Hexbyte Glen Cove Mustard, fries in short supply due to Canada climate woes

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Snow covers soya fields at the Belfontaine Holstein farm in Quebec in early December 2021.

A mix of drought in Canada’s prairies and flooding on its Pacific coast have brought about crop production and shipping woes now leading to international shortages of fries and mustard.

In Japan, for example, McDonald’s has been forced to ration fries as the British Columbia floods squeezed potato imports, while mustard producers in France are forecasting steep price increases because the drought in another part of Canada—the world’s biggest producer of mustard grains—cut supplies.

“When we look back at the state of the agriculture sector in 2021, we can say this year has been marked by extreme climate change weather events,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a recent speech.

“That includes the worst drought in 60 years in Western Canada and the devastating atmospheric rivers in British Columbia,” she told and ranchers who’ve struggled to secure enough hay to feed their animals as pastures dried up.

According to government data, farmers in Canada produced more corn but less wheat, canola, barley, soybeans and oats in 2021 compared with 2020.

The lower yields—which Statistics Canada said marked the largest year-over-year decrease on record, falling to levels not seen in more than a decade—were driven largely by in Western Canada.

Keith Currie of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told AFP: “There’s a lot of angst in the farming community.” Some farmers have lost everything, others are considering quitting as the future looks bleak.

A pumpkins floats in floodwaters at a farm in Abbotsford, east of Vancouver, in November 2021, following record rainfall that resulted in widespread flooding of farms, landslides and the evacuation of residents.

The Agri-Food Analytics Labs at Dalhousie University publishes a list of the top 10 food-related stories each year. Climate calamities in Western Canada ranked second this year, after food inflation.

“Climate change has strongly impacted agricultural production and supply chains” already strained by the pandemic, its scientific director Sylvain Charlebois told AFP, leading to rising food costs.

“This year saw extremes,” he said, noting a Canadian record high temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius in the town of Lytton in British Columbia. It was later destroyed by wildfires.

Subsequent flood devastation in British Columbia showed that Canada’s westward supply links, Charlebois said, “are very, very vulnerable, and not resilient enough to climate change.”

Heavy rains disrupted shipping

Because of the drought, meanwhile, mustard seed production in the prairies was halved this year to almost 50,000 metric tonnes, from 2020.

As a result, the average price is expected to double to “a record $1,700 (1,510 euros) per tonne,” according to a Canadian agriculture ministry report.

Trains to and from the Pacifc coast port of Vancouver have started rolling again after heavy rains and mudslides damaged tracks in November. To clear a shipping backlog some locomotives have been spotted pulling three kilometers of cars behind them.

The French region of Burgundy hosts the vast majority of mustard manufacturers but depends heavily on Canadian farmers to produce the strong, tangy condiment consumed the world over.

Commodity markets analyst Ramzy Yelda noted that droughts in Western Canada occur every 10-15 years on average, but this year’s “was particularly brutal.”

“I don’t think we’re done with these kinds of severe weather situations,” added Currie. “We’re going to continue seeing them more frequently.”

On the flip side, it was a banner year for Canadian potato producers who harvested 123,000,000 hundredweight of potatoes, up 18 percent from the prior year.

The United Potato Growers of Canada said most provinces this year “enjoyed excellent harvest conditions without cool temperatures or wet conditions.”

But record downpours in British Columbia that trapped motorists in deadly mudslides, forced thousands to evacuate their homes and destroyed roads, rail lines and bridges in November also cut off the port of Vancouver from the rest of Canada.

That resulted in disruptions to exports from Canada’s largest port.

A container ship sits docked at the Port of Vancouver in November 2021 as dozens of ships wait in the harbour to pick up and unload shipments. A huge backlog was created when heavy rains and flooding destroyed road and rail links to the port.

As a result, McDonalds restaurants in Japan announced that they would only sell small-sized French fries for a week from Friday to avoid running out.

“Due to large-scale flooding near the Port of Vancouver… and the global crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there are delays in the supply of potatoes,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The port had moved record volumes of grain (and cargo) by midyear, up 20 percent to 16.5 million metric tonnes compared to the first six months of 2020, to meet strong demand overseas.

But a large backlog built up over several weeks in November.

As of Monday, the port said disruptions to rail operations serving the port had “decreased significantly” and shipping volumes had “stabilized.”

© 2021 AFP

Mustard, fries in short supply due to Canada climate woes (2021, December 25)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists invent lead-free composite shielding material for neutrons and gamma-rays

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Schematic diagram of shielding mechanism of modified nano composite shielding material. Credit: Huo Zhiping

Dr. Huo Zhipeng and his student Zhao Sheng from the Hefei Institutes of physical science (HFIPS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently developed a lead-free neutron and gamma ray composite shielding material that has high shielding properties and is environmentally friendly. Their results were published in Nuclear Materials and Energy.

