Stronger rains in warmer climate could lessen heat damage to crops, says study

Read the full story from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Intensified rainstorms predicted for many parts of the United States as a result of warming climate may have a modest silver lining: they could more efficiently water some major crops, and this would at least partially offset the far larger projected yield declines caused by the rising heat itself.

Associated journal article: Corey Lesk, Ethan Coffel, Radley Horton. Net benefits to US soy and maize yields from intensifying hourly rainfallNature Climate Change, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-020-0830-0

U.S. Commercial Rooftops Hold 145 Gigawatts of Untapped Solar Potential

Read the full story at e360 Digest.

Enough unused roof space exists on commercial buildings in the United States to install 145 gigawatts of new solar capacity — nearly double the country’s current total solar capacity, according to a new report by the energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. That is enough to power 28 million homes.

Forest growth in drier climates will be impacted by reduced snowpack

Read the full story from Portland State University.

A new study suggests that future reductions in seasonal snowpack as a result of climate change may negatively influence forest growth in semi-arid climates, but less so in wetter climates.

Associated journal article: Kelly E. Gleason, John B. Bradford, Anthony W. D’Amato, Shawn Fraver, Brian Palik, Mike A. Battaglia. Forest density intensifies the importance of snowpack to growth in water‐limited pine forestsEcological Applications, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/eap.2211

Another bird-friendly building mandate for the East Coast

Read the full story at Construction Dive.

Maryland’s Howard County Council passed a bird-safe building mandate last month, the second law of its kind on the East Coast, following New York City’s legislation that passed in December. 

Howard County is home to hummingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers and doves, among many other bird species, all of which stop over during annual migration. When they land in unfamiliar territory to rest or find food, they often confuse reflective glass as passable space — resulting in fatal collisions that take the lives of up to a billion birds annually across North America, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

EPA’s Safer Choice Program Would Benefit from Formal Goals and Additional Oversight

Download the document from the U.S. EPA’s Office of the Inspector General.

The EPA’s Safer Choice program does not have formal goals included in the FY 2018–2022 U.S. EPA Strategic Plan, and the program has not reported results for fiscal years 2018–However, the program does have internal, non-outcome-oriented goals, which it is generally achieving. The Safer Choice program’s goal is to add 200 Safer Choice products to the program and 25 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List each year. In FY 2019, the Agency added 265 products and 24 chemicals. By not including formal goals for the Safer Choice program in Agency reports while continuing to receive congressional funding and support, the EPA limits not only accountability to Congress and the public, but also the extent that the program can use performance management information to make policy, budget, and management

The EPA’s Safer Choice program has general controls in place for the required Safer Choice audit process. The EPA reviews audit summaries and corrective actions provided by TPPs. However, the Agency does not routinely review all supporting documentation, relying on TPPs to review and retain these documents. Additionally, the Safer Choice program does not have procedures in place to conduct any formal performance reviews of TPPs or oversight reviews of TPP partner audits. Without periodic audit oversight, including full reviews of supporting documents and formal performance reviews of TPPs, the EPA risks approving products that do not comply with the Safer Choice Standard.

Agriculture replaces fossil fuels as largest human source of sulfur in the environment

Read the full story from the University of Colorado Boulder.

New research identifies fertilizer and pesticide applications to croplands as the largest source of sulfur in the environment — up to 10 times higher than the peak sulfur load seen in the second half of the 20th century, during the days of acid rain.

Associated journal article: Eve-Lyn S. Hinckley, John T. Crawford, Habibollah Fakhraei, Charles T. Driscoll. A shift in sulfur-cycle manipulation from atmospheric emissions to agricultural additionsNature Geoscience, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0620-3

MDPI’s Remarkable Growth

Read the full post at the Scholarly Kitchen.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Christos Petrou, founder and Chief Analyst at Scholarly Intelligence. Christos is a former analyst of the Web of Science Group at Clarivate Analytics and the Open Access portfolio at Springer Nature. A geneticist by training, he previously worked in agriculture and as a consultant for A.T. Kearney, and he holds an MBA from INSEAD.

Standing for Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, MDPI is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, the company was named to Jeffrey Beall’s infamous list of predatory publishers. After a concerted rehabilitation effort, they were removed from Beall’s list. Since then, incidents include editors at one MDPI journal resigning in protest over editorial policies and more recently, questions raised over waiver policies that favor wealthier, established researchers over those with financial need. Just last week, a leader in the scholarly communications community felt compelled to publicly ask, “Is MDPI considered a predatory publisher?

Despite these ongoing questions, MDPI has flourished as a publisher, and authors have flocked to their journals. Based on SCImago data, at least 16 publishers were larger than MDPI in 2015 in terms of journal paper output. As of 2019, 71 of MDPI’s 250 journals have an Impact Factor (Clarivate’s JIF), an indication of rigorous peer review and impact (measured in citations), and MDPI has become the 5th largest publisher, publishing 110k papers per annum, including 103k research articles and reviews. They are firmly positioned ahead of Sage, ACS, and IEEE. Growing at ~50% YTD (despite COVID-19), MDPI may soon overtake Taylor & Francis for the spot of the 4th largest publisher in the world.

Three Part Series on Compost use on Highways

Biocycle has a three-part series on compost use on highways. The parts are:

Unilever ice cream brand opts for recycled-content plastic

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

Unilever ice cream brand Magnum says it is going to use more than 7 million ice cream tubs made with recycled plastic. Magnum conducted a pilot with the recycled-content polypropylene (PP) tubs in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2019.

New project is set to find ways to manage emerging contaminants

By Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) are tackling the issue of pharmaceutical contaminants from irrigation with rural sewage effluents in a newly funded project.

Collaborating with the Illinois State Water Survey, principal investigator Wei Zheng has begun a three-year study to investigate emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), in fields irrigated with effluents from rural sewage treatment plants and to develop effective strategies to reduce the amount of contaminants transported to surface or groundwater.

Rural sewage effluent has great potential as an alternative to irrigation water, yet there are concerns about possible negative effects. Rural treatment plants are less effective at removing PPCPs compared to municipal wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, the use of effluents might pose a risk to surface and groundwater ecosystems.

Also, field tile drainage systems, which are commonly used in the Midwest, may accelerate the losses of these chemical contaminants from agricultural soils to nearby watersheds. The potential negative effects of using rural sewage effluent to irrigate tile-drained fields are essentially unknown.

In this project, the research team will conduct a series of laboratory, field, and numerical modeling studies to investigate the processes affecting contaminant transport, track the occurrence of PPCPs, and develop two cost-effective control techniques, oil capture and biochar-sorption channels.

The results will help federal and state agencies and farmers evaluate their current nontraditional water-use practices, inform science-based regulatory programs, and suggest best management strategies to minimize risks and promote the safe and beneficial use of nontraditional water in agriculture.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Media contact: Wei Zheng, 217-333-7276,

This post originally appeared on the ISTC Blog.