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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

Crop Nutrients Fall as CO2 Rises

greenhouse-growingAt the elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 anticipated by around 2050, crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients, according to a new study led by the Harvard School of Public Health published in Nature. Given that an estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change.

Some previous studies of crops grown in greenhouses and chambers at elevated levels of CO2 revealed nutrient reductions, but those studies were criticized for using artificial growing conditions. Experiments using free air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) technology became the gold standard as FACE allows plants to be grown in open fields at elevated levels of CO2, but those prior studies had small sample sizes and have been inconclusive.

Researchers analyzed data involving 41 cultivars (genotypes) of grains and legumes from the C3 and C4 functional groups (plants that use C3 and C4 carbon fixation) from seven different FACE locations in Japan, Australia and the United States. The level of CO2 across all seven sites was in the range of 546-586 parts per million (ppm). They tested the nutrient concentrations of the edible portions of wheat and rice (C3 grains), maize and sorghum (C4 grains) and soybeans and field peas (C3 legumes).

The results showed a significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron and protein in C3 grains. For example, zinc, iron and protein concentrations in wheat grains grown at the FACE sites were reduced by 9.3 percent, 5.1 percent and 6.3 percent respectively, compared with wheat grown at ambient CO2. Zinc and iron were also significantly reduced in legumes; protein was not.

This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Children

IVInfections caused by a specific type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise in U.S. children, according to a study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. While still rare, the bacteria are increasingly found in children of all ages, especially those 1-5 years old, raising concerns about dwindling treatment options. “Some infections in children that have typically been treated with oral antibiotics in the past may now require hospitalization, treatment with intravenous drugs or both, as there may not be an oral treatment option available,” said Dr. Latania K. Logan, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center.

This summary appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Rooting for Sweet Potatoes—Start Your Own Sweet Slips

Sweet potato rooting

Rooted sweet potato with young slips almost ready to harvest.

by Jill Henderson

Sweet potatoes are an ancient food crop; a staple that has sustained and nourished mankind for thousands of years. Highly nutritious, sweet potatoes are the seventh most important food crop in the world. Throughout the ages these sweet, orange, red, golden and sometimes white roots were valued so highly by early man, that they were often used as a form of currency and as a token of friendship between cultures. Today, this weirdly-shaped “potato” is making a comeback with gardeners — and for good reason.

Family Matters

To begin at the beginning one must first make note of the fact that sweet potatoes are not Irish potatoes, nor are they yams. Irish potatoes are actually fleshy underground stems (aka tuberous stems) that belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants. Other garden nightshades include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Yams are a type of tuberous perennial liana belonging to the Dioscoreaceae family. Yams are by far the most notable member of this family. The starchy tubers are the only edible portion of the plant. Raw yams contain measurable amounts of saponins, which can be slightly toxic when eaten in large amounts. Continue Reading →

Companion Planting: The Magic of Corn, Beans and Squash

Companion planting

Companion planting is an important part of any gardener or farmer’s planning.

Recent discoveries in quantum physics, microbiology and ecology verify something gardeners have long known. Everything in nature is related. There are no solid lines between the plants’ roots, the soil and the bacteria and fungi tying it all together. To help understand why garden crops do or do not thrive, we are led into the enigmatic field of companion planting.

Just as we work and feel best around our friends, plants will grow better in their preferred company. Although the reasons may be obscure, a lot of observation and a little intuition can reveal mutual attractions and aversions. The garden teaches us the value of old-time practices, fresh experiments and keeping our eyes open. Continue Reading →

Organic Versus Conventional Milk Fatty Acids

DairyA team led by a Washington State University researcher has found that organic milk contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms. While all types of milk fat can help improve an individual’s fatty acid profile, the team concludes that organic whole milk does so even better.

The study is the first large-scale, U.S.-wide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing nearly 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over an 18-month period. Conventional milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 5.8, more than twice that of organic milk’s ratio of 2.3. The researchers say the far healthier ratio of fatty acids in organic milk is brought about by a greater reliance on pasture and forage-based feeds on organic dairy farms. Continue Reading →

Buffaloberry Potential

buffaloberry

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck.

New research has uncovered an underutilized berry that could be the new super fruit, the buffaloberry. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that buffaloberries contain large amounts of lycopene and a related acidic compound, methyl-lycopenoate, which are important antioxidants and nutrients beneficial for human health. The bright red fruit has a tart flavor and has historically been used as a source of nutrients for many Native Americans. The tree on which the fruit grows is a member of the olive family native to Western North America and is found on many Indian reservations, often where little else grows well. The findings of the study suggest that buffaloberry might be successfully grown as a new commercial crop on American Indian reservations.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.