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The Plant World > Cereal crops

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message 1: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Genome studies are revealing a great deal about how we spread and used cereals.
Genomes, archaeological data and climate modelling have gone into this study of the evolution and spread of rice varieties. Global cooling apparently forced rice to diversify and that enabled people to spread the crop into new lands.

message 2: by Clare (last edited Jun 04, 2020 04:18AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Maize was developed from teosinte in Mexico and became the staple food and spreader of civilisation for the Maya. MesoAmerican archaeology keeps pushing back the curtains of time and scientists are now able to tell us more than ever.

"The analysis shows the oldest remains were people who ate wild plants, palms, fruits and nuts found in tropical forests and savannahs, along with meat from hunting terrestrial animals.

By 4,700 years ago, diets had become more diverse, with some individuals showing the first consumption of maize. The isotopic signature of two young nursing infants shows that their mothers were consuming substantial amounts of maize. The results show an increasing consumption of maize over the next millennium as the population transitioned to sedentary farming.

Prufer noted, "We can directly observe in isotopes of bone how maize became a staple grain in the early populations we are studying. We know that people had been experimenting with the wild ancestor of maize, teosintle, and with the earliest early maize for thousands of years, but it does not appear to have been a staple grain until about 4000 BP. After that, people never stopped eating corn, leading it to become perhaps the most important food crop in the Americas, and then in the world.""

message 3: by Clare (last edited Jun 04, 2020 04:20AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
More about the maize plant itself and how the size of the cobs swiftly developed. While in Arizona at Casa Grande, I was shown the relatively original variety and the cob was a third the length and width of the crop cob from today.

message 4: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
As only nine plants produce most of our food crops, these organisations work to preserve biodiversity in seeds.

"Seed conservation can occur on-site in farmers’ fields or protected areas, referred to as in situ, or in off-site collections, known as ex situ conservation. Ex situ collections represent the most widespread conservation strategy for plant genetics–it includes seeds kept in cold storage, living plants grown in open field seed banks, or tissue, DNA, embryos, or pollen samples stored in vitro. “Such genebank collections provide a means to make unique biodiversity available cheaply, and effectively, for the long-term,” according to Crop Trust, a leading organization dedicated to conserving crop biodiversity.

According to FAO, there are more than 1,750 ex situ seed banks across the world–both international and local–that preserve over 7 million samples of seeds, cuttings, or genetic material. To celebrate these efforts, Food Tank has selected 26 seed saving organizations working to promote seed diversity through seed banks, exchange networks, and educational programs."

message 5: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
I had reason to fact-check an article about grazing, and found a useful site. I was looking for alfalfa and this page tells us where and how to plant it and take care of it, with the four most common mistakes.

Alfalfa, also known as lucerne, is a grazing and hay crop ideal for horses, as it has a high protein content.

message 6: by Clare (last edited Oct 15, 2020 01:11PM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
The Green Revolution came from the work of a scientist Norman Borlaug and helpers crossbreeding strains of wheat to produce a crop resistant to fungus with a high yield.
This article starts by explaining about this work, then goes on to high-tech methods of crop growing.

"It looks more like a platform on wheels, topped with solar panels and stuffed with cameras, sensors, and software. It comes in different sizes and shapes so that it can be used on multiple types of crops (inspecting tall, thin stalks of corn, for example, requires a different setup than short, bushy soybean plants). The buggy will collect info about plants’ height, leaf area, and fruit size, then consider it alongside soil, weather, and other data.

Having this type of granular information, Mineral hopes, will allow farmers to treat different areas of their fields or even specific plants individually rather than using blanket solutions that may be good for some plants, but bad for others."

message 7: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
"Corn production in the U.S. is a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. Despite concerns about resistant weeds, climate change and many other factors, the industry has set record yields in five of the last seven years. Likely drivers of these bumper crops include changes in planting and harvesting practices, such as adoption of drought-tolerant varieties, and changes in environmental conditions, such as reduced ozone levels and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations that generally improve the water-use efficiency of crops.

As climate change intensifies, however, the cost to maintain crop yields will likely increase.

Using county soil maps and satellite-based yield estimates, among other data, the researchers examined fields in the Corn Belt, a nine-state region of the Midwest that accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. corn production. By comparing fields along gradients of drought stress each year, they could identify how sensitivity to drought is changing over time.
"So, why have yields become more sensitive to drought? A variety of factors, such as increased crop water needs due to increased plant sowing density may be at play. What is clear is that despite robust corn yields, the cost of drought and global demand for corn are rising simultaneously.

To better understand how climate impacts to corn are evolving over time, the researchers call for increased access to field-level yield data that are measured independently of weather data, such as government insurance data that were previously available to the public but no longer are.

"This study shows the power of satellite data, and if needed we can try to track things from space alone. That's exciting," Lobell said. "But knowing if farmers are adapting well to climate stress, and which practices are most helpful, are key questions for our nation. In today's world there's really no good reason that researchers shouldn't have access to all the best available data to answer these questions.""

More information: Changes in the drought sensitivity of US maize yields, Nature Food (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s43016-020-00165-w ,
Journal information: Nature Food
Provided by Stanford University

message 8: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Rice is one of our four main cereals.

"Cereal crops exhibit two distinct types of branching which are the important determinants of crop yield. Crops such as maize and sorghum produce only one culm to reduce competition among sinks and increase the productivity of the main culm, thus exhibiting enhanced apical dominance. Rice and wheat produce multiple tillers (a type of branch that is similar in shape and height to the main culm) and exhibit weakened apical dominance."

message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
"Through photosynthesis, plants are able to turn CO2 into yield. Logic tells us that more CO2 should boost crop production, but a new review from the University of Illinois shows that some crops, including corn, are adapted to a pre-industrial environment and cannot distribute their resources effectively to take advantage of extra CO2.

Most plants (including soybeans, rice, canola, and all trees) are C3 because they fix CO2 first into a carbohydrate containing three carbon atoms. Corn, sorghum, and sugarcane belong to a special group of plants known as C4, so-called because they first fix CO2 into a four-carbon carbohydrate during photosynthesis. On average, C4 crops are 60 percent more productive than C3 crops.

When crops are grown in elevated CO2 that mimic future atmospheric conditions, research shows that C3 crops can become more productive while some experiments suggest that C4 crops would be no more productive in a higher CO2 world."

More information: Charles P. Pignon et al, Retrospective analysis of biochemical limitations to photosynthesis in 49 species: C 4 crops appear still adapted to pre‐industrial atmospheric [ CO2 ], Plant, Cell & Environment (2020). DOI: 10.1111/pce.13863
Provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

message 10: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Which maize seeds to plant?

""We found that there can be a balance between selecting for optimizing short-term gain and mining diversity," Yu said. "It's a tricky balance for plant breeders. Those considerations sometimes go in different directions. Genetic improvement can be viewed as space exploration, either of the vast amount of existing genetic materials in seed banks or of the innumerable breeding progenies constantly being generated. We want to develop better tools to guide those decisions in the process.""
More information: Xiaoqing Yu et al, Genomic prediction of maize microphenotypes provides insights for optimizing selection and mining diversity, Plant Biotechnology Journal (2020). DOI: 10.1111/pbi.13420
Journal information: Plant Biotechnology Journal
Provided by Iowa State University

message 11: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Corn can adapt to growing in harder, arid soil.

""Compacted soil layers constrain crop productivity by restricting root growth and exploration in deeper soil layers, which in turn limits access to nutrients and water," she said. "Plants with roots that are able to penetrate hard soil and forage deeper have an advantage in capturing water and nutrients—ultimately performing better in drought or low soil fertility."

The study included both field and greenhouse components to assess root-penetration ability in compacted soils.

Scientists conducted two field experiments to study root growth—one at the Apache Root Biology Center in Willcox, Arizona, and the other at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs. At each location, researchers grew six corn genotypes contrasting in root lignin content. Each field experiment involved compaction and noncompaction treatments.
"Genetic variation for MCS was found in each of the cereals examined by the researchers, and heritability was relatively high, they reported, suggesting that this trait can be selected in breeding programs. Of the plant lines reviewed in this study, MCS was present in 30 to 50% of modern corn, wheat and barley cultivars."

More information: Hannah M. Schneider el al., "Multiseriate cortical sclerenchyma enhance root penetration in compacted soils," PNAS (2021).
Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Provided by Pennsylvania State University

message 12: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Rice in a changing climate with less water.
Not mentioned, rice is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, as each stem is like a little methane pipe sending methane out of decomposing swampy matter into the atmosphere. As India is set to have the largest population in the world by 2050, that's not likely to be reduced.

"Traditional rice farming involves flooding the fields with water. Rice transplants need about six inches of standing water. If fields aren't level, it requires even more water to cover the crops, Kalita says. However, if farmers use direct-seeded rice instead of transplants, they can increase production while using significantly less water.

Another practice involves soil conservation technology. "The soil surface continuously loses water because of temperature, humidity, and wind. If you keep crop residue on the ground, it reduces the evaporation and preserves water. Furthermore, when the crop residue decomposes, it will help increase soil quality," Kalita explains.

