Membrane technology retains
water at the soil level
membranes could help increase agricultural production during drought in arid
regions and in areas with highly permeable sandy soils. Michigan State
University (MSU; East Lansing) researchers have found that these membranes
increase yields of corn and other vegetables, according to a university news
tested a subsurface water-retention technology (SWRT) process and found it
improves water-use efficiency by a factor of 20. Alvin Smucker, MSU professor
of soil biophysics and MSU AgBioResearch scientist, developed the SWRT process,
in which contoured engineered films are placed below a plant’s root zone to
retain soil water. Spacing between the membranes enables internal drainage
during excess rainfall and space for roots to grow, the news release says.
fields using the SWRT water-saving membranes produced 145% more cucumbers and
174% more corn than control fields. The testing was funded in part by the
Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lansing).
The patent-pending technology could help
reduce supplemental irrigation, protect groundwater supplies, and increase
efficient use and control of both fertilizers and pesticides, Smucker explains
in the release. Smucker is working with MSU Technologies to develop the
Bacteria join the caffeine
isn’t only for humans; bacteria crave it, too. Researchers at the University of
Texas at Austin and the University of Iowa (Iowa City) took on the challenge of
finding ways to remove caffeine and related chemical compounds from waterways.
researchers genetically altered Escherichia coli so that it is
“addicted” to caffeine and removes it from water, according to an American
Chemical Society (ACS; Washington, D.C.) news release.
CBB5, a bacterium that uses caffeine as
its sole source of carbon and nitrogen, converts caffeine into xanthine and
formaldehyde. The pathway where this conversion occurs is encoded within the
alkylxanthine degradation gene cluster, according to an article describing the
study. The researchers developed a genetic refactoring approach to transfer
this caffeine-degrading cluster from P. putida to E. coli, the
able to create an ‘addicted’ bacterium that can act as a biosensor to measure
the caffeine content of sodas and energy drinks,” the article says.
The article, “Decaffeination and
Measurement of Caffeine Content by Addicted Escherichia coli with a
Demethylation Operon from Pseudomonas putida
CBB5,” was published in the Feb. 16 issue of ACS Synthetic Biology.
Solar-powered ship commences
Tûranor PlanetSolar, a solar-powered catamaran, has set sail along the Gulf
Stream to collect physical and biological measurements from water and air. The
PlanetSolar (Lausanne, Switzerland) DeepWater scientific expedition, which
lasts from May to August, will explore the exchanges between water and air and
any links to climate, according to a PlanetSolar news release.
objective of the University of Geneva research team is to understand the
interactions among physics, biology, and climate and to refine climate
simulation, the news release says.
The team, led by Martin Beniston, a climatologist and director of the
Institute of Environmental Sciences at the university, will examine ocean
eddies, whirlpools, and deep-water formation areas where current systems allow
ocean basins to interconnect. They will use a Biobox instrument, which was developed
by the researchers and installed on the catamaran, to conduct analysis of
aerosols using laser technology. Because the ship is operated only by solar
power, it does not emit pollution that could distort the data collected, the
news release says.
For the expedition, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar
will travel more than 8000 km from Miami to Bergen, Norway, continuously
collecting physical and biological measurements from the air and water. Along
the way, it also will collect floating plastic waste and conduct educational
events, the news release says.