Thursday, February 14, 2019

A new breakthrough in agriculture science could eventually lead to big productivity boosts for food crops

Note:  The article below is from Newsweak.  Yes. They apparently still exist. I have not reproduced below the absurd shrieks about how we are running out of food and how the population is "exploding".  That in much of the developed world deaths exceed births appears to be unkown to the automotons writing below.

Much of American science writing seems to be stuck at 4th Grade. No wonder America imports so many scientists from Asia.  The authors below are Hannah Osborne & Fred Guterl.  Despite the childish writing, Fred is a big wheel, Executive Editor of the Scientific American.  No wonder that many conservatives mock it as the Unscientific American.

Scientists recently managed to produce a tobacco plant that is 40 percent more productive than current strains. If they could extend such results to soybeans, rice and wheat, it could significantly improve the outlook for feeding the Third world.

But there’s a catch: The plant was genetically engineered. Will the public accept a new generation of food crops with altered DNA, especially if it could help stave off a food crisis? The question looms larger with each passing year, as advances in the tools of genetic manipulation, such as the advent of the gene-editing technique CRISPR, make it easy for scientists to edit an organism’s DNA. These tools have given scientists powerful techniques for improving agricultural crops. They also put scientists on a slow-motion collision course with a big swath of public opinion that rejects anything that smacks of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, as “Frankenfood.”

First, let’s look at what the scientists actually did. Paul South, a molecular biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and colleagues from the University of Illinois decided to focus on how plants perform photosynthesis, the process by which energy from sunlight is turned into chemical energy to power growth. Plants, it turns out, are wildly inefficient at this task.

During photosynthesis, a plant takes in carbon dioxide—the greenhouse gas that accounts for most global warming—and emits oxygen into the atmosphere. Plants rely on a key enzyme, rubisco, to do the work of distinguishing carbon dioxide from oxygen. But for every four molecules of carbon dioxide that rubisco captures, it mistakenly picks up one molecule of oxygen. Oxygen is anathema to a plant’s metabolism, so it then has to go through a lengthy, energy-inten-sive process of expelling the oxygen. This process, called photorespiration, entails producing a chemical that is toxic to the plant itself.

Photorespiration burns a lot of metabolic energy that a plant could otherwise apply to more productive ends, such as growing larger leaves or fruit. In a typical agricultural field, during peak, midday photosynthesis, up to 50 percent of energy produced will be wasted on photorespiration.

South and his colleagues thought they could tweak a plant’s DNA to cause it to expend less energy on photorespiration. They chose the tobacco plant mainly because it is easier to manipulate genetically, has a fast life cycle and produces lots of seeds. Using gene-editing techniques, they altered the tobacco plant’s DNA to create a shorter, less energy-intensive “pathway,” or biochemical process, through which the plants perform photorespiration. This shortcut reduced the energy required for photorespiration so much that the tobacco plants were 40 percent more productive. The findings were published in the journal Science in January.

South and his colleagues now plan to carry out field trials with potato plants, and they will start designing new photorespiration pathways for cowpeas, soybeans, rice and tomatoes. “Because photosynthesis and photorespiration are highly conserved amongst plant species,” he says, “the benefits observed in tobacco should show an effect in other crops.”

It will likely take a decade for such crops to make it to the dinner plate; more research is needed, and there are regulatory obstacles. But the public relations obstacles might be the most difficult of all. Although evidence is overwhelming that GMO foods, which have been consumed by millions of people for more than a decade, pose no safety risk for human consumption, they are restricted in several European countries and rejected by many consumers.

Roger Beachy, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, was part of the program review of the project. He sees South’s breakthrough as having the potential to give plants more energy “to make proteins, nutrients, oils and to defend against the stressful conditions in the environment.” And, adds Beachy, “since losses due to photorespiration increase with temperature, this will also help offset impacts of global climate change on crop production and assist in the tropics, where increases in food production are most needed.”


Antarctic ‘time bomb’ waiting to go off could wash away cities, scientists warn

Just modelling crap and pretty poor modelling at that.  They embrace the disputed marine ice cliff collapse theory, for instance.

But the fun part is that during the Eemian, the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million, way lower than it is today (over 400ppm).  So it should have been pretty icy during the Eemian according to Warmist theory.  But, as they tell us below, it was hotter.  So the bright sparks below are rejecting Warmism. I wonder if they realize it?  Good for them if they are, of course

Earth’s sea levels should be nine metres higher than they are — and dramatic melting in Antarctica may soon plug the gap, scientists warn.

They say global temperatures today are the same as they were 115,000 years ago, a time when modern humans were only just beginning to leave Africa.

Research shows during this time period, known as the Eemian, scorching ocean temperatures caused a catastrophic global ice melt. As a result, sea levels were six to nine metres higher than they are today.

But if modern ocean temperatures are the same as they were during the Eemian, that means our planet is “missing” a devastating sea rise.

If oceans were to rise by just 1.8 metres, large swathes of coastal cities would find themselves underwater, turning streets into canals and completely submerging some buildings.

