Hexbyte Glen Cove Boom times for organic cocoa in Ivory Coast thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Boom times for organic cocoa in Ivory Coast

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Organic cocoa farming in M’Brimbo, a village in central Ivory Coast, is prospering

Cocoa farmers across Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer of the key ingredient for chocolate, are down in the dumps after prices for their commodity have fallen for the second year running.

Not so in M’Brimbo, a village in central Ivory Coast which 11 years ago became a testing ground for organic cocoa farming and today is prospering.

The local farmers’ collective, the Fair Cooperative Society of Bandama (SCEB), sell their high-quality produce at twice the market rate for non-organic cocoa.

“When producers are trained and well-paid, they can make very good cocoa in Ivory Coast,” said Arthur Gautier, an agronomist who works for Ethiquable, a French company that specialises in marketing fair-trade products and buys SCEB’s harvest.

The chocolate made from their cocoa is sold in French supermarkets under the brand “Grand Cru M’Brimbo,” a name that resonates with fine wines—”Grand Cru” means “vintage.”

Cocoa growing was massively promoted by Ivory Coast’s government following independence in 1960, becoming the backbone of the country’s rise as one of West Africa’s leading economies. Today, Ivory Coast produces two million tonnes of cocoa per year, equivalent to more than 40 percent of the world’s market.

But expansion has also come at a grim price for the environment and fuelled a dependency that ratchets up rural poverty whenever prices slump.

Workers weigh cocoa bags at the warehouse of the local farmers’ collective in M’brimbo

Around 90 percent of Ivory Coast’s forests have been destroyed, stripping away habitat for elephants and other species, and in some places herbicides and pesticides have lastingly tainted the soil.

Using techniques pioneered in Latin America, SCEB farmers weed their fields manually and have developed specific methods to dry and ferment cocoa beans, helping to develop the chocolate’s signature rich taste.


Monitoring and certifying the process and ensuring traceability, right down to the individual bag of cocoa, have been key to winning the confidence of consumers who are willing to pay more for a product that has quality and ethical values.

Ethiquable claims to sell a quarter of the organic chocolate sold in French supermarkets. Organic chocolate accounts for just eight percent of the national market, but is growing at 18 percent per year.

“Doing bio is harder, it requires more work and you need more labour,” said Solo Bony, a member of the cooperative. “But at the end of the day, you get a better return.”

Ethiquable pays the SCEB 1,850 CFA francs (2.82 euros) per kilogram, of which 1,350 francs goes to the producer, which compares with the current official price for non-organic cocoa of 750 francs per kilo—a benchmark that in any case is not always respected.

Farming organic cocoa is harder work than conventional cultivation but offers better returns

Another boon is that this price is guaranteed for a three-year period—a welcome reassurance compared with the rollercoaster conventional market.

The “organic” label offers higher rewards than “fair trade” certification, issued for around 10 percent of Ivory Coast’s production, which is for cocoa that meets environmental standards and does not involve child labour.

An emerging worry in Ivory Coast is about the health impact from farmers who use conventional chemicals to fertilise the soil and kill pests.

The cooperative’s farmers are testing safer formulas made from residues derived from locally-grown plants.

Farmers in the cooperative also get training in sustainable techniques —- planting cocoa trees in the shade of bigger trees rather than in the open, diversifying crops by planting fruit trees and by sowing legume plants, which take nitrogen out of the air and fix it into the soil, thus increasing its fertility naturally.

“A plantation of cocoa trees drawn from older varieties, grown organically and using sustainable farming, provides better-quality cocoa and higher yields, and produce over a timescale of 50 years compared to 20 years for a conventional plantation,” said Gautier.

Farmers carry bags of organic cocoa beans at the collective.


The cooperative’s president, Evariste Salo, attested personally to the growth in wealth.

“I used to have a bicycle, now I’ve got a motorbike. I have been able to put my kids through school and build a house.”

By way of comparison, according to the World Bank, more than half of the five to six million people in Ivory Coast who live on cocoa subsist below the poverty line.

