Scientists join forces with farmers, communities and local authorities in major flood mitigation project

Choosing different crops, building soil organic matter and planting more trees could allow farmers to reduce the risk of nearby rivers from bursting their banks miles downstream, according to an innovative new research project.

Researchers in a collaborative project led by the University of Reading will work with farmers, advisors, communities and local authorities across the West Thames area to learn how different land management methods impact on flood risk.

The LANDWISE (LAND management in loWland catchments for Integrated flood riSk rEduction) proposal is one of three projects funded under the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s £4m Understanding the Effectiveness of Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme, and will receive £1.25m.

Sugarcane could cut carbon

Abandoned sugarcane plantations across the tropics could offer us a realistic, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

Ethanol produced from sugarcane has been one of the most successful short-term strategies to date in decarbonising energy supply, particularly in Brazil where the sugarcane ethanol system results in just 14% of the CO2 emissions of petroleum. In 2012 Brazil became the first country in which more bioethanol was used in cars than petroleum.

Selective logging threatens biodiversity

A new study finds that even low levels of logging in the Amazon rainforest may lead to great losses in biodiversity.

More than 403 million hectares of tropical forests worldwide have been earmarked for timber concessions with selective logging a common economic activity. The Brazilian Amazon alone holds around 4.5 billion m³ of commercial timber volume, and the demand on Amazonian hardwood is increased as African and Asian timber stocks are exhausted.

Crops evolving ten millennia before experts thought

Professor Robin Allaby

Ancient peoples began to systematically affect evolution of crops up to 30,000 years ago – ten millennia before experts previously thought, says new University of Warwick research

Rice, wheat and barley were used so much that their evolution was affected – beginning the process that eventually turned them from wild to domesticated – as long ago as the last Ice Age

Einkorn found to be on the evolutionary trajectory to domestication up to 30,000 years ago in modern day northern Syria, and emmer wheat up to 25,000 years ago in Southern Levant region

Research proves the existence of dense populations of people up to 30,000 years ago

Bees feast on fast food

Honey bees love the invasive plant Himalayan balsam and eat it like ‘fast food’ but, like humans, they thrive better on a varied diet.

A study of honey bee bread in Lancashire and Cumbria bee hives showed that in some samples nearly 90% of the pollen came from the invasive plant Himalayan balsam.

Bee bread is made up of pollen stored in cells in the hive, and is the basic component of food for bee larvae and young bees, while older bees eat nectar in the form of honey.

Gotcha: the gene that takes the fun out of fungus

Not luck of the draw exactly but it was a random mutation in a convenient host that led to the discovery of a gene responsible for fungal disease that wrecks up to one fifth of the world’s cereal production, or hundreds of millions of tonnes of crops.

Near identical genes are also present in the fungi that cause vegetables to rot, trees to die and people to scratch, itch or struggle to breathe.