Mono culture/big farm vs organic/rotational cropping systems the rising -war?


Which is a better healthier strategy for healthy plant production?

organic soybean plants

organic soybean plant

Since 1990 research has been carried out by The University of Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute agronomists , on the long term effects, risks and net returns for fields plants grown on two different separate farming areas. On these study fields, one grew a single crop over extended period of time which was compared with multi-crops grown in a rotation system on other fields.

The results are in and were analyzed.

The organic species-diverse rotational pasture system results were compared to the more specialized conventional alfalfa-based forage and corn-based grain from two sites in southern Wisconsin from 1993 to 2006 .

The money winner

The diverse multi-crop rotational sytems were more profitable and had less risk. The rotational grazing program was equally as profitable as the organic system.

Not analyzed in this study

  • health benefits were not studied.
  • the micro health of the soil evaluated

Resources

Excerpts courtesy SeedDaily.com of Can Organic Cropping Systems Be As Profitable As Conventional System -Staff Madison WI (SPX) April 7, 2009.

Excerpts courtesy of AgronomyJournal.org Organic and Conventional Production Systems in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial: II. Economic and Risk Analysis 1993–2006 – Jean-Paul Chavas et al. March 4, 2009.

http://alphainventions.com/nature.xml

Animal love-a Valentine from Nature’s Crusaders


Happy Valentines Day from Nature’s Crusaders to you.

Take care of us as we help make your world better.

animal-picture-flamingo-kjunstorm-photo

Image courtesy of Animal Gallery.net

http://www.animalpicturegallery.net/animal-picture-flamingo-Kjunstorm-photo.jpg

060214_animal_loveImage courtesy of National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/animallove

A Hug for you from NC – we appreciate all our readers.
_42623691_out1_416_apchimptiger1

Image courtesy of bbc.co.uk media newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images

Enjoy these slides courtesy of Huffington Post huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/animal-love-slideshow

Nature in heart shapes courtesy of blackeiffel.blogspot.com blackeiffel.blogspot.com/heart-shaped-nature

Being small does not slow these birds winter flight-help them survive


Purple Martins and wood finches may be small in size, but these small songbirds can fly like the wind. They cover more than 300 miles a day on their annual migrations. These birds were fitted with new geolocators weighing only a little more than a paper clip track their travel between North America and the tropics where they winter and breed as reported in the Journal Science.
The speed of their migratory flight surprised many scientists including Bridget Stutchbury a professor of biology at York University in Toronto, Canada. The birds left Brazil on April 12 and would arrive home by the end of the month.”I don’t think anybody had an idea that these little songbirds could travel that fast,” she said. They made better time going north in the spring than heading south in the fall.

Wood thrushes and purple martins were captured in western Pennsylvania and fitted with the geolocators. The 1.5 gram clear plastic trackers sense and record sunrise and sunset. Upon their return, the birds were recaptured so the data can be downloaded to a computer. Purple martins and wood thrushes weigh about 50 grams(about 2 ounces).
The timing of sunrise and sunset gives the location of the bird on each day of recording. The tracking devices were placed on 14 wood thrushes and 20 purple martins during 2007 to track the fall takeoff, migration south, and journey back.

In the summer of 2008, the geolocators from only five wood thrushes and two purple martins were recovered. No one knows where the rest of the study birds went (or if the devices came off-editor). If you see one of these little birds with a pack on dead or alive, please contact us at Nature’s Crusaders so we can pass the information along to the research team.

Migratory Paths
The purple martins travel to the Amazon basin in Brazil for the winter, The wood thrushes wintered in a narrow band of Nicaragua and Honduras. Some of the birds took pauses along the way, spending a few days in the southeastern United States or in Mexico’s Yucatan area.The spring migration is faster possibly because there are major advantages to arriving first on breeding grounds, including getting the best nesting spots, the chance to get high quality mates and to start breeding first.