The cooperative produced 13 tonnes of cocoa with 33 farmers in 2010, and this year is expected to produce more than 200 tonnes, with 264 growers.

It now has six employees and has just built a new headquarters and warehouse with a storage capacity of 300 tonnes, and is pushing ahead with a laboratory to test cocoa quality. It has also funded a rural clinic and a school, and provides financial help for school fees and medical bills.

Ten other cooperatives in Ivory Coast now produce organic and others are expected to follow them. But their production is likely to remain a fraction of the country’s conventional output for a long time to come.

© 2021 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Rocket Lab's satellite launch from New Zealand site fails thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Rocket Lab’s satellite launch from New Zealand site fails

Hexbyte Glen Cove

California-based Rocket Lab said a launch of satellites from its facility in New Zealand failed Saturday.

The problem occurred during ignition of the Electron rocket’s second stage, the said in a statement.

The rocket was carrying two Earth-observation satellites for BlackSky, a global monitoring company.

“Today’s anomaly occurred after 17 successful orbital launches of the Electron launch vehicle. With multiple launch vehicles currently in production, Rocket Lab is prepared for a rapid return to as soon as investigations are complete and any required corrective actions are in place,” the statement said.

Rocket Lab said the ‘s first stage successfully parachuted into the ocean and crews were working to recover it. The company is trying to develop a capability to recover and reuse Electron first stages.

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Is Beef the new coal? Climate-friendly eating is on the rise thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Is Beef the new coal? Climate-friendly eating is on the rise

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Eleven Madison Park, a top Manhattan restaurant, is going meatless. The Epicurious cooking site stopped posting new beef recipes. The Culinary Institute of America is promoting “plant-forward” menus. Dozens of colleges, including Harvard and Stanford, are shifting toward “climate-friendly” meals.

If this continues—and the Boston Consulting Group and Kearney believe the trend is global and growing—beef could be the new coal, shunned by elite tastemakers over rising temperatures and squeezed by increasingly cheap alternatives.

“Beef is under a whole lot of pressure,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communications. “It was the shift in that was the death knell for coal. And it’s the same thing here. It’s going to be the shift in consumer tastes and preferences, not some regulation.”

Americans do claim to want a shift. Seventy percent say it would be healthier if the country ate less and 58% would like to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, according to a 2020 survey by the food market research firm Datassential. Worries about climate pile on top of long-standing health concerns about .

Yet, while long-term trends back the change, U.S. consumption of beef actually ticked up slightly during the 2020 pandemic, to 55.8 pounds per person. It has been slowly rising since 2015 after plunging during the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Consumption last year remained 11.4% below 2006 and nearly 40% below peak 1970s levels, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Tastemakers are pushing. Popular culinary personalities including chef Jamie Oliver are promoting plant-centric meals. Bill Gates is urging developed nations to completely give up conventional beef. Many school and corporate cafeterias have dropped all-beef patties for “blended burgers” made of one-third mushrooms.

Meanwhile, a backlash is stirring among rural Republican politicians who scent a new battleground in the partisan culture wars. In broad swaths of the Heartland, cattle and the rows of corn grown for are central to livelihood and identity. More than a third of U.S. farms and ranches are beef cattle operations, making it the single largest segment of U.S. agriculture. Burgers sizzle from countless backyard barbecues.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts seized on a suggestion by his Democratic counterpart in neighboring Colorado that the state’s residents cut red meat for one day to counter with a “Meat on the Menu” Day. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds outdid him, declaring all of April “Meat on the Menu Month.” Fox News later spent days promoting phony accusations the Biden administration had launched a “War on Beef.”

It hasn’t, but there is no escaping the fact that beef is a climate villain. Cows’ ruminant digestive system ferments grass and other feed in multiple stomach compartments, burping methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Cattle’s relatively long lifespan compared to other meat sources adds to their climate impact.

Globally, 14.5% of human-driven emissions come from , with cattle responsible for two-thirds, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Per gram of protein, beef production has more than 6 times the climate impact of pork, more than 8 times that of poultry and 113 times that of peas, according to a 2018 analysis of global production in the journal Science. U.S. livestock producers generally have lower emissions than worldwide averages because of production efficiencies.

