SoilMate’s Weekly News Digest #28

Hi there! Only sustainable news today on our Medium blog!

Scientists have developed a more sustainable way of producing fertilizers.

A group of international scientists led by the Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore developed a new «greener» method for producing a key compound in fertilizers that can pave the way to more sustainable agricultural practices as world demand for food grows. The team found a way to significantly improve the existing alternative approach to the production of urea, known as electrocatalysis — using electricity to control chemical reactions in solution. Using nanomaterials of indium hydroxide as a catalyst, the researchers reacted nitrate and carbon dioxide and found that urea formation was five times more effective than previously reported attempts to use electrocatalysis, in particular, because the chemical reaction is «highly selective» in a way.

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Recent innovations in turning agricultural waste into biofuels.

Lignocellulosic biomass consists of four different categories — agricultural residues, solid wood, softwood, and grass. This biomass is usually untreated and recycled, which can pollute the environment and cause environmental stress. Waste from fields and waste from processing are two types of agricultural waste. Field waste is present after harvest and includes stems, leaves, and stems, and post-plant waste includes seeds, peels, husks. Such substances as methane, carbohydrates, enzymes, amino acids can be obtained from lignocellulose wastes. In addition, lignocellulosic materials are CO2-neutral because CO2 from biomass does not add any additional carbon to the carbon cycle.

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Resistance to herbicides is no longer a black box for scientists.

A study by the University of Illinois has identified genome sites responsible for resistance to herbicides, which are non-target sites, in water hemp. «We used a genetic mapping approach with the reference genome for water hemp, a species that can cause yield losses upwards of 70% in corn and is resistant to seven herbicide modes of action,» says Pat Tranel, a co-author on the study. «We were able to narrow it down to two regions of the genome, or about 60 genes.» Tools for early detection and control of herbicides can provide the ability to accurately identify resistance genes to non-target sites.

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Research: Measuring nitrogen in cover crops

Researchers at Cornell University are looking for ways to help grow better cover crops, also known as green manures, that could help farmers in their quest to grow crops in the most sustainable way. The team is working on the measurement strategies of nitrogen fixation in the selection programs of two common cover crops: raspberry clover and furry wiki. Both crops can extract nitrogen from the air to help them grow. It is called nitrogen fixation. «Green manures are crops used to improve soil fertility,» says Katherine Muller. «They help the soil by adding nutrients. We look at legumes, which bring nitrogen into the soil due to their symbiotic relationship with bacteria.»

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