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Lake Winnipeg blooms create neurotoxins

Researchers say the substances have been associated with 
several health conditions

Manitoba’s largest lake is the host to potentially harmful toxins caused by cyanobacteria, more commonly known as “blue-green algae.” Researchers from the University of British Columbia, working with the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, were looking for a specific toxin called BMAA that’s been linked with conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Cyanobacteria blooms […] Read more


Spare the bees

New research may make for better-targeted pesticides that do their job but don’t hurt beneficial insects

Pyrethroid pesticides could be modified with a few molecular tweaks to eliminate pests while preserving beneficial insects like bees. Those are the findings of researchers at Michigan State University’s entomology department in a study featured in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These pesticides target a protein known as the […] Read more



Researchers break the wild-domestic barrier in legumes

They’re hoping to tap wild relatives for important traits 
such as disease and pest resistance

Domesticating plants to grow as crops can turn out to be a double-edged scythe. On one hand, selecting specific desirable traits, such as high yields, can increase crop productivity. But other important traits, such as resistance to pests, can be lost. To mitigate this, researchers often turn to the wild relatives of crops. These wild […] Read more


Water out of wine

New University of Saskatchewan chemistry research could 
pave the way for cheaper gas and booze

A University of Saskatch­ewan PhD chemistry student has devised a new and more energy-efficient way to separate water from ethanol. Leila Dehabadi is using starch-based materials such as corn, and can extract the water without using additional energy to isolate the ethanol, which could reduce the cost of biofuels. “Compared to distillation, this new approach […] Read more



Harvest goes hands free

British researchers have put automation to test in the farm field

A U.K. research project has planted, tended and harvested the first crop — of spring barley — that’s never seen direct human labour. Hands Free Hectare was aiming to test the concept in the field and consciously chose smaller machinery, said Jonathan Gill, a researcher at Harper University. “There’s been a focus in recent years […] Read more


Early intervention

Humans appear to have influenced crop plants far earlier 
than previously understood

It turns out the roots for farming run deeper than previously thought — about 10,000 years deeper to be precise. New research from the U.K.’s University of Warwick has shown ancient hunter-gatherers began to systemically affect the evolution of crops as far back as 30,000 years ago. Professor Robin Allaby has discovered that human crop […] Read more



Night of the living mulch

It’s more fairy tale than horror story, according to researchers 
studying the technique

Living mulch may be a way to benefit both soil and the bottom line. The technique uses a peren­nial crop sown between the rows of an annual crop and University of Georgia researchers are studying how to make this old technique work even better. They’re studying the use of white clover between the rows of […] Read more


Some plants rise to challenge of cutting

Research findings could increase productivity and lower pesticide use eventually

How would you like a canola plant that just got tougher as flea beetles tried to eat it? Eventually that may become reality if new research from the University of Illinois pans out over time. Researchers there have been studying a group of plants known as “overcompensators,” which react to being clipped by increasing their […] Read more



Cutting the cost of ethanol

Researchers devise a way to reduce the amount of enzymes needed to convert biomass into biofuels

Biofuels like ethanol could get cheaper if new research from Rutgers and Michigan State universities holds up. Scientists there have demonstrated how to design and genetically engineer enzyme surfaces so they bind less to cornstalks and other cellulosic biomass, reducing enzyme costs in biofuels production, according to a study published in the journal ACS Sustainable […] Read more


Keeping kochia in check

New research indicates the importance of early-season control of herbicide-resistant kochia

Herbicide-resistant kochia is a big problem in the U.S. Great Plains states, and has appeared in limited numbers in Manitoba over the past few years. Now researchers, writing in the latest edition of the journal Weed Science, are beginning to reveal more about how the weed works. Kochia typically begins to emerge in the U.S. […] Read more