Reasons for the study

Thirty species of songbird in North America show significant long-term decline,” Stutchbury said. “We need to know whether it’s the winter grounds or the breeding grounds driving these populations down.(It may not be breeding grounds at all, but other factors like the dramatic increase in microwave energies or planetary shifts not yet addressed.-editor)

The purpose of the research is to understand how migration, and changes such as in climate and habitat, are affecting songbirds.The research was funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Geographic Society and the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090212/ap_on_sc/sci_speedy_songbirds;_ylt=AolOM8F7LBDZEFiPIhbDvdEPLBIF

How you can help.

You can help these and other song birds survive and thrive by providing proper nesting nesting, mixed seeds, fruits and suet and cover to hide to raise their young. Below is a list of needs for wood thrushes and Purple Martins. Each songbird famiy may have different needs so look up the life style for each bird you want to attract.

Purple Martinarrival-martin-purple

The Purple martin (Progne subis) is the only other Northern American swallow that is dark all over. Females, young, and first-year males are light bellied and could be confused with smaller swallows. Look for purple iridescence on head and top of wings. They have broad wings and are known for their soaring ability. Song and calls are a distinctive, low-pitched, liquid, rolling twitter.

“Purple Martins are picky about where they nest.. Choose a pole that telescopes, or is equipped with a winch or lanyard, and housing that has easy access to compartments. Paint houses and gourds white, or a light color. White housing attract martins best, and reflects sunlight, keeping hatchlings cooler.

Compartment floor dimensions should be 7″ x 12″ with a special entrance hole will minimize starling problems. Height of compartments can be 6″ or 7.”

Entrance holes 1″ above the floor with a hole of 2 x 1″x 8″ is preferred by the martins.

Ventilation and drainage in each compartment.

Insulation to the attic, remodel interiors to offer double-size compartments, and add porch dividers. Dividers help keep males from claiming extra compartments, and can double occupancy rates. They also keep nestlings from wandering to other compartments, where they can get lost and die, or steal food from younger nestlings, causing them to starve.

External guards to protect against owls, hawks, crows, rat snakes, squirrels, and raccoons. Install guards before the martins arrive.

Fire ants protection :Teflon spray or tape, or a ring of grease on the pole, will stop the ants. Grease won’t stop snakes or raccoons, so install a pole guard, too.

Open bird housing at the right time, and don’t close it too soon.

Breeding and migration: Adult martins return to their original breeding sites. Last year’s young will take up residence in new sites, and will join the parent stock about 4 weeks after the first adults. New housing should not be opened earlier than four weeks after the other adults arrive to decrease opportunities for House Sparrows and Starlings to adopt the site before the first year subadult martins arrive.

Migration is a drawn-out affair, with martins arriving for 8-12 weeks in the north, 16-20 weeks in the south. Martins can arrive and begin nesting up through the end of June, so keep your housing ready; don’t close it up, or let other birds use it.“(1)


The Wood Thrush

One of the most common woodland birds of the East is the Wood Thrush best known for its hauntingly beautifulwoodthrush792 song.(Listen to its song below.) Thrushes have a complicated syrinx (song box) that allows them to sing two notes at the same time and harmonize with their own voice.

Feeding preferences: About the size of a robin this brown and white spotted thrush lives on the edge to deep within the forest. It prefers to dine on soil invertebrates and larvae, but will also eat fruits. In the summer, it feeds on insects continuously in order to meet daily metabolic needs.

Social Structure: It is solitary, but sometimes form mixed-species flocks. The Wood Thrush defends a territory that ranges in size from 800 to 28000 square meters.

The Wood Thrush is monogamous, and its breeding season begins in the spring; about 50 percent of all mated pairs are able to raise two broods, ranging in size from 2 to 4 chicks.. When the first brood fledges, both parents feed all the young, but when the last brood fledges, they divide the work, each one caring for half the brood.

Migration pattern: Wood Thrush begins departing from its breeding grounds in late August and completes migration to its Central American wintering grounds by late October. The species migrates primarily at night, and can be identified and censused by its distinctive nocturnal flight call.

Declines in population numbers of the Wood Thrush have been linked to acid rain and forest fragmentation by studies conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Population Studies, using data from the Birds in Forested Landscapes project

The Brown-headed Cowbird frequently parasitizes the nests of Wood Thrushes. In some parts of the Midwest all of the Wood Thrush nests contain at least one cowbird egg, and some may contain up to eight eggs.

Unique behavior: “Anting” occurs when a bird picks up a single ant or group of ants and rubs them on its feathers. The purpose of this behavior is not well understood. It is thought that birds may be able to acquire defensive secretions from the ants possibly used for some medicinal purpose. Also may be a supplement to the bird’s own preen oil. (2)

How can we help this bird survive:

Get involved with a local group and help provide nesting sites and food.(audubon.org/bird/iba

The Wood Thrush breeds across most of eastern North America, ranging from the panhandle of Florida northward to southern Canada. The species generally reaches its western limit at the eastern edge of the Great Plains, although it can be found breeding along the Missouri River through central South Dakota. Many Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBAs) throughout the eastern United States provide nesting habitat for Wood Thrush, including North Carolina’s Eno River Bottomlands IBA and Delaware’s Coastal Zone IBA. The Wood Thrush winters mostly in primary, broad-leaved forests at lower elevations from southern Mexico to western Panama

Decrease pollution and our carbon footprint.

Save any local deciduous forests from being destroyed.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of Purple Martin.org
1. http://purplemartin.org/main/besttips.html

2. Excerpts courtesy of Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_Thrush

2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Wood_Thrush_dtl.html

Get involved: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/

Image 1. courtesy of Paul Noll Oregon/Birds/arrivalMartinPurple

Song of the Wood Thrush courtesy of Learn Bird Songs: http://www.learnbirdsongs.com/birdsong

Great Backyard Bird Count begins today -help the Audubon Society


ONLY TAKES 15 MINUTES

Count For Fun, Count For the Future:
The 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count is Feb 13-16th!

It’s time once again for the Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Will bird watchers outdo themselves again this year and surpass last year’s all-time record? Participants had identified an unprecedented 634 species and sent in thousands of stunning bird images from around the continent.

Visit  for more details. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

How to Participate


1. Visit www.birdcount.org for easy to follow instructions, tips for identifying birds species, and to download a checklist for your area.

2. Count the birds wherever you choose to count. Write down the highest number of individuals you see at one time to avoid counting any bird twice.

3. After at least 15 minutes of watching in one place, report your results at www.birdcount.org. You can always spend more time observing if you prefer.

4. You can repeat your count at the same place on each day of the Great Backyard Bird Count, or visit other locations and submit separate tallies for those as well.

CLICK HERE LETS GET YOUR CITY COUNT INCLUDED THIS YEAR.  http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

Refreshing ethics and freeze on Utah land leases


Secretary Salazar Outlines High Ethical Standards for Interior Department in Memo to All Employees

A new ethical Secretary of the Interior of US -  what a refreshing concept. Ken Salazar the 50th Secretary of the Interior today sent a memo to all Department of the Interior employees outlining the ethical responsibilities for all employees based on President Obama’s Executive Order of Jan. 21 on ethical standards for political appointees. He plans to lead with openness in decision making, high ethical standards, and respect for scientific integrity.

No one will: 1)  accept gifts from a registered lobbyist or lobbying organization; 2) will comply with enhanced revolving door conflict of interest bans, both during and upon leaving government service; and 3) will make hiring or other employment decisions based on the candidate’s qualifications, competence, and experience.

The American people whom we all serve have a right to expect that all employees of the Department place loyalty to the Constitution, public laws, and applicable ethical policies and principles above private gain. We fulfill this trust by adhering to our own standards of personal and professional integrity as well as specific ethical regulations, and by being fully accountable for our conduct.

But mere compliance with minimum ethics requirements is not enough to fully meet our obligations to uphold the deep and abiding trust that the public places in all civil servants. It is essential that we fully honor President Obama’s commitment to the highest standards of conduct and decision making. To that end, before any changes to Government-wide rules are implemented, I have met with and directed the Designated Agency Ethics Official to review our Departmental specific regulations and recommend areas where we can improve on our own ethical policies and guidance.

All of us face ethical choices every day in the conduct of our business. I urge you to seek the assistance of your bureau or office ethics official who, along with the Department Ethics Office, are ready to assist you in providing ethics guidance to help you avoid even the appearance of impropriety in carrying out your work. Only authorized ethics officials may interpret ethics rules and statutes, and only they can provide authoritative and protective advice for your questions.