Cattle producers have sought to blunt the appeal of competing faux meat products with state laws banning them from using common meat terms and addressed environmental criticism by promoting the role of ranchers as stewards of the land.

“That Wild West is alive and well because cattle producers protect that space and make it resilient,” said Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of natural resources for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

For now, an emerging global middle class in China and elsewhere is bolstering global demand for meat and feed-grains used for livestock, improving export opportunities for American farmers and ranchers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said Biden administration climate initiatives won’t target meat consumption.

Investors are rushing into plant-based and cultivated faux meat startups. A Boston Consulting Group report in March heralded the beginning of a “protein transformation” and forecast meat alternatives would make up 11-22% of the global protein market by 2035. A Kearney study projects global meat sales will begin to drop by 2025 and decline 33% by 2040 as alternatives take away market share.

Much as falling costs for natural gas, wind and solar power were drivers in shutting down coal plants reviled by environmentalists, pocketbook decisions will be crucial, said Carsten Gerhardt, a Kearney partner who consults for agribusiness and co-authored the study. Trends suggest alternatives are well on their way to “parity” in taste and texture and will soon beat conventional meat on price, he said.

Plant-based alternatives already have hit the mass market, with Burger King’s Impossible Whopper. Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks serve plant-based sausage patties. Even Tyson Foods Inc, the U.S.’s largest meat processor, joined in this month with its own line of 100% vegan meat products.

Cultivated meat is also advancing. In December, Singapore became the first country to approve commercial sale of such animal cells.

More than half of roughly 350 school districts in the U.S. supplied by food service giant Sodexo SA have switched from all-beef to blended beef-mushroom burgers and many corporate and health-care customers also use the blend for tacos and lasagna, said Lisa Feldman, director of recipe management. Corporate customers are adopting “choice architecture” to steer employees toward meals with less meat.

A consortium of 41 colleges including Harvard, Stanford and Kansas State University joined in a “Menus of Change” collaborative to shift students to healthier, more climate-friendly diets. Harvard dining halls showcase vegetable and grain-heavy “bistro bowls.” The University of North Texas has a “Mean Greens” vegan dining hall. In 2019, the 19 member institutions that reported data lowered meat purchases 9.4% from the year earlier, even as overall food purchases rose.

Sophie Egan, co-director of the university collaborative, said the initiative consciously targets young people to shape food preferences at a time of life when most are more adventurous and still forming identities and tastes for a lifetime. Students are often especially open to dishes inspired by global cuisines that use less meat.

“We know trends start with the youngest generations,” Egan said. “They’re coming in to the dining hall three times a day, sometimes for years. That’s sculpting their food identities for many years to come.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Undammed, undimmed: The battle over a unique European river thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Undammed, undimmed: The battle over a unique European river

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Activists fear time is running out to save what they call Europe’s last major “wild river”

Cutting into craggy mountains, meandering through plains and eventually hitting Albania’s shimmering Adriatic, the Vjosa river’s untouched landscapes are a national treasure, but one that is under imminent threat.

Activists feel that time is running out to save what they call Europe’s last major “wild river”—one whose course is unaltered by industry, cities or dams—recruiting A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio to their cause.

The immediate concern is a plan to build a 50-metre (165-foot) high hydroelectric dam.

A Turkish-Albanian firm has the rights to the project, which would be the first development to change the course of the roughly 200 kilometre (125 mile) Albanian stretch of a river that rises in the Pindus mountains across the border in Greece.

The dam would flood areas replete with rare animal and plant life, wiping out farmland, damaging the livelihoods of fishermen and forcing thousands from their homes.

“Vjosa is my greatest love. My life is here, my childhood is here, my youth is here,” says local restaurateur Arjan Zeqaj.

His roadside restaurant in the village of Qesarat enjoys spectacular views of undulating grassland tumbling down to an expanse of chaotic channels on a grey, gravelly plain.

If the reservoir comes, all that will be gone. The water will lap against the edge of the road just metres from his terrace.

