Agriculture

Pictures: Human Sacrifice Chamber Discovered in Peru

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 30, 2010   View Article

Found in Peru within a chamber used for an ancient human-sacrifice rite called the presentation, this woman was likely an offering to the site, archaeologists say.

Announced last week, the 197-foot-long (60-meter-long) sacrificial chamber or passageway at the Huaca Bandera archaeological site belonged to the Moche culture, a pre-Columbian agricultural civilization that flourished on the north coast of Peru from about 100 B.C. to AD 800.

The several burials found in the sacrifice chamber “are from a time apparently after the site had been abandoned but nevertheless continued to receive offerings to maintain the status of the elite sanctuary,” archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre, leader of the excavation, said in an email translated from Spanish.

Swine Flu in Swine: Flu Could Worsen; Industry at Risk

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 14, 2009   View Article

The United States pork industry has already been battered by the false perception that pork can transmit swine flu. And now farmers are bracing for the first reported transmission of the virus to a U.S. pig, which at this point seems inevitable, experts say.

Beyond the economic impact, experts warn that, if transmitted to pigs, swine flu could quickly mutate into a more dangerous strain, given the crowded conditions at many industrial hog farms.

Manure, HD TVs Among Greenhouse Gas Sources to Watch

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 8, 2009   View Article

In the fight against global warming, most innovations have been targeting the greenhouse gas “supervillain” carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, several “henchmen” gases—some even more potent than CO2—have also been building up in Earth’s atmosphere.

For now, none of these gases is as big a worry as CO2, due to its higher levels in the atmosphere. But if left unchecked, experts warn, these other compounds could create major new climate change battlefronts.

Europe’s First Farmers Were Segregated, Expert Immigrants

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 3, 2009   View Article

Central and western Europe’s first farmers weren’t crafty, native hunter-gatherers who gradually gave up their spears for seeds, a new study says.

Instead, they were experienced outsiders who arrived on the scene around 5500 B.C. with animals in tow—and the locals apparently didn’t roll out the welcome wagon.

Watermelon Juice May Be Next “Green” Fuel

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 28, 2009   View Article

Watermelon, the quintessential summer fruit, may soon be helping to fuel your car as well as your picnic guests.

According to a new U.S. government study, juice from unwanted watermelons could be a promising new source for making the biofuel ethanol.

“Walking Wetlands” Help Declining Birds, Boost Crops

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 18, 2009   View Article

The request struck Dave Hedlin, a farmer in Washington’s fertile Skagit Valley, as particularly odd: Conservationists wanted him to voluntarily flood his fields.

“Most of us have spent our entire lifetimes trying to keep water off the land,” said Hedlin, whose farmlands are nestled among inlets, bays, and estuaries in the shadow of the snowcapped Mount Baker volcano.

Ancient Barley Could Help Farmers Adapt to Changing Climate

Publication: By John Roach   Date: July 27, 2009   View Article

DNA has been recovered from an ancient form of barley that persisted for more than 3,000 years and the tastes of five civilizations in Egypt’s upper Nile, according to a new study.

The barely was particularly well-adapted to the region’s parched climate, allowing it to trump more bountiful but less hardy varieties, according to genetic analyses of the preserved grains.

The finding could assist efforts to breed modern crops that are able to survive a drying climate, noted plant researcher Robin Allaby, an associate professor at the University of Warwick in the UK.

“If we find genes that have evolved to cope with arid conditions, we can then look to transferring those genes, or replicating those genes in modern varieties,” he explained to me in an e-mail exchange.

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© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach