The Great Convergence? Changing Patterns of Global Alcohol Consumption « The Wine Economist

This neat graph, courtesy of The Economist, gives a pretty good indication where wine export promotion should logically be directed. To a large extent, wine consumption and total alcohol consumption track each other.

The Great Convergence? Changing Patterns of Global Alcohol Consumption « The Wine Economist

via The Great Convergence? Changing Patterns of Global Alcohol Consumption « The Wine Economist.

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Environmental Benefits of GMO’s; Lower Methane Emissions from Rice Paddies

This recently published paper on GM rice designed to abate methane production from the paddy, with its substantial environmental benefits, is fascinating. With rice production trials proceeding in Georgia and with free access to the EU market developing, this is of interest for Georgian irrigators.

One engineering and management reform that eliminates methane production from rice is to abolish paddies and irrigate rice under centre pivots, using the methodology pioneered by US irrigation engineering firm Valmont. This short video gives a good introduction.

This massively reduces maintenance, water and capital costs, as well as allowing sloped land and soils with a low water-holding capacity to be used for rice. However, a key limitation is low overnight temperatures at a key development period of the rice plant; exposure to temperatures below 15 degrees at that stage results in sterility and poor yield. Paddy-produced rice experiences some buffering of temperature effects due to water’s ability to retain heat overnight in the flooded paddy. Pivot irrigated rice does not have this attribute, and so varieties that are cold-tolerant must be selected, planting time carefully planned, and production areas selected where low overnight temperatures during critical development phases are rare. Hence this technology is seen extensively in the subtropical and tropical zones of the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Alternately, genetic modification may produce excellent results in conventional paddy-grown rice.

A concise review from WUWT explains the discovery

Rice serves as the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, but it’s also the one of the largest manmade sources of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Now, with the addition of a single gene, rice can be cultivated to emit virtually no methane from its paddies during growth. It also packs much more of the plant’s desired properties, such as starch for a richer food source and biomass for energy production, according to a study in Nature.

With their warm, waterlogged soils, rice paddies contribute up to 17 percent of global methane emissions, the equivalent of about 100 million tons each year. While this represents a much smaller percentage of overall greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, methane is about 20 times more effective at trapping heat. SUSIBA2 rice, as the new strain is dubbed, is the first high-starch, low-methane rice that could offer a significant and sustainable solution.

Researchers created SUSIBA2 rice by introducing a single gene from barley into common rice, resulting in a plant that can better feed its grains, stems and leaves while starving off methane-producing microbes in the soil.

The results, which appear in the July 30 print edition of Nature and online, represent a culmination of more than a decade of work by researchers in three countries, including Christer Jansson, director of plant sciences at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and EMSL, DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Jansson and colleagues hypothesized the concept while at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and carried out ongoing studies at the university and with colleagues at China’s Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Hunan Agricultural University.

“The need to increase starch content and lower methane emissions from rice production is widely recognized, but the ability to do both simultaneously has eluded researchers,” Jansson said. “As the world’s population grows, so will rice production. And as the Earth warms, so will rice paddies, resulting in even more methane emissions. It’s an issue that must be addressed.”

Channeling carbon

During photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is absorbed and converts to sugars to feed or be stored in various parts of the plant. Researchers have long sought to better understand and control this process to coax out desired characteristics of the plant. Funneling more carbon to the seeds in rice results in a plumper, starchier grain. Similarly, carbon and resulting sugars channeled to stems and leaves increases their mass and creates more plant biomass, a bioenergy feedstock.

The results, which appear in the July 30 print edition of Nature and online, represent a culmination of more than a decade of work by researchers in three countries, including Christer Jansson, director of plant sciences at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and EMSL, DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Jansson and colleagues hypothesized the concept while at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and carried out ongoing studies at the university and with colleagues at China’s Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Hunan Agricultural University.

“The need to increase starch content and lower methane emissions from rice production is widely recognized, but the ability to do both simultaneously has eluded researchers,” Jansson said. “As the world’s population grows, so will rice production. And as the Earth warms, so will rice paddies, resulting in even more methane emissions. It’s an issue that must be addressed.”

The master plan

Upon discovery of the transcription factor SUSIBA2, for SUgar SIgnaling in BArley 2, further investigation revealed it was a type known as a master regulator. Master regulators control several genes and processes in metabolic or regulatory pathways. As such, SUSIBA2 had the ability to direct the majority of carbon to the grains and leaves, and essentially cut off the supply to the roots and soil where certain microbes consume and convert it to methane.

Researchers introduced SUSIBA2 into a common variety of rice and tested its performance against a non-modified version of the same strain. Over three years of field studies in China, researchers consistently demonstrated that SUSIBA2 delivered increased crop yields and a near elimination of methane emissions.