The immediate concern for the Vjosa river is a plan to build a 50-meter high hydroelectric dam

“I would have to emigrate,” says Zeqaj. “I see no other way to survive here.”

Legal rows over the dam have been hanging over the residents for two decades. And for years, activists have been pushing the same solution.

‘A bit too much’

“The Vjosa Valley must be declared a ,” Besjana Guri of the EcoAlbania NGO told AFP. “This will not only protect its unique ecosystem but also allow stable development and promote tourism and local ecotourism.”

EcoAlbania is working with international NGOs to raise awareness, with Ulrich Eichelmann of Austria-based RiverWatch describing it as the “only chance in Europe” to save such a river system.

The activists point out that 1,175 animal and plant species have been recorded along the Vjosa, including 119 protected under Albanian law and 39 that are listed internationally as threatened.

EcoAlbania is working with international NGOS to raise awareness about the river

And they also argue that Albania does not need any more hydroelectric power and should concentrate on other renewable energy sources.

On the face of it, the Albanian government agrees.

Officials say they are opposed to major development along the Vjosa and are developing projects involving solar power and liquid natural gas.

Last year, activists won a major victory when the environment ministry refused to allow Turkish-Albanian venture Ayen-ALB to start work on the dam, a decision the company is challenging in the courts.

Yet the government is resisting the national park designation, opting instead for a less strict “protected area” categorisation.

“A national park is a bit too much,” Prime Minister Edi Rama told AFP, claiming that the designation would stop tens of thousands of people from going about their daily lives and stop activities from agriculture to ecotourism.

The Albanian government is resisting the national park designation, opting instead for a less strict “protected area” categorisation

‘Vjosa is vital’

Activists and locals are unconvinced.

While designating it a national park would give legal protection against hydroelectric projects, airports and other developments, the protected area designation would not.

And Rama’s claim about ecotourism is also disputed.

“Industrialisation of this region with the construction of dams will make foreign tourists lose all interest in exploring Vjosa and wilder areas of Albanian more generally,” says tourism expert Albiona Mucoimaj.

However, while she talks of rafting in the rapids and small excursions into unspoilt mountains, the government dreams of package tourists, thousands of them.

Officials are banking on a slew of new airports to fuel mass tourism and economic development along the coast, with one airport planned for wetlands near the Vjosa delta, which activists say is in a protected zone.

The Albanian government dreams of package tourists while some experts say industrialisation will ruin the region

The battle over the Vjosa encapsulates the global debate over humanity’s future: development at any price, or environmental protection above all else. Similar arguments have raged everywhere from China to Chile.

And activists are determined for Vjosa to be seen as a global issue.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity to set an example within Europe and the world,” says Annette Spangenberg of EuroNatur, an NGO involved in the protection effort.

The river and all its tributaries are still untamed, and preserving the system would set “a new standard for what is possible in nature protection”, she added.

At its heart, though, the battle against the dam is about preserving and improving the day-to-day lives of villagers.

“Vjosa is vital for us, for our land, for our food, it is part of our life,” says 60-year-old local Idajet Zotaj, worrying that a dam would destroy the livelihoods of thousands.

At its heart, the battle against the dam is about preserving and improving the day-to-day lives of villagers

“I miss my children,” says 86-year-old Mezin Zaim Zotaj, whose seven children have all left the region, four having emigrated.

“I am sure if Vjosa becomes a national park they will all come back to build their future here, at home,” he adds as he patiently tends his gaggle of unruly sheep, just metres from the rumbling river.

© 2021 AFP

Undammed, undimmed: The battle over a unique European river (2021, May 15)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove 'Nihao Mars': China's Zhurong rover touches down on Red Planet thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove ‘Nihao Mars’: China’s Zhurong rover touches down on Red Planet

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Mars (seen in an image released on March 3, 2021 taken by China’s Tianwen-1 probe which carried the rover) is the the most prestigious of all prizes in the competition for dominion of space

China’s probe to Mars touched down on the Red Planet early Saturday to deploy its Zhurong rover, state media reported, a triumph for Beijing’s increasingly bold space ambitions and a history-making feat for a nation on its first-ever Martian mission.