It is important that you seek ethics advice early, before taking action, and that you provide a complete and honest description of all of the relevant facts.

BASED IN ETHICS A FREEZE ON OIL AND GAS LEASES IN UTAH

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that the Bureau of Land Management would withdraw leases that were offered on 77 parcels of U.S. public land near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon.  The leases on these 77 parcels are the subject of litigation in U.S. District Court.

“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases at the doorstep of some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes in Utah,” said Secretary Salazar.  “We need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way that allows us to protect our signature landscapes and cultural resources in places like Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon, for future generations.

“I have directed Bureau of Land Management not to accept the bids on 77 parcels from the December 19 lease sale and which are in close proximity to these national parks, monuments, and sensitive landscapes.  We will take a fresh look at these 77 parcels and at the adequacy of the environmental review and analysis that led to their being offered for oil and gas development.  I am also concerned that there was inadequate consultation with other agencies, including the National Park Service.”

The 77 parcels, which are the subject of a Temporary Restraining Order, were part of a
Dec. 19, 2008 lease sale offering 130 parcels in three areas in northeastern Utah covered by the Bureau of Land Management’s Vernal, Moab and Price land use plans.  The 77 parcels, which total about 130,225 acres, are all in the vicinity of two National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument. Of the 130 parcels offered, bids were received on 116 parcels, totaling 148,598 acres.

Under the BLM lease sale process, companies bid on parcels in a public auction and the BLM then reviews and evaluates the bids to decide whether to accept them or not.  A government contract is not completed until the BLM formally accepts the bids, which it has not done for these 77 parcels.

Several groups filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on Dec. 22, challenging the previous administration’s decision to offer 77 of the 130 parcels and arguing that the lease sale process did not fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act.  Some groups also filed administrative protests, which are currently pending before the BLM state office.

On Jan. 17, 2009, the U.S. District Court granted a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order on the 77 parcels. The U.S. Department of Justice response to the motion for preliminary injunction is due on Feb. 6, 2009.

U.S.  Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Secretary Salazar Restores Balance in Controversial Last-Minute Oil and Gas Lease Sale near Utah National Parks WASHINGTON, D.C.

http://www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/020409b.html

Dirty polluted snow causes early mountain snow melts -time to clean up our act


Dirty or sooty snow decreases the snow’s brightness, warms and shrinks the snow causing it to melt weeks earlier  February in spring and dropping the runoff in late spring and summer.

When soot from pollution settles on pristine snow, it can increase snowmelt in the winter 090112093336-large1month of February (See the chart included to the right). How pollution affects a mountain range’s natural water reservoirs is important for water resource managers in the western United States and Canada who plan for hydroelectricity generation, fisheries and farming.Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted the first study of soot on snow in the western states. Now they can predict impacts along mountain ranges. Soot warms up the snow and the air above it by up to 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit, causing snow to melt.

“It is important to know how much impact pollution, the dirty snow, is having on our water supply.  So we can judge how much water is coming down the rivers so that a good usuage plan can be implemented. Atmospheric scientist Yun Qian said. Snow melt can be up to “75 percent of the water supply, in some regions. Changes  in amount and timing of the melts can affect the water supply, as well as aggravate winter flooding and summer droughts.”

Is this sooty snow part of a natural cycle?

shastinadillercanyonlookingup061105-12001The soot-snow cycle begins with the burning fossil fuels and soot is a by-product that is released in the air. It falls to the earth when it rains or snows, sleets or hails and blankets the snow it lands upon with a dark gray black cover. This dark blanket absorbs more of the sun’s energy than clean white snow. The resulting thinner snowpack reflects less sunlight back into the atmosphere and further warms the area, continuing the snowmelt cycle.

Green house gases also seem to be causing differences in regional snowpack caused by  higher air temperatures. Qian and his colleagues at PNNL used a climate computer model to zoom in on the Rocky Mountain, Cascade, and other western United States mountain ranges. Qian’s model shows how soot from diesel engines, power plants and other sources affected snowpacks it landed on. (1)
Researchers know that soot settles on snow. And like an asphalt street compared to a concrete sidewalk, dirty snow retains more heat from the sun than bright white snow. Qian and colleagues wanted to determine to what degree dark snow contributes to the declining snowpack.

To get the kind of detail from their computer model that they needed, the PNNL team used a regional model called the Weather Research and Forecasting model – or WRF, developed in part at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Compared to planet-scale models that can distinguish land features 200 kilometers apart, this computer model zooms in on the landscape, increasing resolution to 15 kilometers. At 15 kilometers, features such as mountain ranges and soot deposition are better defined.

Recently, PNNL researchers added a software component to WRF that models the chemistry of tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols and their interaction with clouds and sunlight.

Using the WRF-chem model, the team first examined how much soot in the form of so-called black carbon would land on snow in the Sierra Nevada, Cascade and Rocky Mountains.

Then the team simulated how that soot would affect the snow’s brightness throughout the year. Finally, they translated the brightness into snow accumulation and melting over time.

Gray Outlook
“Earlier studies didn’t talk about snowpack changes due to soot for two reasons,” said atmospheric scientist and co-author William Gustafson.

“Soot hasn’t been widely measured in snowpack, and it’s hard to accurately simulate snowpack in global models. The Cascades have lost 60 percent of their snowpack since the 1950s, most of that due to rising temperatures. We wanted to see if we could quantify the impact of soot.”

Their simulations compared well to data collected on snowpack distribution and water runoff. But their first experiment did not include all sources of soot, so they modeled what would happen if enough soot landed on snow to double the loss of brightness.

In this computer simulation, the regional climate and snowpack changed significantly, and not in a simply predictable way.

Overall, doubling the dimming of the snow did not lead to twice as high temperature changes – it led to an approximate 50 percent increase in the snow surface temperature. The drop in snow accumulation, however, more than doubled in some areas.

Snowpack over the central Rockies and southern Alberta, for example, dropped two to 50 millimeters over the mountains during late spring and early winter. The most drastic changes occurred in March, the model showed.

The team also found that soot decreased snow’s brightness in two ways. About half of soot’s effect came from its dark color. The other half came indirectly from reducing the size of the snowpack, exposing the underlying darker soil of the earth.

Studies like this one start to unmask pollution’s role in the changing climate. While greenhouse gases work unseen, soot bares its dark nature, with a cloak that slowly steals summertime’s snow.

Dirty snow also impacts global warming

“Dirty snow has had a significant impact on climate warming since the Industrial Revolution. In the past 200 years, the Earth has warmed about .8 degree Celsius. Zender, graduate student Mark Flanner, and their colleagues calculated that dirty snow caused the Earth’s temperature to rise .1 to .15 degree, or up to 19 percent of the total warming.070606113327-large

In the past two centuries, the Arctic has warmed about 1.6 degrees. Dirty snow caused .5 to 1.5 degrees of warming, or up to 94 percent of the observed change, the scientists determined.

The amount of warming by dirty snow varied from year to year, with higher temperatures in years with many forest fires. Greenhouse gases, which trap outgoing energy, are primarily responsible for the remaining temperature increase and are considered the Earth’s most important overall climate changing mechanism. Other human influences on Arctic climate change are particles in the atmosphere, including soot; clouds; and land use.

Humans create the majority of airborne soot through industry and fuel combustion, while forest and open-field fires account for the rest.” Time for cities, states and the federal government to step up to the plate along with each individual and clean up our fossil and biofuel act.

Excerpts courtesy of ScienceDaily

1. Dirty Snow Causes Early Runoff In Cascades, – Rockies  Staff  ScienceDaily, January 13, 2009. DirtySnowCausesEarlyRunoff

2. Dirty sow may warm the atmosphere as much as green house gases -Staff Science Daily June 7, 2007. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/

Graphs courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as cited in Science Daily

Image snow  courtesy of Ski Mountainer ShastinaDillerCanyonLookingUp

Chart courtesy of Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070606113327.htm

Beam me up scotty -where did that bee go? Needed tiny lighter transistor.


081114-bees-radio-tracking-missions_bigNeeded an even lighter pack -can you design it for me? asks Ms. Honey Bee.

