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      Britons asked to send slugs by post for research into pest-resistant wheat

      news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · 2 days ago - 17:06


    Snail mail replaced with slug mail as scientists need 1,000 grey field slugs to explore their impact on various crops

    It may be known as snail mail, but researchers are hoping the public will use the postal service to send them a different kind of mollusc: slugs.

    A team of scientists and farmers carrying out research into slug-resistant wheat say they need about 1,000 of the creatures to explore how palatable slugs find various crops.

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      Cleaning up cow burps to combat global warming

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 20 June - 16:20 · 1 minute

    Cleaning up cow burps to combat global warming

    Enlarge (credit: Tony C. French/Getty)

    In the urgent quest for a more sustainable global food system, livestock are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, by converting fibrous plants that people can’t eat into protein-rich meat and milk, grazing animals like cows and sheep are an important source of human food. And for many of the world’s poorest, raising a cow or two—or a few sheep or goats—can be a key source of wealth.

    But those benefits come with an immense environmental cost. A study in 2013 showed that globally, livestock account for about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions , more than all the world’s cars and trucks combined. And about 40 percent of livestock’s global warming potential comes in the form of methane, a potent greenhouse gas formed as they digest their fibrous diet .

    That dilemma is driving an intense research effort to reduce methane emissions from grazers. Existing approaches, including improved animal husbandry practices and recently developed feed additives, can help, but not at the scale needed to make a significant global impact. So scientists are investigating other potential solutions, such as breeding low-methane livestock and tinkering with the microbes that produce the methane in grazing animals’ stomachs. While much more research is needed before those approaches come to fruition, they could be relatively easy to implement widely and could eventually have a considerable impact.

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      Economist suggests storing grain to prepare for next global emergency

      news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · Thursday, 20 June - 09:00

    Isabella Weber, who linked corporate profits to inflation, shares how to prevent food shortages – and price gouging

    Isabella Weber, the economist who ignited controversy with a bold proposal to implement strategic price controls at the peak of inflation and identified corporate profits as a driver of high prices, has proposed a new measure that could prevent food shortages and price gouging in the wake of another disruption of the global supply chains.

    Weber’s new paper, published on Thursday, looks at how grain prices spiked in 2022 as Covid snagged supply chains and Russia invaded Ukraine. The price hikes helped to drive record profits for corporations while pushing inflation higher and increasing global hunger. In the paper, Weber and colleagues call for the creation of buffer stocks of grain that could be released during shortages or emergencies to ease price pressures.

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      Golden rice: why has it been banned and what happens now? – podcast

      news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · Thursday, 6 June - 04:00

    A court in the Philippines has banned the commercial growth of golden rice, a genetically modified rice which was created to help tackle vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. It’s just the latest twist in a long and controversial journey for this rice. Ian Sample hears from the Observer science and environment editor, Robin McKie, and from Glenn Stone, a research professor of environmental science at Sweet Briar College in Virginia who is also an anthropologist who has studied golden rice, about why it has taken so long for this potentially life-saving technology to reach the fields, if it is the silver bullet so many had hoped for, and whether this ban is really the end of the story

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      From the archive: ‘The Silicon Valley of turf’: how the UK’s pursuit of the perfect pitch changed football – podcast

      news.movim.eu / TheGuardian · Wednesday, 5 June - 04:00


    We are raiding the Guardian Long Read archives to bring you some classic pieces from years past, with new introductions from the authors.

    This week, from 2021: They used to look like quagmires, ice rinks or dustbowls, depending on the time of year. But as big money entered football, pristine pitches became crucial to the sport’s image – and groundskeepers became stars. By William Ralston

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      Nitrogen-using bacteria can cut farms’ greenhouse gas emissions

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 1 June - 11:00 · 1 minute

    A tractor amidst many rows of small plants, with brown hills in the background.

    Enlarge (credit: Timothy Hearsum )

    Fritz Haber: good guy or bad guy? He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his part in developing the Haber-Bosch process, a method for generating ammonia using the nitrogen gas in air. The technique freed agriculture from the constraint of needing to source guano or manure for nitrogen fertilizer and is widely credited for saving millions from starvation. About half of the world’s current food supply relies on fertilizers made using it, and about half of the nitrogen atoms in our bodies can be traced back to it.

    But it also allowed farmers to use this newly abundant synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with abandon. This has accentuated agriculture’s role as a significant contributor to global warming because the emissions that result from these fertilizers is a greenhouse gas—one that has a warming potential almost 300 times greater than that of carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for 100 years. Microbes in soil convert nitrogen fertilizer into nitrous oxide, and the more nitrogen fertilizer they have to work with, the more nitrous oxide they make.

    Agriculture also leaks plenty of the excess nitrogen into waterways in the form of nitrate, generating algal blooms that create low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ where no marine life can live.

