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Marina di Pisa, Italy

Benvenuti S.,Food and Environment
Landscape and Urban Planning | Year: 2014

The aim of this trial was to test a wildflower roof in order to show how a country landscape fits in an urban environment. The bio-agronomic performance, the biodiversity dynamics during the two-years experiment, and the pollinating fauna, were analysed.Each plant group was able to efficiently colonize the surface of the roof though in different periods and with various modalities. Thermal insulation of green roof was connected to different development dynamics of leaf canopies. In particular, this cooling effect took place during the peak of the vegetation's growth pattern. As expected, each plant group had differing flowering periods, during which were observed coincided highest rate of pollinator' visits (domestic and solitary bees, bumblebees, lepidoptera, diptera both syrphidae and bombyliidae). The agronomic management, consisting in senescent vegetation mowing, was of crucial importance to ensure the plant equilibrium of spring and summer flowering species. The lack of a prevailing species was highlighted by several biodiversity indexes. On the contrary, early and late flowering species (geophytes) did not require any vegetation management. In conclusion, even if wildflowers exhibit critical aspects in terms of covering dynamics, due to the periodic senescence of vegetation, they represent a valid instrument to improve the biodiversity and the landscape of the Mediterranean urban ecosystem. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

News Article
Site: http://phys.org/technology-news/

Researchers from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the University of Catania, are testing the best mix of local organic residues, mainly citrus skins, to compose the "diet" of five anaerobic digesters located on the University's farm. They aim to create a local source of renewable energy from the 400,000 to 700,000 tons of orange residue from fruit juice production, the disposal of which costs between €12 and 21 million every year. However, about 150 km from Catania, plans for a 21MV power plant between Enna and Caltanissetta have met with resistance from local communities and green activists. The plant was supposed to use fuel from one of the island's green lungs, which would have meant cutting about 6,000 hectares of Eucalyptus trees, thus increasing the hydrogeological instability in the region. For the moment the demonstrators have won their battle in Sicily. The contract between the power plant management and the regional government, which owns the woods, has been stopped. "Context is everything when evaluating sustainability," says Ben Allen, senior policy analyst at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, "because it determines the feasibility of a power plant, the availability of the resources, the conditions of supplying and the interaction with the wider business community." From this perspective, residues seem to be a promising solution for improving biomass sustainability, as shown by the report "Wasted – Europe's untapped resources," which weighs up the potential of farm and urban wastes to produce biofuels. The research has found that every year in Europe, 220 million tons of wasted cellulosic materials, which include crop residues, forest slash and municipal solid waste, can potentially be converted into biofuels, thus cutting GHG emissions by 60 to 85 percent and covering 16 percent of transport fuel needs by 2030. "The consultants looked into all alternative uses of waste—its displacement impact and its benefits, especially for municipal solid waste, resulting from avoiding decomposition and methane," explains Allen, who helped in coordinating the research for the project. Biomass, indeed, is not neutral in terms of greenhouse emissions, with a variable impact ranging from lower values for forest residues to the highest, related to palm kernel. Considering that the 2030 EU climate goal aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990, tight controls are required. In Spain, at Laguna De Duero, three biomass boilers are fed with woodchips from local forests to heat 1,488 dwellings situated in the Torrelago district. "In this way, we are able to cut CO2 emissions by up to 85 percent, which corresponds to about 3,000 tons per year," explains Javier Martín Sanz, engineer at Veolia and in charge of the European project CITyFiED. "Moreover, each boiler has a system that removes ashes through blasts of compressed air. The detached particles are then filtered out and collected, minimising the final dust emissions." The quality of wood biomass and the treatment of smoke are, indeed, key factors regarding types and quantities of GHG emissions. "We should only choose fuels from certified production chains," says Vito Pignatelli, chief of the Laboratory of Biomass and Biotechnologies at Enea. The agency is working on a new generation of ceramic filters able to cut particulate emissions by up to 92 percent. "These filters are made of silicon carbide and dipped in a copper ferrite catalyst, which makes them able to decompose particulates when heated," Pignatelli concludes. Explore further: Waste-biogas is at least ten times more effective than crop-biogas at reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Benvenuti S.,Food and Environment | Pardossi A.,Food and Environment
European Journal of Agronomy | Year: 2016