The bee at the right is wearing a 170-milligram (.006 ounces) radio tracking tag, about one-third of its body weight.

The tag is held in place with eyelash glue and superglue. It is powered by a hearing-aid battery and includes a crystal-controlled oscillator, tiny circuit and an antenna that sticks out from the back about 1 and 1/2 inches. Even loaded up like this, the bees “fly beautifully,” says zoologist Martin Wikelski.

Wikelski and his colleagues are using transmitter tags the size of three or four grains of rice.
The transmitters weigh 0.006 ounces (170 milligrams), are small and light enough to attach to the backs of bees from two relatively hefty species, weighing .02 ounces (600 milligrams), with just a bit of eyelash glue and superglue. Loaded up its weight is about a 1/3 the bees weight.

The transmitters can track the insects as long as they remain within a few miles of the receiver. To date the carpenter bee from a New Jersey center and an orchid bees at Panama’s Smithsoniancarpenter-bee-resting-on-my-hand Tropical Research Institute have passed the transmitter test. To have this device work on smaller native and honey bees the tag would need to become about 40% smaller about the size of a pine nut.

Winfree says the team tried to fit transmitters on bumblebees, but these .007-ounce (200 milligram) insects simply couldn’t carry the load, which amounted to about 80 percent of their body weight.

“You’d throw them up into the air, and they’d just come back to the ground,” she says. “So we need a next generation of transmitters for them, I think.”

Smaller tracking tags like this may eventually help scientists address growing concerns about the blossoms-applefuture production of crops such as apples, melons, and almonds, grains ans other vegetables and fruits that require bees and other insects for pollination.

cucumber flower

cucumber flower

Our domesticated honeybee colonies are weakened and worn out with colonies dieing, but native wild bees appear unaffected by the so-called colony collapse disorder.Possibly native bees could become the main pollinateors of US crops in the future if we do not mess with the sze of their comb or over stress they or feed them GMO supplements or take them out of their native surroundings.

bee-honeyUnderstanding how to support the bees lifestyle in a natural organic way including their foraging range can support the improvement of beekeeping and natural agriculture.

Tiny tracking tags should eventually enable scientists to tackle a laundry list of other questions, including how bees and other pollinators interact with flowering plants in rain forests and how to design agricultural landscapes to attract and sustain native bees.

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an organization based in Portland, Oregon, that advocates for the protection of pollinators, says tagging bees in food-rich and food-poor landscapes may lead to better, more efficient uses of farmland.
These radio transmitter tags will give more pertinent, exciting real time information and understanding of the bees and other vital pollinators. This new data could improve the health and food production for people and animals around the world.

Resources

Images courtesy of

Image #1 National Geographic 14-bees-radio-trackin

Image # 2 John Bokma carpenter-bee-resting

Image # 3 blossoms-apple

Image # 4 flowers/cucumber

Image # 5 vg/flowers/honeybee

Image # 5 blossoms-apple

From Sci-Fi to mosquito research a repellant odor to make humans disappear to mosquitoes


The  female Anopheles gambiae mosquito pictured at the right, shows her weapons researchers are trying to combat in this ancient war of man against mosquito. It is only the female mosquito that bites and can spread disease using these parts of olfactory (smelling) appendages (antennae, maxillary palps and proboscis) as so graphically seen in this electron micrograph image.

Dr. Leslie Vosshall and two colleagues at Rockefeller University published a series of experiments that seemed to settle the 50-year-old question of how the insect repellent DEET kept mosquitoes at bay (Science, 319:1838-42, 2008).

