Earth

As biodiversity declines on corn farms, pest problems grow

As biodiversity declines on corn farms, pest problems grow

Biodiversity performs critical ecosystem functions that cannot be replaced indefinitely by technology, such as pesticides and herbicides. This includes a diverse population of insects on farms.

In a study of corn farms across the Northern Great Plains, we found that farms with lower insect biodiversity have more pests. The findings suggest that farming practices that promote insect biodiversity may be an effective way to control pests.

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice -- they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.

Cooking up altered states

Cooking up altered states

Churning raw milk sufficiently creates butter. Squirting lemon juice coagulates it into curd. These two phenomena are not as straightforward as they sound on the molecular level.

When milk is churned, the fat molecules in it come closer to form aggregates. Lemon juice increases milk's acidity and creates similar molecular lumps. Yet butter and curd are not solids because in both cases, the aggregated molecules still maintain consistent distances from each other, behaving as if they are part of a liquid.

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

California's disastrous environmental management practices have crippled the state to such an extent that it would have to have rain for a full year to offset the "rain debt" accumulated.

Low levels of endocrine disruptors in the environment may cause sex reversal in female frogs

Many studies have been conducted on the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimic or block estrogen, the primary female hormone, but have met with indifferent success at real-world levels or in real-world animals. A new finds that similar methods can create harm using chemicals that affect male hormones, or androgens.

When surgeons listen to their preferred music, their stitches are better and faster

A new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston shows that when plastic surgeons listen to music they prefer, their surgical technique and efficiency when closing incisions is improved. The study is currently available in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

Depressed females have over-active glutamate receptor gene

Numerous genes that regulate the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain have been found to be abundant in brain tissue of depressed females. This could be an underlying cause of the higher incidence of suicide among women, according to research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Studying postmortem tissue from brains of psychiatric patients, Monsheel Sodhi, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at UIC, noted that female patients with depression had abnormally high expression levels of many genes that regulate the glutamate system, which is widely distributed in the brain.

Probiotics for frogs

In research that could lead to protective probiotics to fight the "chytrid" fungus that has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide, Jenifer Walke, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, and her collaborators have grown bacterial species from the skin microbiome of four species of amphibians. The research appears July 10 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Genetically modified sugarcane grows at lower temperatures

U.S. farmers have long hoped to extend sugarcane's growing range northward from the Gulf coast, substantially increasing the land available for sugar and biofuels. Several hybrid canes developed in the 1980s have proved hardy in cooler climes, surviving overwinter as far north as Booneville, Arkansas. But until now, no one had tested whether these "miscanes," as they are called, actually photosynthesize, and thus continue to grow, when the thermometer dips.

Chimpanzees binge on clay to detox

Wild chimpanzees in the forests of Uganda are increasingly eating clay to supplement the minerals in their diet, according to a long-term study published in PLOS ONE. The paper led by the University of Oxford describes how the researchers observed wild chimpanzees in the Budongo forest eating and drinking from clay pits and termite mounds.