The researchers also suggest implementing strategies to prevent post-harvest crop losses. FAO estimates about 30% of crops are lost or wasted after harvest,"

More information: Ranjeet K. Jha et al, Predicting the Water Requirement for Rice Production as Affected by Projected Climate Change in Bihar, India, Water (2020). DOI: 10.3390/w12123312
Provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

message 13: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Weeding out invasive plants from crops is a major factor in cost of dealing with invasive plants in Africa.

message 14: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Infographics on the uses of corn - meaning maize.

"Corn accounts for more than 96% of U.S. feed grain use and production. As a result, animal feed makes up nearly 40% of the country’s corn usage. This is because corn is a rich source of carbohydrates, and in combination with protein from soybeans, it can make for an effective diet for livestock.

In the United States, federal mandates require vehicles to use a blend of gasoline and biofuels like ethanol—94% of which is produced from the starch in corn grain. Therefore, a large portion of U.S. corn goes into ethanol production.

Interestingly, the ethanol distillation process produces a co-product known as dried distillers grain, which serves as low-cost, protein-rich animal feed for livestock. On average, the U.S. ethanol industry produces around 90,000 tons of distillers grains each week.

Animal feed and ethanol production collectively make up around 73% of U.S. corn usage. Other uses of corn include the production of sweeteners, starch, cereal, and alcoholic beverages like whiskey."

message 15: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
"Scientists have long known that air pollution is toxic to plant life in high doses, but not how much farmers' yields are actually hurt at current levels. The impact of pollution on agriculture overall, as well as the effects of individual pollutants, has also remained unknown.

Ozone is the result of heat and sunlight-driven chemical reactions between nitrogen and hydrocarbons, such as those found in car exhaust.
Particulate matter refers to large particles of dust, dirt, soot or smoke.
Nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are gases released into the atmosphere primarily through the burning of fossil fuels at power plants and other industrial facilities.

"What Lobell and Burney discovered surprised them. Among their findings: Negative effects of each of the four pollutants on corn and soybean yields, and a clear yield increase the farther away from power plants—particularly coal-burning facilities—crops were grown. The unique spatial patterns of each pollutant allowed them to disentangle the effect of each pollutant in a way that past studies could not.

The researchers estimated that total yield losses from the four pollutants averaged 5.8 percent for maize and 3.8 percent for soybean over the past two decades. Those losses declined over time as the air grew cleaner. In fact, the reduction in air pollution contributed to an estimated 4 percent growth in corn yields and 3 percent growth in soybean yields—increases that equal 19 percent of corn's overall yield gains during the timeframe and 23 percent of soybeans' overall yield gains."

More information: David B Lobell et al, Cleaner air has contributed one-fifth of U.S. maize and soybean yield gains since 1999, Environmental Research Letters (2021). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac0fa4
Journal information: Environmental Research Letters
Provided by Stanford University

message 16: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod

"As a staple food, over half of the global population depends on the crop as a major part of their diet. In fact, rice is considered a vital part of nutrition in much of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, and is estimated to provide more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans.

This graphic highlights the world’s 10 biggest rice-producing countries, using 2019 production data from the UN’s FAOSTAT and the USDA."

message 17: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Ukraine is responsible for producing grain but this year the difficulties are enormous.

"Jonathan Clibborn started farming with his family in Ukraine 15 years ago. They have entered into a long-term lease agreement with landowners in the area and currently farm 10,000 acres.

The land is planted with a variety of crops.

Mr Clibborn, his wife and three children have moved to Tipperary, but he is now returning to Ukraine to oversee the Spring sowing operation on the farm.

He said that some of his farm vehicles have been commandeered by the Ukrainian armed forces and that Russian missiles struck a military base about 20km from his farm last month.

He added that efforts are being made to increase the tillage area in the west of Ukraine to compensate for the huge damage that has been done to farms, towns and infrastructure in the east of the country.

"He said that due to the war, the farming sector in Ukraine is facing fuel and other input shortages. To counter this, he plans to plant crops such as buckwheat and spring wheat, that would be needed to support the domestic market and will not require the same level of chemical and fuel demands.

As he plans his sowing season there is huge uncertainty regarding exports from Ukraine later in the year.

"We have corn still in storage that we cannot export," Mr Clibborn said."

message 18: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6197 comments Mod
Grains feature largely - one reason is that when dried they can be easily stored and exported, unlike many ripe fruits.
"What are the Most Produced Cash Crops in Africa?
Agriculture makes up nearly 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy—a higher percentage than any other region worldwide.

From Nigeria to the fertile land across the East African Rift Valley, the continent is home to 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

Given the massive role of agriculture across the region, this infographic from Zainab Ayodimeji shows the most produced cash crops in Africa and their share of total global production.

"Like Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is a major part of South Asia’s economy. India produces nearly 24% of rice around the world, while Bangladesh produces over 7% of total global production. Meanwhile, over 14% of the global wheat supply is also produced by India."

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