• Food securityGauging the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture

    By Mark Dwortzan

    To assess the likely impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, researchers typically run a combination of climate and crop models that project how yields of maize, wheat, and other key crops will change over time. But the suite of models commonly used in these simulations, which account for a wide range of uncertainty, produces outcomes that can range from substantial crop losses to bountiful harvests. These mixed results often leave farmers and other agricultural stakeholders perplexed as to how best to adapt to climate change. Researchers have now devised a way to provide these stakeholders with the additional information they need to make more informed decisions. The new approach tracks key factors affecting crop yields, enabling early adaptation.

  • Food securityBetter soil data is key for future food security

    To project how much food can be produced in the future, researchers use agricultural models that estimate crop yield, or how much of a crop can be produced in a certain amount of space. These models take into account factors like climate and weather variability, irrigation, fertilizer, and soil type. A new study shows that the type of soil used in such a model can often outweigh the effects of weather variability — such as year-to-year changes in rainfall and temperature.

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  • Water cycleCalifornia droughts caused mostly by changes in wind, not moisture

    Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. Their analysis showed that although moisture evaporated from the Pacific Ocean is the major source for California precipitation, the amount of water evaporated did not strongly influence precipitation in California, except in the cases of very heavy flooding. The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods.

  • Food securityCrop breeding is not keeping pace with climate change

    Crop yields will fall within the next decade due to climate change unless immediate action is taken to speed up the introduction of new and improved varieties, experts have warned. The researchers focused on maize in Africa but the underlying processes affect crops across the tropics.

  • Food securityGrowing demand for bioenergy threatens global food supply

    As countries around the world look for ways to reduce their use of fossil fuels, the growing demand for bioenergy runs the risk of threatening the global food supply. Researchers have developed a certification scheme for biomass resources designed to incorporate food security, to help ensure people in affected regions of the world can continue to put food on their tables.

  • Food securityAddressing global food system challenges

    Agriculture now produces more than enough calories to meet basic human dietary needs worldwide. Despite this seeming abundance, one out of eight people do not have access to sufficient food. A new study presents a set of strategies to address these complex challenges of producing food for a growing global population, while reducing environmental impacts and increasing resilience in the face of climate change.

  • Water securityMapping water use of America’s water resources

    Water is one of our nation’s most important natural resources, one that is long been considered inexhaustible. Yet changes in land use, climate, and population demographics are placing unprecedented demands on America’s water supplies. As droughts rage and aquifers dwindle, people may wonder: Is there enough water to meet all our needs?

  • Food securityCO2 fertilization is greening the Earth

    A new, comprehensive study shows a significant greening of a quarter to one-half of the Earth’s vegetated lands. The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees. Green leaves produce sugars using energy in the sunlight to mix carbon dioxide (CO2) drawn in from the air with water and nutrients pumped in from the ground.

     

  • Food securityGlobal warming could help crops’ productivity

    Many scientists fear that global warming will hit staple food crops hard, with heat stress, extreme weather events, and water shortages. On the other hand, higher levels of carbon dioxide — the main cause of ongoing warming — is known to boost many plants’ productivity, and reduce their use of water. So, if we keep pouring more CO2 into the air, will crops fail, or benefit? A new study tries to disentangle this complex question. It suggests that while greater warmth will reduce yields of some crops, higher CO2 could help mitigate the effects in some regions, unless other complications of global warming interfere.

  • Emerging threats Soil’s carbon storage could help limit impact of climate change

    Soils currently lock away around 2.4 trillion tons of greenhouse gases, which are stored underground as stable organic matter. Researchers say the world’s soils could store an extra eight billion tons of greenhouse gases, helping to limit the impacts of climate change. Growing crops with deeper root systems, using charcoal-based composts, and applying sustainable agriculture practices could help soils retain the equivalent of around four-fifths of annual emissions released by the burning of fossils fuels, the researchers say.

  • Food safetyPaper-based test to help prevent food poisoning

    The foodborne bacteria Salmonella alone led to nearly 20,000 hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths in 2013. Economists estimate that the treatment of all these patients and the related productivity losses cost more than $3 billion annually. And those numbers account for just one of the fifteen pathogens responsible for most of the food poisoning cases. Scientists have developed a simple, paper-based test that could help detect pathogens hitchhiking on food before they reach store shelves, restaurants and, most importantly, our stomachs.

  • Food safety2010 Maryland food poisoning outbreak traced to Asian strain of seafood pathogen

    V. parahaemolyticusis the most important cause of seafood poisoning in the United States. Approximately 4,500 cases occur annually in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of cases has risen in recent years, possibly do to the warming climate.

  • Food securityStarvation is only one crop breeding cycle away

    Global population growth, urbanization, and a changing climate mean staple food crops will need to achieve much higher yields in the near future. New research proposes genetic engineering solutions to improve photosynthetic efficiency of food crops, boosting yield under higher temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. Because it can take twenty to thirty years of breeding and product development efforts before new crops are available to farmers, those efforts must start now.

  • Food securityNew biotechnology improves crop performance

    With the world’s population exploding to well over seven billion, feeding the human race is getting even more challenging. Increasing the yield from crops such as wheat, maize, rice and barley, is paramount to growing enough food. In addition, crop production is now affected by stressors such as drought, climate change, and the salinization of fields — presenting obstacles to our future food supply. Rsearchers have discovered a way to enhance a plant’s tolerance to stress, which in turn improves how it uses water and nutrients from the soil. These improvements increase plant biomass and yield.

  • Food security Global warming increases rainfall in world's driest areas

    Global warming will increase rainfall in some of the world’s driest areas over land, with not only the wet getting wetter but the dry getting wetter as well — a phenomenon that could lead to more flash flooding.