The growing need for nutraceutical foods has elicited increasing interest in the herbs traditionally used for ethnobotanical purposes. Their richness in antioxidants inspired this research, which is aimed at cultivating them as crops. Sixteen wild species of crucial interest as food were studied in term of seed propagation. The frequent dormancy was reduced or removed by physical, or physiological seed treatments in laboratory experiments in Petri dishes. However, their direct field sowing, in spring and autumn, did not show the same performance in spite of the efficacy of the treatments. This specially occurs in the case of species with very small seeds suggesting a burial involvement of this soil-mediated inhibition. This inhibition was markedly lower after greenhouse sowing in a soft substrate (peat-pearlite) confirming the hypothesis that the soil acts (via hypoxia) as a crucial obstacle to germination. The study of the emergence reduction by a slight burial (1 cm), compared to unburied germination, allowed to evaluate, for each species, the burial-mediated inhibition. After the 1000 seed weight measurement a relation between these two parameters (burial inhibition and seed weight) was fitted. A polynomial regression confirmed the inverse relationship between seed weight and burial-mediated inhibition showing the remarkable burial-intolerance of very small seeds. Consequently the greenhouse sowing in substrate appears the most suitable agronomic strategy overall for food herbs characterized by little seeds. Critical issues are discussed regarding these weeds becoming real nutraceutical crops. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.. Source

News Article
Site: http://phys.org/biology-news/

Plant pathologists Aardra and Pradeep Kachroo study how plants fend off secondary infections, a defense mechanism known as systemic acquired resistance. In previous studies, the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment scientists identified several chemicals within plant cells that help trigger this resistance. Their most recent study, published in Cell Host and Microbe, looked at the paths three of those chemicals travel. Understanding these pathways and chemicals may shed light on new ways scientists can help plants fend off a wide range of pathogens. "Animals have a circulatory system that makes it very easy for one part of the body to communicate with another," Aardra Kachroo said. "This is not the case for plants, which makes communication more difficult between various parts. That's why it's important for scientists to understand how that happens." Their research found that two of the chemicals travel through the same opening between cells, called the plasmodesmata. They are helped through this "doorway" by proteins that also control the opening and closing of the "door." The third signaling chemical, salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, travels a different route, going out of one cell into the plasma membrane and then into another cell. "This is a similar route via which aspirin in taken up in the human body," Pradeep Kachroo said. In plants, after moving to the neighboring cell, salicylic acid can also shut the door in between the cells that the other two chemicals traveled through. "This knowledge is very relevant to how we use chemicals for protecting our crops in the field," Pradeep Kachroo said. The Kachroos results suggest that although current strategies of using chemicals that activate the salicylic acid pathway maybe an effective short-term strategy to manage specific diseases, it could potentially have long-term negative repercussions on the plant's inherent ability to induce broad-spectrum systemic immunity.

Kalaji H.M.,Warsaw University of Life Sciences | Schansker G.,Avenue des Amazones 2 | Ladle R.J.,Federal University of Alagoas | Goltsev V.,Sofia University | And 25 more authors.
Photosynthesis Research | Year: 2014

The aim of this educational review is to provide practical information on the hardware, methodology, and the hands on application of chlorophyll (Chl) a fluorescence technology. We present the paper in a question and answer format like frequently asked questions. Although nearly all information on the application of Chl a fluorescence can be found in the literature, it is not always easily accessible. This paper is primarily aimed at scientists who have some experience with the application of Chl a fluorescence but are still in the process of discovering what it all means and how it can be used. Topics discussed are (among other things) the kind of information that can be obtained using different fluorescence techniques, the interpretation of Chl a fluorescence signals, specific applications of these techniques, and practical advice on different subjects, such as on the length of dark adaptation before measurement of the Chl a fluorescence transient. The paper also provides the physiological background for some of the applied procedures. It also serves as a source of reference for experienced scientists. © 2014 The Author(s). Source

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