Millions of dollars are due to be paid out to small-scale farmers in Zambia affected by a recent severe dry spell, following the introduction of a new government insurance scheme powered by University of Reading science.
Satellite-based rainfall estimates for Africa produced by the University’s TAMSAT research group have allowed around US$2.8m to be triggered for farmers in 370 locations in Zambia between December 1 2017 and 20 January 2018.
Making grasses more digestible promises improved feed for ruminants and better biomass for biofuel production, with economic and environmental benefits for both.
Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years.
The trouble is that this robustness still makes them less digestible in the rumen of cows and sheep and difficult to process in bioenergy refineries for ethanol fuel.
Major changes in agricultural practices will be required to offset increases in nutrient losses due to climate change, according to research published by a scientific consortium including the James Hutton Institute.
A leading advocate of organic farming is urging proponents of sustainable agriculture to come together with research scientists to establish a joint strategy group that could present a united front to benefit food production and the environment.
Research by Newcastle University and the James Hutton Institute has found that women play a major role in Scottish agriculture, participating in the full range of farming activities. However, barriers remain to their entry into the industry, their career progression, and promotion to leadership roles.