Scientists think sea levels made this jump 115,000 years ago because of a sudden ice collapse in Antarctica.

The continent’s vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet — which is already retreating again today — released a lot of sea level rise in a hurry.

“There’s no way to get tens of metres of sea level rise without getting tens of metres of sea level rise from Antarctica,” said Dr Rob DeConto, an Antarctic expert at the University of Massachusetts in the US.

His team created state-of-the-art computer models that showed how Antarctic ice responded to warm ocean temperatures during the Eemian.

They showed two processes, called marine ice cliff collapse and marine ice sheet instability, rapidly melted the West Antarctic ice sheet.

They exposed thick glaciers that formed part of the ice sheet to the ocean, meaning the ice blocks floated out to sea more quickly. Here they quickly melted, adding thousands of tonnes of water to the world’s oceans.

Scientists warn if ice shelves in Antarctica undergo similar processes, it could spell disaster for Earth. Combined with melting in Greenland, we could see sea levels rise by almost two metres this century.

In the next century, ice loss would get even worse.

“What we pointed out was if the kind of calving that we see in Greenland today were to start turning on in analogous settings in Antarctica — Antarctica has way thicker ice, it’s a way bigger ice sheet — the consequences would be potentially really monumental for sea level rise,” Dr DeConto said.

Last month, NASA warned Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier could collapse within decades and “sink cities” after the discovery of a 300-metre doomsday cavity lurking below the ice block.


RNC Chair: Trump ‘Was Being Generous’ Calling Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal a Bad High School Paper

On Tuesday, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel defended President Donald Trump’s characterization of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) “Green New Deal” proposal.

Appearing on Fox News, McDaniel said Trump was “being generous” at Monday night’s rally in El Paso, Texas when he said Ocasio-Cortez’s plan “sounds like a high school paper that got a low mark”:

“I think the president was being generous saying that it was a high school paper that would get bad marks. My daughter is a sophomore in high school, she would have received a failing grade if she’d have put forward what Ocasio-Cortez did.

“Listen, you’ve heard her advisor all over TV last week saying people were making things up about their Green New Deal. They hadn't read, they hadn’t edited the version that they put up that said ‘unwilling to work,’ getting rid of air travel in ten years. Now they’re saying there’s a version two, and a version three and a version four.

“They didn't proofread this huge deal, this monstrosity that they're putting forward, a total government takeover.”

McDaniel added that Ocasio-Cortez “has no idea” the damage her plan would have on the U.S. because she’s dealing with theory, not reality:

“The president is 100 percent correct when he says this will absolutely take away all the economic gains we've seen as a country if this is implemented.

“She has no idea. She is working in theory and she doesn't understand the reality of what she’s proposing.”


Eyes Roll As Private Plane Enthusiast Harrison Ford Flies To UAE To Warn About The Dangers Of Fossils Fuels

Last year, Harrison Ford implored Americans to stop electing leaders who don’t “believe in science,” and this year he’s traveled to a conference hosted in a United Arab Emirates country to give the same warning:

Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson in Dubai, where he will be discussing ocean conservation at the World Government Summit, Ford said climate is “probably the most pressing issue that we have on a global scale, and it’s a global problem that needs global solutions.”

But he added that governments around the world were lagging behind when it came to climate action.

“There’s this isolationism, nationalism that’s creeping into governments all across the developed world,” said Ford. “And the problems require attention on nature’s scale not on the scale of the next election.

As you might have imagined, taking a jet to a UAE country to warn everybody about the dangers of continued burning of fossil fuels caused some eyes to roll.


Australia: Coal firm blamed for flooding beyond its control

The floods in North Queensland were greatly in excess of normal expectations

The Queensland Government is investigating whether Indian mining firm Adani has breached its environmental licence for the second time in two years with the release of coal-laden floodwaters from its coal port at Abbot Point in the state's north.

It comes as Adani revealed it did not apply for an emergency permit to dump more polluted water into the sensitive Caley Valley wetlands during the north Queensland floods last week.

The company told the ABC that Abbot Point operators were confident they could manage floodwaters with new infrastructure, but were then overwhelmed by flows from neighbouring properties.

Adani's own testing showed water released into the wetlands on February 7 had almost double the authorised concentration of "suspended solids", which included coal sediment.

But Abbot Point Operations chief executive Dwayne Freeman said their testing showed the water with 58 milligrams of sediment per litre, and that this was not "coal-laden sludge".

"This is a very minor elevation in total suspended solids ... we are confident there will be no environmental impacts to the wetlands area, despite this unprecedented weather event," he said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Department of Environment and Science (DES) said it was awaiting test results on water samples taken by its own officers on February 8.

The spokesman confirmed Adani's environmental authority for the port "imposes a maximum limit of 30 mg/L".

"DES will consider the results from the laboratory analysis along with other information in relation to the release event before making any determination as to whether or not the company has complied with the environmental authority conditions for the site," he said.

"Concurrent with the specific investigation into the release during the recent weather event, DES also continues to implement a long-term monitoring program in the adjacent Caley Valley wetland to determine whether any adverse impacts on environmental values is occurring."



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