The lander carrying Zhurong completed the treacherous descent through the Martian atmosphere using a parachute to navigate the “seven minutes of terror” as it is known, aiming for a vast northern lava plain known as the Utopia Planitia.

It “successfully landed in the pre-selected area”, state broadcaster CCTV said, launching a special TV programme dedicated to the mission called “Nihao Mars” (“Hello Mars”).

The official Xinhua news agency cited the China National Space Administration (CNSA) in confirming the touchdown.

It makes China the first country to carry out an orbiting, landing and roving operation during its first mission to Mars—a feat unmatched by the only other two nations to reach the Red Planet so far, the US and Russia.

President Xi Jinping sent his “warm congratulations and sincere greetings to all members who have participated in the Mars exploration mission”, Xinhua reported.

China has now sent astronauts into space, powered probes to the Moon and landed a rover on Mars, the most prestigious of all prizes in the competition for dominion of space.

Three-month mission

Zhurong, named after a Chinese mythical fire god, arrives a few months behind America’s latest probe to Mars—Perseverance—as the show of technological might between the two superpowers plays out beyond the bounds of Earth.

Six-wheeled, solar-powered and weighing roughly 240 kilograms (530 pounds), the Chinese rover is on a quest to collect and analyse rock samples from Mars’ surface.

The launch of China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe which carried the rover last July marked a major milestone in China’s space programme.

The spacecraft entered Mars’ orbit in February and after a prolonged silence announced it had reached the “crucial touchdown stage” on Friday.

The landing was set to be a nail-biter for the China National Space Administration (CNSA), with state media describing the process of using a parachute to slow descent and buffer legs as “the most challenging part of the mission”.

It is expected to spend around three months there taking photos and harvesting geographical data.

The complicated landing process is called the “seven minutes of terror” because it happens faster than radio signals can reach Earth from Mars, meaning communications are limited.

“The distance was too far away that the spacecraft has to do it totally by itself,” said Chen Lan, an independent analyst specialising in China’s space programme. “If there was something wrong, people on the Earth have no way to help.”

Several US, Russian and European attempts to land rovers on Mars have failed in the past, most recently in 2016 with the crash-landing of the Schiaparelli joint Russian-European spacecraft.

The latest successful arrival came in February, when US space agency NASA landed its rover Perseverance, which has since been exploring the planet.

The US rover launched a small robotic helicopter on Mars which was the first-ever powered flight on another planet.

China has come a long way in its race to catch up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have decades of experience in space exploration.

It successfully launched the first module of its new space station last month with hopes of having it crewed by 2022 and eventually sending humans to the Moon.

Last week a segment of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket disintegrated over the Indian Ocean in an uncontrolled landing back to Earth.

That drew criticism from the United States and other nations for a breach of etiquette governing the return of debris to Earth, with officials saying the remnants had the potential to endanger life and property.

© 2021 AFP

‘Nihao Mars’: China’s Zhurong rover touches down on Red Planet (2021, May 15)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists urge restoration of federal gray wolf protections thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists urge restoration of federal gray wolf protections

Hexbyte Glen Cove

In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo, provided by the National Park Service, a 4-year-old female gray wolf emerges from her cage as it is released at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. A group of scientists urged the Biden administration Thursday, May 13, 2021, to restore legal protections for gray wolves, saying their removal earlier in the year was premature and states were allowing too many of the animals to be killed. (National Park Service via AP, File)

A group of scientists urged the Biden administration Thursday to restore legal protections for gray wolves, saying their removal earlier this year was premature and that states are allowing too many of the animals to be killed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped in most of the lower 48 states from the in January. The decision was among more than 100 Trump administration actions related to the environment that President Joe Biden ordered reviewed after taking office.

The move didn’t affect Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where federal protections had been lifted years earlier and hunting is allowed. But it removed them elsewhere in the lower 48 states, including in the western Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest that have , and others where experts say the predators could migrate if shielded from human harassment.