Vosshal explained their findings “It doesn’t smell bad to insects. It masks or inhibits their ability to smell you.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded the research to understand how and why DEET works. This is critical to creating the next generation of chemicals, which may head off insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
Related Articles
Laurence Zwiebel of Vanderbilt University (also a Gates’ grantee) and  Ulrich Bernier of the US Department of Agriculture are not sure the findings just didn’t make sense, given everything they knew about this system

In Vosshall experiment,  the response of the mosquito’s olfactory neurons to two separate, attractive odors in human breath. Then, she combined each odorant with DEET in a single odor cartridge and noticed a smaller neural response. Vosshall believes DEET was blocking the mosquito’s olfactory co-receptor.
Another teams experiment another interpretation

Using gas chromatography, Leal confirmed his suspicions this year. When he repeated Vosshall’s experiment using separate odor cartridges that blended DEET and each attractive odor only at their tips, the mosquito’s neural response was no longer diminished. Then, Leal identified a 19-1DEET-sensitive odor receptor neuron and showed that mosquitoes avoid passing through a “curtain” of DEET vapors.
Leal’s paper surprised Vosshall, but is unconvinced by Leal’s results, and has been trying to reproduce the effect in her own lab. “Competition in science is good,” she says, “It can be difficult when it’s a small field, and this is a very small field.”

Genomic studies in 2005 have since shown that this co-receptor is found in insects ranging from mosquitoes to moths,  making humans invisible to insects. Using tissue cultures, she uses targeted drug discovery to screen 91,520 compounds from a chemical library, short-listing about 150 that she believes have the potential to be insect “confusants.”

Even Vosshall’s skeptics admit the confusant strategy is fundamentally sound. Zwiebel says his unpublished molecular work confirms the existence of confusants, but when it comes to DEET, he and Vosshall aren’t willing to budge. “We have agreed to disagree on the DEET story,” he says.

Resources

Smells funny? – Brendan Borrell  The Scientist.com Volume 23 | Issue 1 | Page 19.

http://www.the-scientist.com/2009/01/1/19/1/

Mosquitoes smell and avoid the insect repellent DEET – Leal and Zainulabeuddin Syed,  PNAS 105:13598-603, 2008 September 2008.


Image courtesy
of LJ Zwiebel, colorization by Dominic Doyle / Vanderbilt University

New species of Aussie bee on the rise in US


US Government officials said they do not know how many Australian bees have been imported, but hive importer Sullivan estimates that he has sold 110,000 hives since 2005.

Disappearing BeesAussies try to control their problem bees. The Australian government has adopted emergency controls to quarantine and destroy the aggressive bees and has never detected that mite, according to materials provided by Chelsey Martin, counselor for public affairs at the Australian Embassy in Washington.

U.S. agriculture officials say they also are taking precautions. (It is a little late to take precautions after the bees have been here for five years!)

Agricultural officials started sampling Australian bees last week after they were released in the Central Valley, California.

“Bees from Australia make great sense,” said Wayne Wehling, a senior entomologist in the USDA’s permit unit. “But we certainly don’t want to bring any economic impacts onto our honeybees that we don’t already have or introduce any new pests or disease.”
Early this month, the USDA decided to permit the bee shipments to resume with some precautions, and the first plane loads arrived in San Francisco last Monday.

Beekeeper Ken Haff of Mandan, N.D., says he fears the foreign hives could kill off his apiary.
“We’ve got enough problems with our own bee diseases that we don’t know how to treat, and they open the border to a whole new species that could carry God knows what,” said Haff, a vice president of the American Honey Producers Association. “That’s a total slap in the face for us.”

Shad Sullivan, a bee wholesaler in California’s Central Valley, said that in the four years he has imported bees from Australia, he has found that the hearty imports outlive domestic bees that have been weakened by pesticides, pests and diseases.

“If the bees were truly carrying something that bad, I would have been the first to get it,” Sullivan said as a thick cloud of the buzzing insects flew overhead. “I just haven’t seen those kinds of devastation.”
Resources

Excerpts & image courtesy of YahooNews

Beekeepers fear sting of imported Australian hives -GARANCE BURKE, AP, January 17, 2009.

http://news.yahoo.com/us/disappearing_bees;_

Old growth, ancient tropical forests can be restored


More protection from deforestation of old growth tropical forests is needed to fight climate change and protect the biodiversity of life on earth. “I am gravely concerned about what is happening with tropical forests,” William Laurance, a researcher with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama told AFP. “There is a very high rate of destruction of the old growth, ancient forests.”

