Farmers are turning to natural bacteria to improve crops like cane – but they might be getting rubbish.
Crop probiotics are natural, eco-friendly and could provide huge benefits for Australian farmers. But our loose regulations means genuine products are competing with snake oil.
Microbes are tiny microscopic organisms such as bacteria and fungi that interact with soils and plants.
Microbial-based solutions for agriculture are among some of the new innovations having an impact on the sector in the developed world.
New research pinpoints the genes that could counteract decades of bland breeding.
Fields of gold: Australia’s wheat industry contributes more than A$5 billion to the economy each year.
Wheat image from www.shutterstock.com
Australia's wheat harvest has stalled over the past 26 years, and worsening weather is to blame.
Facing down a future with no bananas.
Every single Cavendish banana plant worldwide is genetically identical. This vast monoculture sets them up for disastrous disease outbreaks. But researchers have ideas on how to protect the crop.
Charcoal rot is a relatively unknown disease causing yield losses in crops across South Africa, including maize.
Charcoal rot is associated with yield losses in crucial crops like maize, soybean and sorghum.
The silverlead whitefly is a major agricultural pest.
Invasive species and diseases pose a major threat to agriculture – particularly in the countries that can least afford it.
Beefy problem: livestock emit methane, but the soils where they graze can be much more climate-friendly than cropland.
AAP Image/Caroline Duncan Photography
Eating meat means greenhouse emissions. But the emissions from growing crops may have been underestimated, meaning that a climate-friendly diet isn't as straightforward as simply going vegetarian.
Our modern crops need some help in the immunity department.
Andy / Andrew Fogg
Modern agriculture is synonymous with monoculture. That lack of diversity is bad news for plants' natural immune defenses. Researchers are figuring out how to help plants fend off microbes – without pesticides.
Sydney’s farms on the urban fringe produce 10% of the city’s fresh vegetables.
Farms on Sydney's fringes supply 20% of the city's food. That could drop by more than half if urban sprawl isn't kept in check.
Cassava feeds 800 million people - keeping it disease-free is a must.
Rapid genetic disease screening will be the key to saving East Africa's crops - just as it was during West Africa's ebola crisis.
The world’s driest areas are tipped to get even drier, with potentially worrying implications for soil productivity.
The world's 'drylands' – already home to 38% of the world's people – are set to dry out even more. And that could harm the soil microbes that keep soils healthy and help crops to grow.
A hoverfly on a sunflower.
Next time you reach for the honey, spare a thought for the other vital insects that pollinate our crops.
Nicotiana benthamiana growing in the wild in coastal northern Western Australia.
Australia's risks losing its valuable native plants that could help solve a global food problem. So do we need new laws to stop the seeds being taken overseas?
Fires, such as this one in eastern Sierra Leone, are an annual occurrence across Africa.
On the African continent, more fire for crops leads to less rainfall.
Children from a village in Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands Province stand in one of countless sweet potato gardens destroyed by frost across the country, August 2015.
Papua New Guinea is now facing a drought and frosts that look set to be worse than 1997, when hundreds of people died. So how can memories of 1997 save lives over the next few months?
South African’s maize crops are an example of a GMO crop.
Only a few African countries are using genetically modified organisms for their crops.
A plant heavily colonized by a bacterial pathogen.
Jeannette Rapicavoli/UC Riverside
Vaccines aren't just for animals anymore. Research shows priming plants with pathogen-derived compounds strengthens their immune systems and enhances protection against future attack.
India has been sweltering recently – but plants can cope better than people.
Sanjay Baid / EPA
Hardy new grains are being developed that can cope with extreme bursts of heat.
Yellow Rust spores can be seen bursting out of a wheat leaf from the inside, tearing their way through the epidermis.
Kim Findlay/John Innes Centre
A wheat-infecting pathogen is on the march in the UK - but new genetic techniques will enable faster, clearer diagnosis.