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      Chocolate made with fewer calories, less waste

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 23 May - 19:27 · 1 minute

    Cocoa beans and chocolate on wooden background

    Enlarge (credit: YelenaYemchuk )

    Commercialization has not dealt kindly with the Mayan Food of the Gods. Modern chocolate products are filled with sugar and calories, contributing to the obesity epidemic in the West. And the cocoa crop is hardly in great shape; climate change is decreasing production, causing prices to rise ; farmers in West Africa have responded by clear-cutting rainforests to plant more cocoa plants. However, researchers at ETH Zurich may have found a path to start addressing both problems, making chocolate that has less sugar and calories and makes more efficient use of the cocoa crop. The Swiss perfected chocolate-making over 200 years ago, so if they say the chocolate is good, it is.

    Chocolate is traditionally made by mixing dried, roasted, and ground fermented cocoa beans to make cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is then mixed with refined sugar, usually from sugar beets. Instead of sugar, this new Swiss whole fruit chocolate uses the pulp surrounding the cocoa beans along with the inner rind of the cocoa pod husk to make a cocoa gel. When mixed with cocoa mass, this produces chocolate that is higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat than conventional chocolate.

    The “whole fruit” on its label is certainly more appealing than the air or fish oil that has previously been substituted for cocoa butter to reduce the saturated fat content of chocolate confections. (Extra cocoa butter, or fat isolated from the cocoa bean, is sometimes added to cocoa mass to make the end product smoother and waxier.) The pulp and the cocoa pods are generally discarded, so upcycling them instead of tossing them could reduce the land use impact and global warming potential of cocoa cultivation.

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      Méga-bassines : 6000 personnes ont planté des haies pour lutter contre l’accaparement de l’eau

      alt.movim.eu / LaReleveEtLaPeste · Monday, 13 May - 16:00

    Si les habitants sont inquiets, c’est que les épisodes de sécheresse hivernale se multiplient dans la région. Alors qu’une seule de ces bassines devrait faire 15ha, pour certains, « le niveau d’étiage de l’Allier dans lequel serait pompé l’eau des méga-bassines baisse et ne sera pas suffisant pour les remplir ».

    Cet article Méga-bassines : 6000 personnes ont planté des haies pour lutter contre l’accaparement de l’eau est apparu en premier sur La Relève et La Peste .

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      Assessing Kim Jong Un’s Rural Development Initiative

      blabla.movim.eu / 38north-org:0 · Friday, 10 May - 17:58 edit · 7 minutes

    Source: Rodong Sinmun

    The project to redevelop Samjiyon City and its satellite towns, which came to a close at the end of 2021, is generally viewed as heralding a resurgence of rural construction in North Korea. At a plenary meeting of the Workers Party of Korea in December 2021, Kim Jong Un listed “socialist rural construction” as a priority task and set Samjiyon as an example of rural construction, saying: “It is the policy of rural construction of our Party to turn all rural villages in the country into rich and cultured socialist ideal villages at the level similar to those in Samjiyon City in the near future.” According to North Korean media, numerous houses have since been built across farming villages, ushering in a new era of rural development in the country.

    This article is the first in a series to assess the status, implications, and challenges of North Korea’s ongoing rural construction. It examines the significance and possible limitations of the rural development initiative launched in December 2021. Although the stated goal of the new rural development initiative is to increase agricultural production and improve farmers’ livelihoods, its emphasis on greater central control could be disincentivizing in the long run and, therefore, an impediment to the project’s ultimate success.

    “New Program” for Rural Development

    In his report to the party plenum in December 2021, Kim Jong Un dedicated a significant level of attention to agricultural issues—approximately 43 percent—based on the vernacular version of the North Korean plenum readout.[1] Such heavy focus on agriculture in one meeting was unusual but unsurprising given the times: It followed North Korea’s extremely rare acknowledgment at a party plenary meeting six months earlier of a “food crisis” due to the previous year’s inclement weather conditions.[2] Additionally, the country’s economic conditions apparently were affected by ongoing international sanctions and the self-imposed border lockdown to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

    At that same meeting, the party adopted a “new program for socialist rural construction,” which it described as “a further development of the great ‘Theses on the Socialist Rural Question,’” proclaimed by Kim Il Sung in 1964. This new program, which was renamed as a “new program for rural revolution” at a year-end party plenary meeting in 2022, centered on agricultural production and rural development.

    The dual focus on agricultural production and rural development has its roots in the Eighth Party Congress in January 2021, when rural construction was addressed alongside agricultural production, a notable contrast to the Seventh Party Congress in May 2016, when farming was the sole focus under agriculture.

    The key points of Kim Jong Un’s “new program” may be summarized as:

    • Raising the level of farmers’ “ideological awareness”;
    • “Changing the grain production structure of the country” to rice and wheat (previously it was rice and corn);
    • Systematically increasing the state’s investment in agriculture; and
    • Modeling all rural villages on Samjiyon City.

