Argonne researchers develop new chip design for analyzing plant-microbe interactions

Read the full story from Argonne National Laboratory.

Scientists discovered a way to gain new insights about how plant roots interact with soil microbes in mutually beneficial ways using a newly designed microfluidic device. 

Associated journal article: Noirot-Gros, et al (2020). “Functional Imaging of Microbial Interactions With Tree Roots Using a Microfluidics Setup.” Frontiers in Plant Science 15 April.

Everything Is Unprecedented. Welcome To Your Hotter Earth

Read the full story from NPR.

The upshot of climate change is that everyone alive is destined to experience unprecedented disasters. The most powerful hurricanes, the most intense wildfires, the most prolonged heat waves and the most frequent outbreaks of new diseases are all in our future. Records will be broken, again and again.

But the predicted destruction is still shocking when it unfolds at the same time.

Illinois team contributes to vital weekly drought assessment

by Tricia Barker, Prairie Research Institute

Every week, the U.S. Drought Monitor releases a map showing which parts of the country are experiencing drought. The drought monitor is used to make critical decisions, such as disaster declarations, drought responses, and eligibility for assistance programs. 

While the U.S. Drought Monitor draws on multiple objective data indicators, like rainfall levels, it also relies on experts across the country, to synthesize and interpret this data and provide their local recommendations.Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford coordinates the Illinois drought advisory team, which includes several scientists from the Illinois State Water Survey, representatives of the five National Weather Service offices covering Illinois, the director of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub, and other drought specialists. 

The drought map is issued each Thursday and provides a snapshot of the past week’s drought conditions. In order for the weekly map’s author—one of several experts across the country who cover this role in shifts—to produce the drought snapshot each Thursday, they need to receive input from the Illinois team no later than Tuesday. That means Ford typically starts on Sunday to compile data and develop a draft recommendation for the Illinois team. 

Sometimes, this is a quick process. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, Illinois was receiving lots of precipitation and had to worry more about flooding—all the data clearly indicated Illinois was not experiencing drought. But starting in late May and early June, the state has had some areas that were receiving little rainfall

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released on Aug. 27, a few patches of Northern Illinois are experiencing “moderate drought” (light orange). The larger yellow region is considered abnormally dry, but not (yet) in a state of drought. 

“For most of this summer, we’ve had more involved discussions about what indicators are showing us for Illinois,” Ford said. “When some indicators are pointing to no drought and some are pointing to drought, or when indicators are pointing to different severities of drought, that’s when it’s most important for our Illinois team to make recommendations to the author of the national map.” 

The team draws on a wealth of objective data to make their recommendations. Precipitation data from weather stations, citizen scientists, and radar are key, of course, but rainfall anomalies, temperatures, soil moisturestreamflow, and the condition of crops and native vegetation are also taken into consideration. 

Data and observations from citizen scientists, farmers, and other Illinoisans supplements the long-term data collected by the Water Survey and NWS. For example, more than 20,000 volunteers across the country contribute weather observations to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), and Illinois farmers and gardeners often send Ford photos of the condition of their crops, lawns, and other vegetation. He considers all of this information in addition to the satellite remote sensing and his own observations of Illinois conditions.  

Currently, Illinois is not experiencing the type of widespread, severe drought it saw in 2012, but the northern third of the state is dry and hot. 

“We had spotty, heavy rainfall in July and August, so most areas of Northern Illinois have gotten timely enough rain to just skirt drought,” Ford said. On the U.S. Drought Monitor map released on Aug. 27, most of Northern Illinois is categorized as D0—abnormally dry, but not yet in drought. 

When temperatures surged into the 90s, the abnormally high heat evaporated the scant moisture reserves in some areas, pushing them into D1, or moderate drought. 

“That’s what we refer to as a ‘flash drought’, when the longer-term precipitation deficit is compounded by short but acute increases in temperature,” Ford explained. 

This post originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute blog. View the original post.

North American Biomes Are Losing Their Resilience, With Risks for Mass Extinctions

Read the full story at e360 Digest.

The resilience of North America’s plant biomes is declining — indicating that today’s landscapes are “primed to herald a major extinction event” not seen since the retreat of glaciers and arrival of humans 13,000 years ago, scientists reported in a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Associated journal article: Wang, Y, Shipley, BR, Lauer, DA, Pineau, RM, McGuire, JL. Plant biomes demonstrate that landscape resilience today is the lowest it has been since end‐Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions. Glob Change Biol. 2020; 00: 1– 14.

Illinois Beach State Park: Past, Present, and Future: Understanding a Dynamic Shoreline

View the story map.

This story map was assembled as part of a collaborative venture between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Coastal Management Program (CMP) and the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) through the Prairie Research Institute (PRI). It reflects the current thinking of the ISGS staff regarding shoreline dynamics at Illinois Beach State Park (IBSP).

Webinar: Food safety & traceability: How to gain a competitive advantage based on supply chain transparency

Sept 30, 2020, 8 am CDT
Register here.

A growing number of food producers have digital systems in place for track and trace, quality management and supply chain management.

The digital systems capture tons of data that can be used to get a competitive advantage.

Learn how this data can be used to become more transparent to the consumers, in supply chain orchestration and to reduce food waste from the farm to the consumer.

Key learning points:

  • Learn about the impact of legislation and regulations related to food safety on food producers
  • Understand the compliance needs of the food industry and how digital systems can turn this into a competitive advantage
  • Learn from industry innovators how they execute on this
  • Ask our expert speakers questions and benefit from their wide experience at many food producers.

The Gas Industry’s Survival Plan: Make Fuel From Cow Poop

Read the full story from BNN.

Bovine waste is typically stored in vast open lagoons that emit methane—a greenhouse gas more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide over 20 years— making agricultural waste the single biggest contributor to the country’s total methane emissions from human activity. Both biogas and fossil natural gas are mostly methane, and though they burn more cleanly than the megapolluter coal, they still emit carbon dioxide. But by diverting cow poop into biodigesters in the process of making RNG, gas companies argue, the effect is a net climate win. Virginia-based utility giant Dominion Energy Inc. claims that supplying only 4% of its customers with biogas would be enough to offset the emission from its entire gas system.

Getting C-Suite Buy-in for Your Freight Sustainability Efforts

Watch the recording.

Building a solid freight sustainability strategy requires support and buy-in throughout your organization. But how do you engage your colleagues and your C-Suite so that they see the value of investing in more efficient freight? In this webinar, participants heard from two SmartWay Shipper Partners who successfully integrated freight sustainability and SmartWay into their corporate priorities. We also heard about SmartWay resources that can help educate partners’ colleagues and leadership teams.

Key discussion topics included:

  • Operationalizing freight efficiency and the ideal process
  • Building a case cross-departmentally
  • Optimizing your organization’s freight sustainability program strategy

A new method for making a key component of plastics

Read the full story from Ohio State University.

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown way that some bacteria produce the chemical ethylene – a finding that could lead to new ways to produce plastics without using fossil fuels.

Associated journal article: North, JA, et al (2020). “A nitrogenase-like enzyme system catalyzes methionine, ethylene, and methane biogenesis.” Science 28 Aug 2020, 1094-1098.

Data omission in key EPA insecticide study shows need for review of industry analysis

Read the full story from the University of Washington.

A central study setting limits for a widely used and controversial pesticide is questioned in a new University of Washington analysis

Associated journal article: Sheppard, L. et al (2020). “Flawed analysis of an intentional human dosing study and its impact on chlorpyrifos risk assessments.” Environment International 143, 105905.