Academic Research

Biochar could replace unsustainable peat moss in greenhouse industry

Biochar could replace unsustainable peat moss in greenhouse industry

Plant lovers are familiar with peat moss as the major component of potting mix, but harvest of the material is becoming unsustainable. Not only is peat being removed faster than it can re-form, its use in potting mix contributes to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In a recent study, researchers in the US investigated a material called biochar as an alternative to peat moss in potting mix. Similar to charcoal, biochar is produced through a process called pyrolysis, or heating to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. And like charcoal, it can be derived from virtually any organic substance.

Not just bees: new research highlights importance of vertebrate pollinators

Not just bees: new research highlights importance of vertebrate pollinators

The importance of birds, mammals and reptiles pollinating plants around the world is the subject of a major new study led by the University of Southampton.

In the first global assessment of the importance of vertebrate pollinators to plant reproduction, scientists found that preventing vertebrates – predominantly bats and birds – from visiting flowers to feed can reduce the amount of fruits and/or seeds produced by the plants they feed on by an average of 63 per cent.

Growing tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water

Growing tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water

Experts from the Pharmacy Faculty and the Higher Technical School of Agricultural Engineering (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica – ETSIA) of the University of Seville have published a study that shows that when reducing the water used to water cherry tomato crops by more than 50%, the product not only maintains its quality, both commercially and nutritionally, but it also even increases the level of carotenoids, compounds of great interest in the food-processing industry. In addition to being natural colourings, some are Vitamin-A precursors, which are beneficial for the health and have cosmetic uses.

Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere, a new study has found.

The pioneering research by scientists at the University of Sheffield together with international colleagues suggests that adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.