The decision was premature because the species hasn’t fully recovered, 115 scientists argued in a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. High numbers of state-approved killings since then have caused setbacks, the letter said.

“We’ve been shocked by the way states have been willing to go to all-out war against the wolves,” said John Vucetich, a professor of conservation at Michigan Technological University.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said the agency had no update on wolves. The agency has continued defending their removal from the endangered list against lawsuits filed by environmental groups.

Wolves were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns. A remnant population in the western Great Lakes region has since expanded to some 4,400 animals in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

More than 2,000 occupy six states in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest after wolves from Canada were reintroduced in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park beginning 25 years ago.

Wisconsin had a court-ordered hunt in February in response to a lawsuit from a pro-hunting group. Participants killed 216 wolves—nearly one-fifth of the state’s population, far exceeding the state’s quota of 119. Another hunt is planned for this fall.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little last week signed into law a measure that could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves with methods such as using night-vision equipment, chasing them on snowmobiles and ATVs and shooting them from helicopters. In Montana, proposed legislation would allow the use of bait, night-vision scopes and snares.

The states “have clearly indicated that they will manage wolves to the lowest allowable standards,” the scientists said in their letter.

“The recent politicization of wolf management in states like Idaho and Montana puts long-term recovery of wolves in jeopardy by reducing the probability of such dispersals,” said Jeremy Bruskotter, a wildlife policy professor at Ohio State University.

The Fish and Wildlife Service contends it’s not necessary for wolves to be in every place they once inhabited to be considered recovered.

Livestock farmers and ranchers contend wolf numbers are too high and threaten their livelihoods.

Lawyers representing the government and groups suing to restore federal protections agreed this month to a scheduling plan intended to get matter resolved before hunts that might take place this fall.

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Mexican paleontologists identify new 'talkative' dinosaur species thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Mexican paleontologists identify new ‘talkative’ dinosaur species

Hexbyte Glen Cove

said Thursday.

The scientists said the conditions in which the dino was found explain its preservation.

“About 72 or 73 million years ago, a huge herbivore dinosaur died in what must have been a body of water full of sediment, so that its body was quickly covered by the earth and could be preserved through the ages,” the institute said in a statement.

The animal is called Tlatolophus galorum. Its tail was discovered first, in the General Cepeda area of the northern state of Coahuila in 2013.

As excavations continued, scientists eventually discovered 80 percent of its skull, its 1.32-meter crest and bones such as its femur and shoulder, which allowed researchers to finally realize this year that they had a new species of dinosaur on their hands, the INAH said.

“We know that they had ears with the capacity of hearing , so they must have been peaceful but talkative dinosaurs,” the statement said.

Paleontologists also believe that the “emitted strong sounds to scare away predators or for reproductive purposes.”

The discovery is still under investigation, but research about the ancient reptile has already been published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, according to INAH.

“It is an exceptional case in Mexican paleontology,” the INAH said. “Highly favorable events had to occur millions of years ago, when Coahuila was a , for it to be conserved in the conditions it was found in.”

The name Tlatolophus is derived from the indigenous Nahuatl language word tlahtolli—which means word or statement—and the Greek word lophus, meaning crest.

The animals crest’s shape looks like what the INAH said is “a symbol used by Mesoamerican people in to represent the action of communication and knowledge itself.”

More information:
Ángel A. Ramírez-Velasco et al. Tlatolophus galorum, gen. et sp. nov., a parasaurolophini dinosaur from the upper Campanian of the Cerro del Pueblo Formation, Coahuila, northern Mexico, Cretaceous Research (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2021.104884

© 2021 AFP

Mexican paleontologists identify new ‘talkative’ dinosaur species (2021, May 14)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Force-sensing PIEZO proteins are at work in plants, too thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Force-sensing PIEZO proteins are at work in plants, too

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant commonly known as thale cress, is often used as a laboratory model to study the molecular underpinning of plant biology. Scripps Research scientists have shown that the plant’s roots use a “mechanosensor” protein that is present in all animals to sense its surroundings as it grows. Credit: Seyed Ali Reza Mousavi, PhD / Scripps Research

A family of proteins that sense mechanical force—and enable our sense of touch and many other important bodily functions—also are essential for proper root growth in some plants, according to a study led by scientists at Scripps Research and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

The discovery, published in the points to an ancient evolutionary origin for the PIEZO proteins, which until now had mainly been characterized in animals. This advance in basic biology may also lead to new strategies for improving crop yields, the researchers say.

