By Hannah Rowlands

We were fortunate enough to have Professor James Jones, University of Florida, one of the principal investigators on AgMIP, speak to us recently in Oxford about "Model-Based Integrated Assessment of Food Security".

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The lecture that Professor James Jones gave recently on Model-Based Integrated Assessment of Food Security and AgMIP, the The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Projec

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Ajinomoto are running a $100K grant scheme to support innovative research: http://www.ajinomoto.com/en/rd/AIAP/index.html

The deadline for initial submission is 12th March.

Areas of interest:

  • Mechanism of food palatability
  • Measurement of food palatability
  • Psychological and ethnological approach to food choice
  • Technology relating to food texture and mouth feel
  • Nutritional needs, gustatory preference and activity of the aged
  • Sports science and nutrition
  • Improvement of malnutrition in the developing countries
  • Clinical OMICS and biomarkers for cancer diagnostics, personalized medicine and personalized nutrition
  • Biopharmaceutical manufacturing technology
  • Materials for regenerative medicine
  • Metabolic Engineering, Bioinformatics, Synthetic Biology for the Bio-based Materials
  • Next generation materials for electronic industry and functional chemicals
  • Animal nutrition, Plant nutrition, Fish nutrition
  • Research relating to the application of Amino acids
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By Abrar Chaudhury.

In a recent panel discussion at the World Economic Forum 2014 - “Doing Business the Right Way” an audience member asked Richard Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmer and Australia’s G20 business leader about when businesses could be expected to formally adopt the triple bottom line (TBL) i.e. incorporate the social and environmental bottom lines along with the economic bottom line. His response was that “the only thing in the financial statements that (one) can believe in is the cashflow statement” as profits are somewhat arbitrary.  Without “generating cash you go broke”, he emphasized, so businesses need to survive first before social and environmental responsibility can be demonstrated.

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Fertilisation of grasslands significantly reduces their ability to cope with changing conditions even when they contain a diverse mix of plants, finds a global study involving Oxford University. The research, published this week in Nature, showed that diverse grasslands were more stable over time but that this effect was weakened when the plots were artificially fertilised.

"More diverse areas are generally more stable because different plants will benefit from different things at different times," said Professor Andrew Hector of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, senior author of the study. "To take a simple example, if you have plants that thrive in heavy rain and plants that prefer lighter rain in the same field, then the total amount of plant matter in the field in a given year will be less dependent on rainfall as both types will balance each other out."

Fertilisers are known to drive down grassland diversity over time, but this study found that fertilised plots were less stable even before their diversity decreased. This effect was not expected based on previous results. As fertilisation boosts total yields, it was expected to increase short-term stability by making small variations less significant. However, the study found that fertilisation disproportionately increased yearly variations in yield, particularly in the most diverse grasslands.

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By Chase Sova.

Emerging economies often look to the United States as a model for how to grow their agricultural sectors. Doing so when climate impacts strike, however, may yield more questions than answers.

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FoodSwitch, a free app for smartphones, was launched last week. The app help shoppers make better food choices by allowing users to scan barcodes of tens of thousands of food products and instantly see whether there are healthier alternatives available.

The app has been created by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), in collaboration the George Institute of Global Health, the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, The British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Nuffield Department of Population Health & Nuffield Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford.

FoodSwitch allows people to use their smartphone camera to scan the barcode of a product and get clear nutritional information on over 80,000 packaged food and drinks sold in supermarkets.

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By Chase Sova and Andy Jarvis.

The role of agriculture has been the subject of serious debate at each of the last global climate change conferences. The most recent event, held in Poland this past December, offered no exception. Chants of “No agriculture, no deal” resonated along the Warsaw Stadium hallways, backed by a host of government, civil society and private sector actors.

Agriculture contributes to approximately 30% of total global green house gas (GHG) emissions when related deforestation and post-production steps are considered. Its treatment by the international community is thus of major consequence, both for mitigation and adaptation outcomes. Yet agricultural mitigation targets — and a binding agreement to back them — continue to be plagued by sticky issues around national security, terms of trade, and climate justice.

Most actors in the international arena have acknowledged the immediate and urgent adaptation needs of nearly 1.5 billion small-scale producers and have promised action. In fact, the world has become a testing ground for adaptation policies and projects in nearly all sectors.

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A new paper by Lindsay Turnbull shows that organic farming increases species richness by about 30%.

The study was a meta-analysis that compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods, mainly in Europe and North America. The authors note that more studies need to be carried in the Developing World to see if the same results would apply.

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By Lindsay Turnbull, University of Oxford

Organic farming is a trade off: it prohibits the use of certain chemicals and inorganic fertilisers, which usually results in lower yields, and hence higher prices. With arguments about health benefits inconclusive, one might ask what reasons there are to pay the organic premium.

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