Chart of the day: European organic farming


From Eurostat:

With more than 11 million hectares of certified area or area under conversion in 2015, organic farming made up 6.2% of the European Union’s (EU) total utilised agricultural area (UAA). Since 2010, the area devoted to organic farming has grown by almost two million hectares. Similarly, an upward trend can be observed for the number of registered organic producers. At the end of 2015, 271,500 organic agricultural producers were registered in the EU, an increase of 5.4% compared with 2014.

Among Member States, Spain, Italy, France and Germany registered the largest organic areas as well as the largest numbers of organic producers in 2015, accounting together for over half (52%) of both total EU organic crop area and organic producers in the EU.

Austria, Sweden and Estonia on top for organic farming

The part of agricultural land farmed organically differs widely between EU Member States. The highest share of crop area dedicated to organic farming was registered in Austria, with one fifth (20%, or 552 thousand hectares) of its total agricultural area farmed organically in 2015. It was followed by Sweden (17%, or 519 thousand hectares) and Estonia (16%, or 156 thousand hectares). Alongside these top performers, the Czech Republic (14%, or 478 thousand hectares), Italy (12%, or 1,493 thousand hectares) and Latvia (12%, or 232 thousand hectares) also reported over 10% of agricultural land farmed organically.

In contrast, organic farming was not strongly developed in three Member States with the area under organic farming below 2% of agricultural land: in Malta (0.3 %, or 30 hectares), Ireland (1.6%, or 73 thousand hectares) and Romania (1.8%, or 246 thousand hectares).

It should be noted that the importance of the organic sector is generally lower in regions with plains where more intensive production systems prevail.

Mr. Fish: A Huge Campaign in the Ass

From Clowncrack, his blog of absentaneous adynaton:


Study reveals even greater climate change impacts

And the results provide stark evidence that indirect impacts on both soil and plants equal to the previously estimated direct impacts, with the average being two-thirds.

The increase effects are greatest for regions like the American Great Plains, the nation’s breadbasket, and the Southwest.

From the University of Southampton:

The indirect effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, such as changes in soil moisture and plant structure, can have a bigger impact on ecosystems than previously thought.

Understanding the importance of these indirect effects, in comparison to the direct effects, will improve our understanding of how ecosystems respond to climate change.

A study, involving researchers from the University of Southampton, found that water-limited ecosystems in arid and semi-arid regions, such as The Great Plains and South-West United States and some in Australia and Mediterranean Europe, were particularly impacted by these indirect effects. For those ecosystems, the importance of the indirect effects was as much as or in some cases, greater than, the direct effects.

Co-author Dr Athanasios Paschalis, a New Frontiers Fellow in the Water and Environmental Engineering group at the University of Southampton, said: “These results have major implications for our understanding of the CO2 response of ecosystems, the future of water resources and for global projections of CO2 fertilisation. This is because, although direct effects are typically understood and easily reproducible in models, simulations of indirect effects are far more challenging and difficult to quantify.”

Rising CO2 levels affect a lot of plants directly by stimulating photosynthesis and reducing the loss of water (plant transpiration) by reducing the opening of the small pores in the leaves, known as ‘stomata’. This triggers several more subtle, indirect effects. For example, when plants close their stomata, they use less soil water, changing the amount of soil water available to other plants. At the same time, altered water availability and enhanced photosynthesis can change the amount of leaf, root and below ground microbial biomass, resulting in changes to ecosystem functioning.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) [$10 to access], the researchers found that these indirect effects explain, on average, 28 per cent of the total plant productivity response, and are almost equal to the size of direct effects on evapotranspiration (ET) – the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the land to the atmosphere.

Using computer simulation, the researchers investigated the effects of elevated CO2 across a variety of ecosystems. They were able to specifically determine for which ecosystems and climatic conditions the indirect effects of elevated CO2 are of crucial importance.

The simulations suggested that the indirect effects of increased CO2 on net primary productivity (how much carbon dioxide vegetation takes in during photosynthesis minus how much carbon dioxide the plants release during respiration) are large and variable, ranging from less than 10 per cent to more than 100 per cent of the size of direct effects. For ET, indirect effects were, on average, 65 per cent of the size of direct effects. Indirect effects tended to be considerably larger in water-limited ecosystems.

Dr Paschalis added: “Understanding the responses of plants to elevated concentrations of CO2 is of major importance with potential implications on the global economy and water and food security under a changing climate.”

