A multi-disciplinary team of researchers scattered around the country is gearing up to piece together the world’s first high-resolution map of global croplands, in a cross-institutional collaboration. The team’s goal is to answer the question, “Where is all of our food going to come from when global population reaches 9 billion people?” Researchers hope that having a detailed picture of what’s happening with croplands around the world will help to inform the net effect of regional demographic and geological changes. Piecing together that accurate of a map will likely take five years, $3.5 million (funded by NASA), computation of thousands of satellite images, and collaboration with crop experts all over the globe.
Beekeepers have been reporting entire hive losses since 2006, when the media dubbed the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Several studies have pointed to poor nutrition, pesticide, pests, and pathogens; however, no single smoking gun has emerged.
Have you ever wondered how some plants are able to endure the most extreme conditions from the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park to the high altitudes of Mt. Everest? It turns out that many of these plants likely owe their survival to symbiotic fungi that make themselves at home within the plants tissues. Microbiologist Russell (Rusty) Rodriguez and geneticist Regina Redman of Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies in Seattle, Washington are trying to foster similar relationships between fungus and plants in agriculture in hopes of improving drought and salinity tolerance, promoting temperature resistance, and boosting nutrient content.
The husband and wife team first discovered a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a plant by chance while studying plants that grow in different soils in Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. Rodriguez was collecting data for the U. S. Geological Survey where he worked as a principle investigator and microbiologist. Redman was conducting her own research while working as a research professor in the State University of Montana’s microbiology department.
According to Green Spirit Farms‘ Research and Development Manager Daniel Kluko, the future of farming is heading in one clear direction: vertical. “If we want to feed hungry people this is how we need to farm,” said Kluko.
Kluko believes that vertical farming offers a very important benefit in today’s world of scarce land and resources— the potential for unparalleled plant density. After all, how else can a farmer grow 27 heads of lettuce in one square foot of growing space?
Green Spirit Farms was started by Daniel’s father Milan Kluko under his engineering company Fountainhead Engineering LTD. The idea for the farm emerged while the company was evaluating indoor, urban farm models in North America for a non-profit client—a process which piqued Milan Kluko’s interest about the viability of a vertical farming operation.
Industrialized agriculture pollutes water, land, and soil; harms natural wildlife habitats; threatens natural resources, all while still leaving a billion people hungry around the world, charged a new policy brief by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy organization with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “American agriculture is at a crossroads: a point where we can either apply our scientific knowledge to create a vibrant and healthful food and farming system for the future, or double down on an outdated model of agriculture that is rapidly undermining our environment and our health,” the brief began.
While grassroots movements around the country have pushed back against industrialized agriculture for decades, the science has only recently caught up to the sentiment, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, plant pathologist and senior scientist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS.