Big Ag Keeps on Burning, Victoria Australia

“Burning stubble so we can put next years crop in.”

It’s like watching an old vulcanizing tyre patch burn. I always find it both interesting and depressing watching how the big boys and their toys do it.

Just add DAP(tm)

Last year after studying soils after burning, nitrogen and phosphorus are the main macro nutrients that become limited after fire, not to mention soil microbiology. Sigh.


Food is not just the sum of its nutrients.

The nutritional value of a food should be evaluated on the basis of the foodstuff as a whole, and not as an effect of the individual nutrients. This is the conclusion of an international expert panel of epidemiologists, physicians, food and nutrition scientists.

“Researchers have become more skilful over the years, and we have acquired more methods for exploring what specific nutrients mean for digestion and health,” Tanja continues “But when we eat, we do not consume individual nutrients. We eat the whole food. Either alone or together with other foods in a meal. It therefore seems obvious that we should assess food products in context.”

Ultimately this means that the composition of a food can alter the properties of the nutrients contained within it, in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of an analysis of the individual nutrients.

Tanja Kongerslev Thorning explains further “An example is almonds, which contain a lot of fat, but which release less fat than expected during digestion. Even when chewed really well. The effects on health of a food item are probably a combination of the relationship between its nutrients, and also of the methods used in its preparation or production. This means that some foods may be better for us, or less healthy, than is currently believed.”

Food is not just the sum of its nutrients. – University of Copenhagen

I wish more scientists thought like this and considered the entire living ecosystem that is our food, including the microbes they often contain. Instead we get studies that tell us the best way to cook that measure “nutritional value” like this one on mushrooms:

Effect of different cooking methods on nutritional value and antioxidant activity of cultivated mushrooms: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: Vol 68, No 3

What Makes Pumice Float?

During it’s formation gasses become trapped.

This 3-D rendering, produced using X-ray microtomography at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, shows a cube-shaped sample of pumice (blue-gray) and pockets of trapped gases (other colors). The X-ray studies helped scientists uncover how gas becomes trapped by surrounding liquid, causing pumice to float on the ocean’s surface for prolonged periods.
Credit: Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley

Berkeley Lab

Trapped bubbles keep pumice afloat and gas diffusion makes pumice sink

Breaking the Oxygen Barrier in Microbial Cultivation

Oxygen comprises one fifth of our atmosphere, and we take for granted that this a good thing. After all, aerobic creatures like ourselves could not exist without free O2. Not all life shares this feeling. Oxygen and its derivatives (known as “reactive oxygen species” or ROS) can wreak havoc on the biochemistry of many microbes. For some obligate anaerobes such as methane-producing archaea, even a small trace of oxygen poisons them irreversibly (see, for example Kiener and Leisinger 1983). Others fall somewhere in the middle. Microaerophiles (e.g. Helicobacter pylori, the cause of gastric ulcers) require small amounts of oxygen but are unable to tolerate full atmospheric concentrations (Bury-Moné et al., 2006).

Why are these organisms sensitive to oxygen?

Find out why at:
Small Things Considered: Breaking the Oxygen Barrier in Microbial Cultivation

Foliar feeding with slow release biohybrid microgels

A team from DWI-Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, RWTH Aachen University, and the University of Bonn has now developed a foliar fertilization system based on biocompatible microgels that adhere selectively to leaves for a long period and slowly deliver nutrients in a controlled fashion. Microgels are tiny particles of cross-linked macromolecules that can bind water and other molecules, such as fertilizers very efficiently.

Led by Ulrich Schwaneberg and Andrij Pich, the researchers equipped the interiors of gel particles with binding sites modeled on the iron-binding proteins of bacteria. These ensure that the iron ions are released slowly. The microgels are loaded with an iron-containing solution at a pH of 3. When the pH rises to 7, the microgels shrink, releasing water and binding the iron.

The surface of the gel particles is equipped with anchor peptides from lactic acid bacteria. These bind securely to leaf surfaces to hinder rinsing away of the microgels. The water in the gel provides an aqueous microenvironment that allows the iron to diffuse into the leaves. Yellow leaves of iron-deficient cucumber plants rapidly turned green in spots where the new foliar fertilizer was applied.

By incorporating different binding sites, the microgel “containers” can be loaded with a multitude of other metal ions or agents. A controlled delivery of agents as required would minimize the applied quantities as well as the release of fertilizers and pesticides into the environment. Low production costs, high levels of loading, easy application, and adjustable adhesive properties should make broad industrial applications possible. The goal is to make self-regulating delivery systems for sustainable agriculture.

Biofunctional Microgel-Based Fertilizers for Controlled Foliar Delivery of Nutrients to Plants – Meurer – 2017 – Angewandte Chemie International Edition – Wiley Online Library