China smog starts to foster disastrous conditions | South China Morning Post

The warning comes as choking air is blanketing a quarter of the mainland and scientists say they are already seeing the detrimental effects. In He’s tests, chilli and tomato seeds, which normally take about 20 days to grow into seedlings under artificial light in a laboratory, took more than two months to sprout at a greenhouse farm in Beijing’s Changping district.

Membranes and pollutants sticking to the greenhouse’s surface cut the amount of light available to the plants by half, He said.

Depriving plants of light means photosynthesis – the process by which plants convert light to chemical energy – can barely be sustained.

Most seedlings at the farm were weak or sick. “They will be lucky to live at all. Now almost every farm is caught in a smog panic,” He said, adding that the poor seedling quality would cut agricultural output this year.

And if the smog persisted or intensified, the country’s food supply would face devastating consequences, He warned.

“A large number of representatives of agricultural companies have suddenly showed up at academic meetings on photosynthesis in recent months and sought desperately for solutions,” He said.

“Our overseas colleagues were shocked by the phenomenon because in their countries nothing like this had ever happened.”

Greenhouse farms, which occupy more than four million hectares and supply most of the mainland’s vegetables, would be the first to be hit.

via Agriculture feels the choke as China smog starts to foster disastrous conditions | South China Morning Post.

Monsanto moves into ‘natural’ plant breeding | Wired Science

Monsanto computer models can actually predict inheritance patterns, meaning they can tell which desired traits will successfully be passed on. It’s breeding without breeding, plant sex in silico. In the real world, the odds of stacking 20 different characteristics into a single plant are one in 2 trillion. In nature, it can take a millennium. Monsanto can do it in just a few years.

And this all happens without any genetic engineering. Nobody inserts a single gene into a single genome. They could, and in fact sometimes do, look at their crosses by engineering a plant as a kind of beta test. But those aren’t intended to leave the lab. Stark and his colleagues realized that they could use these technologies to identify a cross that would have highly desirable traits and grow the way they wanted. And they could actually charge more for it—all the benefits of a GMO with none of the stigma.

via Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie – Wired Science.