Ants better than pesticides at protecting healthy crops, plus scientists bioengineer a better leaf for hardier plants in the era of climate change. And, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions!
Ants Better Than Pesticides to Grow Healthy Crops, Scientists BioEngineer a Better Leaf, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions!
ANTS CAN BE BETTER THAN PESTICIDES FOR PROTECTING AND GROWING HEALTHY CROPS
The rapid evolution of pesticide resistance and the risks pesticides pose to human and ecosystem health call for sustainable agricultural practices. In other words, wanna reduce pesticide pollution and also reduce reliance on fossil fuel based pesticides, thus helping to combat climate change? Then consider using ants.
It turns out citrus growers in China were pioneers in biological control using ants centuries ago. That fact alone is why ants over pesticides matters to us. It’s already been tried! Now in this century, recent research reported on in The Guardian suggests ants can be more effective than pesticides at helping farmers produce food. They are better at killing pests, reducing plant damage and increasing crop yields, according to the first systematic review of ants’ contributions to crop production.
Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found.
The analysis looked at 17 crops, including citrus, mango, apple and soya bean in countries including the US, Australia, the UK and Brazil. “In general, with proper management, ants can be useful pest controls and increase crop yield over time. Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs,” researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B.
But not all ants are equally beneficial. According to the paper, “The Effects of Ants on Pest Control: A Meta-Analysis, ”Aggressive ant species, which are usually abundant and/or large-bodied ant species, are expected to have a greater capacity to reduce pest abundance,”
Nor is all farming equal, either. For instance, “more conservative farming with less intensive management (e.g. shaded crops) is expected to conserve or even increase ant diversity and may reflect positively on ants’ services such as herbivore predation.”
Lots to process, but definitely worth following.
SCIENTISTS BOOST CROP PERFORMANCE BY ENGINEERING A BETTER LEAF
Cool biotech story about developing food resiliency in the era of climate change. According to an NYT article written by Raymond Zhong and Clare Toeniskoetter, Researchers increased yield in soy plants by making them better at photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water.
For decades, scientists have pursued a tantalizing possibility for bolstering food supplies and easing hunger for the world’s poorest: improving photosynthesis, the biological process in plants that sustains nearly all life on Earth. Now, researchers say that by using genetic modifications to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, they significantly increased yields in a food crop, soybeans, providing a glimmer of potential that such methods could someday put more food on tables as climate change and other threats make it harder for vulnerable populations across the globe to feed their families.
The scientists tested their gene alterations on soy plants grown in a single location during just two crop seasons. In interviews, they acknowledged that more trials were needed to see whether their results would hold up across different environments and weather conditions. Their methods will also have to pass muster with government regulators before crops transformed this way will ever reach farmers’ fields.
Why does engineering a better leaf matter to us? The findings hold promise for feeding a warming world.
THE CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS
According to its website, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is all about “building common ground for practical climate solutions.” It works to secure a safe and stable climate by accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a thriving, just, and resilient economy.
C2ES started life as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change back in 1998. In 2007 Pew joined 30+ companies and non-profit organizations and created the US Climate Action Partnership in order to support bipartisan action in Congress. Four years later, Pew changed the name of the Center on Global Climate Change to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
C2ES offers a Policy Hub, Climate Solutions and Climate Basics on its website. Each provides a site with visitor tools for practical climate solutions. There’s a map of US State Climate Action Plans. There’s a video of a webinar on Best Practices for Tackling Flood Mitigation with Federal Resources.
Why does the C2ES matter to us? A particular aspect of its work is creating major resilience initiatives. In addition to humans working to lessen the worst effects of climate change and to develop strategies to adapt to the new climate reality, we must also learn to be resilient, if we wish to thrive.
A sampling of the C2ES resilience initiatives include a federal policy action plan to accelerate local resilience; an extensive collection of publications on state and city resilience policy globally, and the climate resilience portal, billed as “an essential introduction to identifying and financing resilience solutions from business and government partners.”