“Our finding that PIEZO proteins work as transducers of mechanical forces in plants, as well as animals, suggests the broad importance of these proteins for living organisms on Earth,” says lead author Seyed Ali Reza Mousavi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate in the Scripps Research laboratory of Ardem Patapoutian, Ph.D.

“It’s remarkable that evolution has utilized the same type of molecule for us to touch and for to sense the hardness of soil,” says Patapoutian, professor and Presidential Endowed Chair in Neurobiology at Scripps Research and an investigator at HHMI.

Patapoutian, the senior author of the study, is credited with the discovery of PIEZO proteins about a decade ago—an accomplishment that earned him the 2020 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience and many other awards. The discovery led to a host of additional findings that have shed light on how to a range of medical conditions, from heart failure to chronic pain.

Sensing physical force

PIEZO proteins have little resemblance to any other family of biological proteins. In mammals—the only large class of animals in which they have been studied much—they form striking, propeller-like structures in the outer membranes of cells.

When stretched or pressed beyond a threshold, these structures allow charged molecules, called ions, to flow into or out of their host cells.

The two PIEZO proteins in mammals, PIEZO1 and PIEZO2, underlie a wide variety of functions that require this conversion of to cellular signals—functions including the , the sense of body and limb positions that enables balance, the sense of bladder fullness and the regulation of blood pressure.

Patapoutian’s lab and others have found PIEZO-type proteins, with apparent mechanical sensor functions, in other animals including Drosophila fruit flies.

An important role in the plant kingdom

When in the long history of life on Earth did these unique, versatile proteins evolve? To help address that question, Mousavi and other members of Patapoutian’s team examined Arabidopsis thaliana, a weedy relative of the mustard plant that’s a standard lab model for plant biology research. Arabidopsis’s genome includes a gene encoding a PIEZO-type , hinting that these proteins work as mechanosensors in the , too.

The scientists first examined the locations in the plant where the protein, PZO1, is made, and found it concentrated in the root tips. Deleting the PZO1 gene, they observed that the Arabidopsis plants grew shorter roots. In a lengthy set of further experiments, they found that PZO1 in root tip cells responds to mechanical stimuli with ion flows—which establishes it as a mechanosensor like its mammalian counterparts.

Exactly how PZO1’s mechanosensing abilities help roots grow remains a mystery. But Mousavi, Patapoutian and colleagues suspect that it helps root tip cells sense and adjust themselves to the potentially strong mechanical forces they encounter as the root tries to penetrate soils—especially drier, harder soils.

“If the activity of PZO1 increases, it might help expand their root systems in dry conditions and get better access to water,” Mousavi says. If that proves to be the case, boosting PZO1 activity could be a way of increasing in difficult soil conditions, he says.

Mousavi is now trying to clarify PZO1’s precise function in Arabidopsis with experiments in real-world conditions. He also hopes to study the role of PIEZO-type proteins in food crops including maize and rice.

More information:
Seyed A. R. Mousavi et al, PIEZO ion channel is required for root mechanotransduction in Arabidopsis thaliana, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2102188118

Force-sensing PIEZO proteins are at work in plants, too (2021, May 14)
retrieved 14 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-force-sensing-piezo-proteins.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Cooked at 1,000 degrees Celsius: Guatemala's volcanic pizza thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Cooked at 1,000 degrees Celsius: Guatemala’s volcanic pizza

Hexbyte Glen Cove

A pizza cooks on volcanic laza on the Pacaya volcano 25-kilometers south of Guatemala’s capital

Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano has been erupting since February, keeping local communities and authorities on high alert.

But for David Garcia, the streams of molten lava oozing down the mountainside have become his kitchen.