The composite, modified-gadolinium oxide// (Gd2O3/B4C/HDPE), was tested safe and effective to shield neutron and gamma rays through a series of intricate and comprehensive experiments.

Neutron, as an electrically neutral particle, has a strong penetrability and always emits secondary during particle collision process. The scientific and efficient scheme of shielding neutron is to select high Z (atomic number), low Z materials, and neutron absorbing materials simultaneously for combined shielding. However, lead-containing materials are restricted in application with biological toxicity.

Rare earth element gadolinium, usually exists in the form of non-toxic Gd2O3 in nature, has always shown high average thermal neutron absorption, high temperature resistance and good gamma shielding performance.   

The researchers studied the shielding mechanism first, and then adopted the coupling agents to modify the surface of Gd2O3 to improve the interfacial compatibility and dispersion of Gd2O3 in the matrix.

“It is lead-free and poses no threat to the environment or humans,” said Dr. Huo, who has been engaged in radiation and environmental protection for years. 

He further explained how this radiation shielding system worked. Fast neutrons collide with gadolinium (Gd) inelastically, and collide elastically with hydrogen until they become thermal neutrons, finally, absorbed by high Z element Gd and boron.

The show that the neutron shielding rate of the composite can reach 98% under the condition of 15 cm thickness in CF-252 environment. In cS-137 and CO-60 environments, the gamma shielding rates of the composite are 72% and 60%, respectively, at the same thickness.   

Its comprehensive shielding performance is better than conventional boron-polyethylene collimating shielding, and it is suitable for neutron spectrum and gamma spectrum diagnosis system of Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). It is expected to be a promising radiation shielding material for neutron-gamma mixed fields, according to the researchers.

More information:
Zhipeng Huo et al, Surface modified-gadolinium/boron/polyethylene composite with high shielding performance for neutron and gamma-ray, Nuclear Materials and Energy (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.nme.2021.101095

Scientists invent lead-free composite shielding material for neutrons and gamma-rays (2021, December 23)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists identify genes key to microbial colonization of plant roots

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Expression of the enzyme diguanylate cyclase (DGC2884, in green) by a bacteria called Pantoea sp. YR343 on tree roots when forming biofilms and colonizing those roots. Arrows indicate locations of bacterial colonization. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Some microbes can form thin films called biofilms. These biofilms give them an advantage over other microbes by protecting them from stresses such as a lack of nutrients or the presence of harmful substances in the environment. Researchers often focus on the biofilms that pathogens use to resist antibiotics. However, some biofilms can be helpful to plants and other host organisms. In previous work, researchers found that Pantoea sp. YR343, a bacterium that promotes plant growth, forms robust biofilms along the root surface of Populus, the genus which includes willow and cottonwood trees. Scientists know relatively little about the mechanisms behind the formation of biofilms on plant roots, particularly at the genetic level. However, research has found that enzymes called diguanylate cyclases are key to biofilm formation. This new research has identified a diguanylate cyclase, DGC2884, that is expressed specifically in the presence of plants when bacteria colonize roots and form biofilms.

Diguanylate cyclases are found in many species of bacteria. These enzymes control multiple behaviors, including how bacteria form biofilms, cause disease, and move. This research shows that a particular diguanylate cyclase, DGC2884, operates specifically during biofilm formation and when bacteria are near a plant. This research also identified genes that could be involved in colonization, suggesting that root colonization may be controlled at the . This will help microbiologists and other researchers better understand how bacteria colonize root surfaces and how may play a part. The results may also help scientists study similar behaviors in microbes important to medicine and agriculture.

This study used promoter-reporter constructs to identify a diguanylate cyclase, DGC2884, that is expressed in the presence of a plant. The researchers characterized this enzyme further and determined that when overexpressed, it affected exopolysaccharide production, biofilm formation, motility, and pellicle formation. They also demonstrated that the N-terminal transmembrane domain, as well as a functional GGDEF active site, are required for the activity of DGC2884. Based on phenotypes associated with overexpression of DGC2884 in Pantoea sp. YR343, the scientists performed transposon mutagenesis to identify genes that no longer exhibited the unique phenotypes observed when DGC2884 was overexpressed. They identified 58 different genes with this screen and selected a subset of transposon mutants for further characterization. Interestingly, mutations affecting Type VI secretion, as well as a nucleoside-diphosphate kinase and ABC transporter, exhibited increases in colonization, while mutations affecting exopolysaccharide production resulted in decreases in colonization when compared to the wild type control. Further, they found that some mutants exhibited differences primarily in the patterns of root colonization, more than the amount of colonization, suggesting that certain patterns of root colonization may be modulated on a genetic level.

The research was published in PLOS ONE.