The study was led by Dr Simone Fatichi (ETH Zurich -Switzerland), and involved researchers from Aukland University of Technology (NZ), the University of Southampton (UK), Duke University (US), Villanova University (US) and the University of Tasmania (AU).

Chart of the day II: Voters rank the three debates

And when they did, partisan divides prevailed.

From Gallup:


Ma Bell sells spooky data; Internet attack probed

Two major stories on the cybersecurity front to report.

AT&T sells your data, for a fortune

The first item comes from Ma Bell, who’s been helping folks spy on you and pocketing a fortune for doing.

From the Guardian:

Telecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents released on Monday reveal.

The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations.

It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008.

But according to internal company documents revealed Monday by the Daily Beast, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year even while riding roughshod over privacy concerns.

Internet of things becomes a federal priority

After last week’s massive attackj on online services, carried out through baby monitors, security cameras, and other devices connected to the Internet of Things, Uncle Sam is getting busy.

From Reuters:

Obama administration officials sought on Monday to reassure the public that it was taking steps to counter new types of cyber attacks such as the one Friday that rendered Twitter, Spotify, Netflix and dozens of other major websites unavailable.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had held a conference call with 18 major communication service providers shortly after the attack began and was working to develop a new set of “strategic principles” for securing internet-connected devices.

DHS said its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center was working with companies, law enforcement and researchers to cope with attacks made possible by the rapidly expanding number of smart gadgets that make up the “internet of Things.”

Such devices, including web-connected cameras, appliances and toys, have little in the way of security. More than a million of them have been commandeered by hackers, who can direct them to take down a target site by flooding it with junk traffic.

You have to wonder if another federal agency, the NSA, is busy exploiting these same devices to pry into our lives.

Just a thought. . .

Headline of the day: Gee, ya really think so?

It was, as Peter Thiel might describe it, one of those “seductions that are later regretted.”

From El País:

Mexican president admits Donald Trump visit was a mistake

  • Mexico’s President Enrique Peña has admitted he made a mistake when he invited Donald Trump to visit his country in August, describing the decision as “hasty.”
  • In an interview with Mexican daily La Razón, the president, whose popularity ratings continue to fall as he approaches his final two years in office, hitting a new low in September of 23%, says that in hindsight, he would have “done things differently.”

Zika can alter adult brains, change RNA and DNA

The Zika virus is one scary little critter.

While the media’s attention has been driven by the cases of children of infected mothers born with smaller skulls [microcephaly], new research has shown that the virus can also alter the brains of infected adults, possibly impacting both memory and behavior.

It that isn’t troubling enough, another study reveals that the virus also changes both DNA, the stuff of heredity, and RNA, molecules regulating the way DNA coding is implemented in the cells.

Zika may alter cells in the adult brain

Our first report comes from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, with the second report on genetic alterations after the jump:

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology suggests that certain adult brain cells may be vulnerable to infection as well. Among these are populations of cells that serve to replace lost or damaged neurons throughout adulthood, and are also thought to be critical to learning and memory.

“This is the first study looking at the effect of Zika infection on the adult brain,” says Joseph Gleeson, adjunct professor at Rockefeller and head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Disease and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Based on our findings, getting infected with Zika as an adult may not be as innocuous as people think.”

Although more research is needed to determine if this damage has long-term biological implications or the potential to affect behavior, the findings suggest the possibility that the Zika virus, which has become widespread in Central and South America over the past eight months, may be more harmful than previously believed.

“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” says Sujan Shresta, a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology. “But it’s a complex disease—it’s catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for.”

Neuronal progenitors

Early in gestation, before our brains have developed into a complex organ with specialized zones, they are comprised entirely of neural progenitor cells. With the capability to replenish the brain’s neurons throughout its lifetime, these are the stem cells of the brain.

In healthy individuals, neural progenitor cells eventually become fully formed neurons, and it is thought that at some point along this progression they become resistant to Zika, explaining why adults appear less susceptible to the disease.

But current evidence suggests that Zika targets neural progenitor cells, leading to loss of these cells and to reduced brain volume. This closely mirrors what is seen in microcephaly, a developmental condition linked to Zika infection in developing fetuses that results in a smaller-than-normal head and a wide variety of developmental disabilities.

The mature brain retains niches of these neural progenitor cells that appear to be especially impacted by Zika. These niches—in mice they exist primarily in two regions, the subventricular zone of the anterior forebrain and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus—are vital for learning and memory.

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