Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield

Farming doesn’t always have to be harmful to bees. On the contrary, even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats. The famers profit as well since they depend on these insects to pollinate their habanero chillies. This discovery by an international team of authors, headed by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), was recently published in the international Journal of Applied Ecology.

BRAVO: making UK crops more resilient

Protecting the UK’s most valuable crops by making them more resilient is at the heart of a new five-year project, in which the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences will play a key role.

The Brassica, Rapeseed and Vegetable Optimisation (BRAVO) project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), aims to combat losses of Oilseed rape and Brassica vegetable crops by unravelling the processes that control key aspects of plant development.

Waitrose announces trial with FareShare FoodCloud to redistribute surplus food

Waitrose’s commitment to reduce food waste sees it launch a trial with FareShare FoodCloud today.

The charity food redistribution programme will make it easier for branches to let local charities know of surplus goods. Shops simply input details of available food into an app and connected charities receive a text alert when items are ready for collection. This will build on relationships branches already have with local groups as well as recruiting new ones, with the technology making the process even simpler and quicker. 

Global innovators join forces to answer agri-food challenges

The Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum (ROIF), which will be held from 18-20 January, is attracting industry leaders from around the world to try and provide solutions to global food challenges. “It’s clear from the range of pre-competitive pitches we’ve received that the breadth of topics the forum will cover will be extremely broad,” says Chris Dunkley, chief executive of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise. “Day three of the event will bring industry champions together to discuss everything from crop science to agronomy and data – giving everyone from farmers to scientists the chance to get involved with the big opportunities in global food security.”

UK’s post-Brexit farm policy could see reintroduction of border controls in Ireland

The latest briefing paper from University of Reading Emeritus Professor Alan Swinbank suggests that while Brexit offers the UK an opportunity to design a more efficient agricultural policy that would benefit farmers and the environment, this new policy could have possible implications for consumer prices and will have to conform to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. The paper will be presented at a UK Policy Trade Observatory (UKTPO) event at Chatham House organised by the University of Sussex.

Can the ‘greening’ be greener?

The EU introduced the new “greening” instrument into the Common Agricultural Policy in 2015, with the intention to slow the rapid loss of biodiversity in agricultural areas. The idea is quite simple: in return to the subsidies they receive, farmers must now implement measures to protect wild animals and plants on their land. A group of scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the University of Göttingen and other German, Austrian and French institutions examined how effective the flagship greening measure called “Ecological Focus Areas” actually is. Their conclusions, now published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, are sobering: Ecological Focus Areas are implemented in a way that provides little benefit for biodiversity or farmers, and yet come at a high price to tax payers. However, there are many possibilities to improve the measure for the benefit of all sides.