More information:
Amber N. Bible et al, Identification of a diguanylate cyclase expressed in the presence of plants and its application for discovering candidate gene products involved in plant colonization by Pantoea sp. YR343, PLOS ONE (2021). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248607

Scientists identify genes key to microbial colonization of plant roots (2021, December 23)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Research enlightens ethnobotanical uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of genus Fagaropsis in Africa

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Credit: Elizabeth Syowai Mutinda

The genus Fagaropsis Mildbr. ex Siebenl. belongs to the Rutaceae family. It consists of four accepted species: F. hildebrandtii, F. angolensis, F. glabra, and F. velutina. The plants of this genus are trees and shrubs found in Africa and Madagascar. Fagaropsis species have been used in folkloric medicine for the treatment and management of various diseases, such as malaria, cancer and chronic joint pain.

Researchers from the Wuhan Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology provided inclusive information and made in-depth analyses on the ethnobotanical uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of the in genus Fagaropsis and highlighted possible research gaps for further research opportunities.

Data on ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of Fagaropsis species was obtained through a systematic literature search using scientific databases, reports, books, etc.

The researchers isolated 18 compounds from two species (F. angolensis and F. glabra), including triterpenoids, alkaloids and flavonoids. They confirmed the pharmacological activities of Fagaropsis species in anticancer, antimalarial, antimicrobial and antifungal, and anti-inflammatory activities.

Phytochemical analyses have been performed on two species (F. angolensis and F. glabra) according to the available literature. More is required to explore this genus. Moreover, the majority of the currently available bioactivity-related analyses were applied to crude extracts.

Thus, further research is required on the application of medicinal plants in this which will link pharmacological activities to traditional uses and especially on the under reported species.

The research was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

More information:
Elizabeth Syowai Mutinda et al, Traditional medicinal uses, pharmacology, phytochemistry, and distribution of the Genus Fagaropsis (Rutaceae), Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114781

Research enlightens ethnobotanical uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of genus Fagaropsis in Africa (2021, December 23)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove French Guiana awaits historic Webb telescope launch

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The telescope is expected to revolutionise the observation of the universe.

Like kids dreaming of presents under the tree, the scientists at the Jupiter control room at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou are patiently waiting for December 25.

The James Webb Space Telescope—soon to become the most powerful ever to be launched into space—after technical and weather delays is set to take off on Christmas Day from the base in France’s South American department.

“We can’t wait for it to launch,” says Jean-Luc Mestre, engineer and vice-director of operations at the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

This rocket’s payload, the Webb telescope, is a piece of technology worked on by thousands of people for over a quarter of a century.

“Everything is ready,” Mestre adds. “Now all we need is the right weather.”

For days heavy winds and rain have lashed the dense tropical forest surrounding the base, though you’d never know it from inside the vault-like control room, its windowless walls dominated by a bank of glowing screens.

This is where all the information about the launch converges—and now the forecast is finally in its favour.

The Webb telescope is expected to revolutionise the observation of the universe and astronomers and astrophysicists have been looking forward to its deployment for decades.

Its successful launch will be the start of a month-long trip after which a delicate sequence of events has to be pulled off before it will begin to beam back images from some of the farthest known reaches of space and time.

But while Webb has been 25 years and billions of dollars in the making, there is nothing to indicate any stress over this particular launch.

“Of course this project has particular importance,” says Arianespace mission director Bruno Erin.

He says while his team knows the stakes are high, experience and training prevent them from feeling nervous.

On Saturday, an audience of scientists and the heads of NASA and the Canadian and European agencies will gather to observe the control room from behind huge bay windows as it becomes a hive of activity.

This rocket’s payload, the Webb telescope, is a piece of technology worked on by thousands of people for over a quarter of a century.

‘Sober’ Christmas Eve

At 9:20 am local time on Saturday, the team’s launch window of exactly 32 minutes will begin.

Three hours before that, a weather balloon will be sent up to analyse the many layers of the atmosphere, making sure conditions are right.

Mestre and his colleagues will have been at mission control since midnight, celebrating what he calls a “sober” Christmas Eve.

Since the Webb telescope arrived in Kourou from the US where it was built, two minor technical incidents have caused delays: the activation of an instrument only meant to engage after launch, followed by the failure of a communication system.

The weather forced a third delay.

Vincent Bertrand-Noel, flight safety engineer at CNES, says bad weather poses the biggest risk for people on the ground should the 780-tonne rocket go off course and need to be destroyed.

His unit, completely separate from the , has the authority to “intervene if the rocket veers outside its flight path”.

In 2019 such an incident took place when a Vega satellite launcher broke in two.

If something like that happens, it’s Bertrand-Noel’s job to explode the rocket, transforming it into a rain of debris—an occurrence that is rare but nonetheless poses a danger to Kourou and its 25,000 inhabitants.

“Plus when there’s a launch everyone goes to the beach to watch,” says Bertrand-Noel.

© 2021 AFP

French Guiana awaits historic Webb telescope launch (2021, December 23)
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