    Notably, Kim Jong Un also acknowledged the “difficult condition” of the “general financial situation” of cooperative farms and declared that the state would “completely release cooperative farms from the arrears of state loans.”

    North Korea has prioritized farming and rural development since the Eighth Party Congress in January 2021, as evidenced by the launch of the “new program” in December 2021, the convening of a party plenary meeting in February 2023 to discuss the progress of the “new program,” as well as the enactment of a string of farming- and rural development-related laws in recent years. These include the “law on development of city and county” (2021); the “law on supplying cement to the construction of cities and counties” (2022); the “law of the DPRK on socialist rural development” (2022); the “law of the DPRK on agriculture” (2023); the “law of the DPRK on farm” (2023); and the “law of the DPRK on irrigation” (2023).

    In addition to its rural development initiative, North Korea launched a “regional development 20×10 policy” in January 2024, which mandates the establishment of local industrial factories in 20 counties per year for the next 10 years. While explaining the details of this new policy, Kim emphasized the importance of “bridging the gaps between urban and rural areas, and central and local areas in all domains.”[3]

    Potential Roadblock: Central Control

    One notable takeaway from Kim’s “new program” is the mention of “our style agricultural guidance system,” which is designed to strengthen the state’s control over agricultural production. According to the readout of the December 2021 party plenary meeting:

    The report stressed the importance and principled requirement of improving guidance and management in achieving the sustained development of agricultural production in socialist society and advanced realistic ways for strengthening the unified, planned and scientific and technological guidance over the overall agricultural production of the country and displaying the advantages of our style agricultural guidance system centered on the county co-op farm management committees.

    Kim Jong Un’s “new program” also emphasized strengthening the party’s role in rural development:

    The historic report also set it forth as an important task to strengthen the Party guidance over the socialist rural construction.

    The rural ri-Party organizations and provincial, city and county Party committees should correctly carry out the planning and designing for promoting the rural development, local development in accordance with the Party’s policy of rural construction, the Party’s policy of local construction and should dynamically organize and mobilize officials, Party members and other working people to its implementation.

    Kim Jong Un’s “our style agricultural guidance system,” in effect, appears to be a revival of Kim Il Sung’s “new agricultural guidance system,” which he introduced in December 1961 during a visit to Sukchon County, with the aim of bolstering the party’s and the state’s control over agriculture. A 1995 article in Kyongje Yongu, a key North Korean economic journal, explained Kim Il Sung’s “new agricultural guidance system” as follows:

    The creation of the new agricultural guidance system has served as a firm guarantee for enabling the party to decisively strengthen its leadership over the socialist rural economy and the state of its guidance.

    In the new agricultural guidance system, it has become possible to manage and operate the rural economy scientifically and technologically based on objective economic laws and accurate economic calculations by accurately setting the direction and goal of rural economic development under the party’s political guidance and strengthening state economic institutions’ economic and technical guidance.[4]

    The emphasis on the county co-op farm management committees’ “unified, planned” guidance over agricultural production and the party’s guidance over rural development runs counter to Kim Jong Un’s reform initiatives across the agricultural and industrial fields, the essence of which is meant to give greater latitude to individual economic units in planning, production, and management of resources and profits.[5] It is almost certainly no coincidence that since early 2022, in the wake of the launch of the “new program,” North Korean media have significantly scaled back on the use of, and did not mention at authoritative levels, the “plot responsibility system within the sub-workteam management system.”[6] The same has been observed since April 2022 for the “socialist enterprise responsibility management system (SERMS),” the industrial counterpart to the “plot responsibility system.”

    Centralization has been one clear trend in North Korean policies across the political, economic, social, and cultural spectrums since the collapse of the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi in early 2019. As reviewed above, a closer reading of Kim’s “new program” launched in December 2021, and subsequent North Korean media handling of the leader’s key market-oriented initiatives, indicate that the North remains on a path of centralization and reform-oriented measures remain stalled at best.

    Giving greater management rights to smaller farming units and individual farmers reportedly had some impact in increasing productivity. This suggests that further tightening the noose on smaller farming units and individual farmers could have negative consequences for morale and productivity. That is why North Korea’s centralization policies need to be tracked carefully for their implications for the country’s agriculture and rural development campaign, despite its official goal of increasing production and improving farmers’ livelihoods.

    Looking Ahead

    North Korean state media frequently publish articles and statements announcing new development initiatives and the completion of new housing units, namely those around agricultural areas. With this information, satellite imagery can be used to monitor progress and gain further insights into strategic decisions on the placement of these projects.

    Forthcoming installments will identify and unpack trends in the locations of new rural developments since 2021; showcase similarities and differences between the types of housing and other previous North Korean housing initiatives such, as in Samjiyon and the Komdok Mining Region; explore how efforts align with the rural development plan and the “regional development 20×10 policy”; and seek to understand the benefits and potential risks associated with the North’s ambitious rural development goals.

    The post Assessing Kim Jong Un’s Rural Development Initiative appeared first on 38 North.