Abstract: Ammonia is a major fugitive gas emitted from livestock operations and fertilization production. This study tested the potential of various biochars in removing gaseous ammonia via adsorption processes. Gaseous ammonia adsorption capacities of various biochars made from wood shaving and chicken litter with different thermal conditions and activation techniques were determined using laboratory adsorption column tests. Ammonia adsorption capacities of non-activated biochars ranged from 0.15 to 5.09 mg·N/g, which were comparable to that of other commercial activated carbon and natural zeolite. There were no significant differences in ammonia adsorption capacities of steam activated and non-activated biochars even if the surface areas of the steam activated biochars were about two orders of magnitude greater than that of non-activated biochars. In contrast, phosphoric acid activation greatly increased the biochar ammonia adsorption capacity. This suggests that the surface area of biochar did not readily control gaseous NH3 adsorption. Ammonia adsorption capacities were more or less linearly increased with acidic oxygen surface groups of non-activated and steam-activated biochars. Phosphoric acid bound to the acid activated biochars is suspected to contribute to the exceptionally high ammonia adsorption capacity. The sorption capacities of virgin and water-washed biochar samples were not different, suggesting the potential to regenerate spent biochar simply with water instead of energy- and capital-intensive steam. The results of this study suggest that non-activated biochars can successfully replace commercial activated carbon in removing gaseous ammonia and the removal efficiency will greatly increase if the biochars are activated with phosphoric acid.
Abstract: Signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) is a highly productive tropical grass that is widespread through South America, Australia, Indonesia, Vanuatu and Malaysia due to its adaptation to a wide range of soil types and environments. Animal production from these B. decumbens pastures is highly variable due to sporadic outbreaks of photosensitisation associated with low growth rates of young animals, anorexia and wasting. The identification of B. decumbens toxicity through clinical signs may grossly underestimate the impact and severity of the disease. Affected animals without clinical signs have elevated serum liver enzyme concentrations resulting from blockage of the bile ducts by birefringent crystals, identified as calcium salts of steroidal saponins found in leaves and stems. The concentrations of the steroidal saponins vary through the year and within the plant. Young, green leaves contain 5–10 times the saponin concentration of mature leaves indicating that B. decumbens pastures are likely to be more toxic during sprouting and early growth. Previous exposure, selective grazing, and avoiding toxic leaves may partly explain apparent resistance of some animals to B. decumbens toxicity. Further research is needed to define growing conditions that produce elevated saponin levels and to investigate the impact of B. decumbens on rumen function.
Abstract: It is known that plant-based ethnomedicine represented the foundation of modern pharmacology and that many pharmaceuticals are derived from compounds occurring in plant extracts. This track still stimulates a worldwide investigational activity aimed at identifying novel bioactive products of plant origin. However, the discovery that endophytic fungi are able to produce many plant-derived drugs has disclosed new horizons for their availability and production on a large scale by the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, following the path traced by the blockbuster drug taxol, an increasing number of valuable compounds originally characterized as secondary metabolites of plant species belonging to the Spermatophyta have been reported as fermentation products of endophytic fungal strains. Aspects concerning sources and bioactive properties of these compounds are reviewed in this paper.
Abstract: In 2012 scientists funded by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) produced 10 million doses of influenza vaccine in tobacco in a milestone deadline of one month. Recently the experimental antibody cocktail Zmapp™, also produced in tobacco, has shown promise as an emergency intervention therapeutic against Ebola virus. These two examples showcase how collaborative efforts between government, private industry and academia are applying plant biotechnology to combat pathogenic agents. Opportunities now exist repurposing tobacco expression systems for exciting new applications in synthetic biology, biofuels production and industrial enzyme production. As plant-produced biotherapeutics become more mainstream, government funding agencies need to be cognizant of the idea that many plant-produced biologicals are often safer, cheaper, and just as efficacious as traditionally used expression systems.
Abstract: Climate change impacts local agricultural systems in detectable and distinguishable ways from large-scale shifts in water, land, and weather patterns to regionally specific distributions of weeds, pests, and diseases. Best management practices for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change include modifications to farm production through adjusted intensity and product types and changing land use through crop siting and tillage practices. Farmer perceptions of risk and profitability of best management practices are key determinants of adoption, which traditional incentive programs like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program attempt to address by providing financial and technical support. To ensure that payments offered through these programs that maximize adoption, regional incentive payments must be based upon locally established costs. This paper focuses on the cost of implementing and maintaining climate change specific best management practices (CCBMPs) for twelve diverse farms in Vermont. Specifically, three CCBMPs for Vermont are examined: cover cropping, management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG), and riparian buffer strips. Results show the average cost for cover cropping is $129.24/acre, MIRG is $79.82/acre, and a tree based riparian buffer strip cost $807.33/acre. We conclude that existing incentive payments for cover cropping and MIRG are below costs, likely resulting in under-adoption.
Abstract: Although olive mill wastewater (OMW) is often applied onto soil and is known to be phytotoxic, its impact on soil fauna is still unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate how OMW spreading in olive orchards affects Oribatida and Collembola communities, physicochemical soil properties and their interdependency. For this, we treated plots in two study sites (Gilat, Bait Reema) with OMW. Among others, the sites differed in irrigation practice, soil type and climate. We observed that soil acidity and water repellency developed to a lower extent in Gilat than in Bait Reema. This may be explained by irrigation-induced dilution and leaching of OMW compounds in Gilat. In Bait Reema, OMW application suppressed emergence of Oribatida and induced a community shift, but the abundance of Collembola increased in OMW and water-treated plots. In Gilat, Oribatida abundance increased after OMW application. The effects of OMW application on soil biota result from an interaction between stimulation of biological activity and suppression of sensitive species by toxic compounds. Environmental and management conditions are relevant for the degree and persistence of the effects. Moreover, this study underlines the need for detailed research on the ecotoxicological effects of OMW at different application rates.