…”50 football pitches of virgin rainforest was being destroyed every minute amid global warming, large scale habitat fragmentation, and changes in rainfall.”rainforest21

Intense hunting in areas of the tropics was also leading to the disappearance of “hundreds of species of amphibians,” he said. “Now we have synergy among those different threats,” Laurance said.

“So when you talk about global warming for example because it’s getting hotter, species in the tropics, where it’s possible, will naturally try to move up to higher elevations where it’s a little bit cooler.

“In many cases they will be trapped by habitat construction, cattle pass, degraded lands,” he warned.

Laurance presented his findings at a conference organized in Washington by the Smithsonian Natural History museum.

The bad news

Indonesia is now in terrible shape, losing more than two million hectares (4.9 million acres) of forest per year. Borneo is being devastated,” he said.

More than half of the planet’s 20 million square kilometers (eight million square miles) of rainforests has already been cleared for human use, while another five million square kilometers (two million square miles) has been selectively logged, said Greg Asner from the Carnegie Institution.

The promising news

But he said major swathes of land, or some 350,000 square kilometers (140,000 square miles), have been abandoned by human inhabitants and are beginning to grow back.

“Moreover, the regrowth is relatively quick. The forest canopy closes after just 15 years. After 20 years, about half of the original biomass weight has grown back,” he said.

Another success story-we can do it !

tropical-forests-of-the-world

1o years ago researchers planted worn-out cattle pastures in Costa Rica with a sampling of local trees, native species of plants began to move in and flourish, raising the hope that destroyed rain forests could one day be replaced.

Cornell graduate student Jackeline Salazar counted the species of plants that took up residence in the shade of the new planted areas over that 10 year  period. She found more than 100 in each plot and many of the new arrivals were also found in neighboring remnants of the original forests.

Forest restoration aims to improve the native forests and control erosion and helping the quality of life for the local people. Carl Leopold, the William H. Crocker Scientist Emeritus at BTI. ” …pointed out that drinking water becomes more readily available when forests thrive because tree roots act as a sort of sponge, favoring rainwater seepage and preventing water running off hills and draining away.”

To revive a rain forest may take hundreds of years,but our impressive growth rates in the new forest trees is hopeful.

Leopold with colleagues from the Ithaca-based Tropical Forestry Initiative began in 1993 by planting mixtures of trees on worn-out pasture land. For 50 years the soil had been compacted under countless hooves, and its nutrients washed away. When it rained, Leopold said, the red soil appeared to bleed from the hillsides.

Carl Leopold posing with a tree in front of one of his plantings, which had been growing for more than three years in a Costa Rican rain forest.

The group chose local rain forest trees for planting, collecting seeds from native trees in the community. “You can’t buy [these] seeds,” Leopold said. “So we passed the word around among our farmer neighbors.” When a farmer reported a tree producing seeds, Leopold and his wife would ride out on horses to collect the seeds before hungry monkeys beat them to it.

The group planted mixtures of local tree species, trimming away the pasture grasses until the trees could take hold. This was the opposite of what commercial companies have done for decades, planting entire fields with a single type of tree to harvest for wood or paper pulp.

The trees the group planted were fast-growing, sun-loving species. After just five years, those first trees formed a canopy of leaves that shaded out the grasses underneath. He believes that microscopic soil fungi called mycorrhizae can take much of the credit. They have apparently survived in the soil and form a symbiosis with tree roots. Research at Cornell and BTI, he said, has shown that without mycorrhizae, many plants can’t grow well.

The promising results of the project mean that mixed-species plantings can help jump-start a complex rain forest. Local farmers who use the same approach will reduce erosion of their land, while creating a forest that can be harvested sustainably, a few trees at a time.

Resources

Experts plead to save tropical forests in peril Spacedaily.com

Excerpts courtesy of Cornell University  CronicleONLINE

How campus researchers helped to rescue a rain forest – Beth Skwarecki  April 17, 2008.

rain forest growth

Provided
Half a century after most of Costa Rica’s rain forests were cut down, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Sciences (BTI) on the Cornell campus are attempting what many thought was impossible — restoring a tropical rain forest ecosystem.

Images courtesy of

1. CronicleONLINE

2. Map: treehugger.com/tropicalforestsworld

3. CronicleONLINE

4. CronicleONLINE

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