science podcast #62

Special Podcast on Global Food Security

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This week: The 2008 global food shortage may be a distant memory to most of us, but hunger and malnutrition remain a serious problem in many parts of the world. Today, you’ll hear about a famine early warning system developed in the U.S. One scientist explains how climate change will affect agriculture. A journalist and author talks about a fungal disease threatening the world’s wheat crop. Also, one scientist’s efforts to develop improved crop varieties in nutrient poor parts of the world by studying roots.  And don’t forget our conversation about geoengineering on the Science Forum goes through Monday, the 19th.  So stop by and join the discussion!

Stem Rust Threatens Global Wheat Production: Stem rust is a fungal disease of cereal crops so pernicious that it has been called the polio of agriculture. In the 1970s scientists working with the late Norman Borlaug (the father of Green Revolution) developed a variety of wheat resistant to the fungus. That resistant variety helped farmers for decades, until in 1999 a new strain of the pest emerged in Uganda in 1999. The spores of the new fungal strain have been carried by the wind from Africa to Asia. The fungus is now on its way to India and Pakistan, where 20% of the world’s wheat is produced.
Guest: Susan Dworkin, author of The Viking in the Wheatfield: A Scientist’s Struggles to Preserve the World’s Harvest.
The U.N Food and Agricultural Association’s Wheat Rust page.
USDA’s resources on UG99.

Roots of a Second Green Revolution: The Green Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s led to massive increases in global food production. But not everyone benefited. The improved crop varieties needed better irrigation and external fertilizers. And poorer farmers especially in Africa couldn’t afford to buy fertilizers or set up proper irrigation. Now, researchers are developing crop varieties with roots that are more efficient in drawing nutrients from the nutrient-poor soils. They believe their work could lead to a second green revolution.
Guest: Jonathan Lynch.
Read this article about Lynch’s work in the Christian Science Monitor.

Climate Change and Agriculture: Climate change will affect global food production. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are expected to hurt agriculture in some places, and help it in others.  But there’s time to adapt our food production system to make it more resilient, say researchers.
Guest: David Lobell.
What will it cost to adapt our food production system?

An Early Warning System for Famine: The U.S government has developed a network for early warning system for famine around the world. To do so, researchers use satellite data on rainfall and agricultural yield.
Guest: James Verdin.
Famine Early Warning System Network.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 at 2:28 AM and is filed under Science Podcast. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.



2 Responses to “Special Podcast on Global Food Security”

  1. The talk about global food security is fine, we should be concerned about stem rust and climate change which could severely affect the production of food but here I would also like to bring in one important factor and that is excessive use of chemical and pesticides. The quality of food is going down by each passing day and I am not sure how long our immune system would be able to keep up with this deteriorating nature of food intake.

  2. “The Green Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s led to massive increases in global food production. But not everyone benefited. The improved crop varieties needed better irrigation and external fertilizers. And poorer farmers especially in Africa couldn’t afford to buy fertilizers or set up proper irrigation. Now, researchers are developing crop varieties with roots that are more efficient in drawing nutrients from the nutrient-poor soils. They believe their work could lead to a second green revolution.”

    Many hope that answers are found before food shortage gets serious in a number of countries.

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