soil structure, but also offers the following benefits: • Prevent the erosion and wash of the soil generated by the rain and wind, that normally lead to the loss of valuable organic mass – mulch – which, in this way is being increased • Less evaporation caused by the soil labour, with the consequence of saving water, allowing for early planting, higher productivity per ha., especially in places where the water is scarce • Less nitrogen lixiviation...
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Flax and industrial hemp for fibre

How many of us have the courage to plant new crops? To place together people, financial resources, perseverance and total dedication is not handy to anybody. Plus that it is needed a business-driven man to catalyze permanently in a constructive way the new initiative. What are you going to do when there is not a critical mass of market players, culture (information, disponibility), know-how, real agricultural machines, people/a current to support it. I would like to invite you to get familiar with two new crops: flax and industrial hemp for fibre. Too few people really know about it (hemp being a traditional crops in the early age of Romania). I have been involved in such a project i.e. industrial hemp for fibre (from prospecting markets to cropping and harvesting fibre and seed). The information is availbale through website by courtesy of Romanian Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Rural Development: http://www.madr.ro/pages/page.php?self=01&sub=0104&var=010402&art=0408 This information is in Romanian, if you are interested please let me know and I will be...
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