Garcia, a 34-year-old accountant, serves up “Pacaya Pizza” cooked on the smouldering to awed tourists and locals.

“Many people today come to enjoy the experience of eating pizza made on volcanic heat,” Garcia told AFP from a rocky area that leads to the Pacaya crater, and which he’s converted into his workplace.

In his makeshift kitchen, Garcia spreads the dough on a metal platter that can resist temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), slathers it with tomato sauce, a generous helping of cheese and pieces of meat.

Wearing from head to his military style boots, Garcia places the pizza on the lava.

“It’s done, just let the cheese melt some more,” he announces 10 minutes later.

“That pizza looks so good!” exclaims one of the tourists as the cheese bubbles.

Garcia’s kitchen has become a magnet for tourists that work up a appetite climbing the massive volcano—one of three active ones in Guatemala—located just 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital.

‘Only’ in Guatemala

He first started baking pizzas on the mountain side in 2013 in small caverns he found amongst the rocks.

“I didn’t sell much the first few days,” said Garcia, whose fame has now spread throughout social media.

In recent weeks, with Pacaya regularly spitting out molten rock, he started cooking the pizzas directly on the moving lava, some of which has come close to population centers.

It’s a potentially risky undertaking given the plumes of volcanic ash blasted into the sky by the angry beast, to which some local villagers pray, pleading with it to desist.

“Having a pizza cooked in the embers of a volcano is mind-blowing and unique in the whole world,” said Felipe Aldana, a tourist trying out one of Garcia’s specialities.

He found about about the joint on Facebook and thought: “I have to have this experience.”

“It’s ridiculous just thinking that you’re going to eat something cooked on lava, but it’s something that you can see only here” in Guatemala, said Kelt Van Meurs, a Dutch visitor.

© 2021 AFP

Cooked at 1,000 degrees Celsius: Guatemala’s volcanic pizza (2021, May 12)
retrieved 13 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-cooked-degrees-celsius-guatemala-volcanic.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Lemon trees showed less response to citrus greening disease pathogen than orange trees thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Lemon trees showed less response to citrus greening disease pathogen than orange trees

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Citrus greening disease was first discovered in Florida in 2005. Since then, production of oranges in the United States for processing has declined by 72 percent between the 2007-2008 growing season and the 2017-2018 growing season, primarily in Florida. The disease was discovered in California in 2012, and now the state is beginning to see a rapid increase of citrus greening disease.

As there is currently no cure for citrus greening disease, many growers are concerned about its rapid spread and many plant pathologists are focused on learning more about the complicated nature of this disease. To add to this growing body of knowledge about citrus greening disease, a group of scientists working in California, New York, and Washington compared the early responses of two , Lisbon lemon and Washington navel orange trees, to infection by Liberibacter asiaticus, the pathogen that causes citrus greening disease.

These scientists conducted a comprehensive molecular analysis that showed that Lisbon lemon trees had less of a molecular response to the pathogen than Washington navel orange trees. In part, this might be because leaves of infected lemons tended to accumulate micronutrients, which led to less of an impact on photosynthesis. Additionally, , important for plant defense, were upregulated in lemons.

“These results may be important for developing varieties of citrus that are more tolerant or perhaps resistant to the HLB pathogen,” said Carolyn Slupsky, a UC Davis-based systems biologist involved with the research. “Our research highlights some key features that differentiate more tolerant from more susceptible varieties of citrus and may be used to develop new cultivars that are resistant to the effects of this pathogen.”

This study is the first to analyze the impact of the pathogen on citrus metabolism prior to symptom development. “Understanding early response is important,” added Slupsky. “As it may also help in developing technologies to detect the disease earlier.”

More information:
Elizabeth L. Chin et al, Multi-omics Comparison Reveals Landscape of Citrus limon and Citrus sinensis Response to ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, PhytoFrontiers (2021). DOI: 10.1094/PHYTOFR-09-20-0018-R

Provided by
American Phytopathological Society

Lemon trees showed less response to citrus greening disease pathogen than orange trees (2021, May 12)
retrieved 13 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-lemon-trees-response-citrus-greening.html

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