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In addition to the tea garden, East China's Mengzhuang Town targets local characteristic agricultural development. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The tea garden located at Daguozhuang Village of Mengzhuang Town in east China's Shandong Province, has developed characteristic agriculture to propel rural prosperity

According to this new mode, the tea garden pays land rent at market price to local farmers each year and offers plenty of job opportunities. In addition to the tea garden, the town targets local characteristic agricultural development, and has made great efforts in developing other agricultural parks, including strawberry varieties research centre, agriculture and tourism integration park, herbal medicine park, and chicken breeding park. Moreover, the town has also mobilised related parties, creating various development models, such as village-enterprise joint venture, 'common prosperity company' and rural partners.

Thanks to all these efforts, in 2023, the collective income of all five administrative villages in the town exceeded US$27,607. More than 3,500 jobs were created by 75 enterprises within the area and surrounding areas. Local incomes went up significantly, and the entry of 48 new agricultural business entities in the town resulted in a boost in the annual output value. 

Examination of fatty acid and sterol compositions are the most common analytical methods used to identify adulterated products. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

As the olive oil industry continues to face unprecedented challenges, there has been a gradual increase in fraudulent activities involving the sale of counterfeit mixtures that closely resemble authentic olive oil

The Mediterranean region responsible for the majority of the world's extra-virgin olive oil production has been hit by a severe drought, resulting in significant reductions in output from countries like Spain, Tunisia, Greece and Italy. This scenario has led to a dramatic surge in prices, in turn attracting counterfeiters who are exploiting the situation by introducing fake products into the market. With more than 260,000 litres of fake olive oil seized in Italy and Spain, Europol's recent investigations have shed light on the alarming prevalence of counterfeit olive oil within the market. 

Fraudulant schemes like these involve the substitution of high-quality olive oil with cheaper, inferior seed oils that are manipulated with additives like chlorophyll and carotenoids to mimic the appearance of authentic olive oil, thus deceiving the unsuspecting consumer. Mixing olive oil with lower-quality lampante oil is another method used to dilute the purity of olive oil while reducing costs. This not only compromises the quality but also misleads consumers about the product they are purchasing. Extra-virgin olive oil, a popular staple in culinary traditions has therefore, come under scrutiny wordwide, urging consumers and restauranteurs alike to exercise caution and vigilance.  

The presence of polyphenols are responsible for olive oil's unique flavour profiles, ranging from sweet to bitter or zesty. These compounds not only contribute to the oil's taste but also offer numerous health benefits. Characteristics like taste and aroma that are distinctive to authentic olive oil cannot be replicated by seed oils. However, distinguishing genuine olive oil from fraudulent mixtures can be challenging. Examination of fatty acid and sterol compositions are the most common analytical methods used to identify adulterated products. 

Moreover, since certain countries do allow the sale of blended oils, it is extremely important for consumers to carefully examine product labels for harvest dates, locations and certification seals from reputable third-party organisations, prior to selecting extra-virgin olive oil. Advances in technology, such as blockchain systems for traceability, offer promising solutions for enhancing transparency in the olive oil supply chain. However, the effectiveness of these tools is contingent upon consumer awareness and engagement. 

 

The Indo-US Millets Initiative aims to raise awareness about the benefits of millets and sorghum and increase and exchange research regarding their implementation into current food systems. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Sorghum United CEO, Nate Blum discusses the recent launch of the Indo-US Millets initiative that is bringing together major players across India and the US, to unlock the potential of resilient, nutrition-packed crops called millets

In a world grappling with the ever-increasing challenges of climate change, food security has become a paramount concern. With extreme weather events, water scarcity, and rising temperatures to contend with, it is imperative that we find climate-resilient agricultural solutions for the future to support our growing population. 

Many of the crops that we heavily rely on today, such as rice, wheat, and maize, are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Studies predict that maize production will drop 15-20% in North and South America by 2050, which could have a devastating effect on the population. Rice is a staple for nearly half of our population, yet rising temperatures could result in a 40% decrease in rice yields by 2100. In Africa and South Asia, where food security is already a significant concern, wheat yield is predicted to lower 15-16% by the middle of the century.

But all is not lost. The Indo-US Millets Initiative, a collaborative effort between organisations in India and the United States, has been launched to help solve these pressing food production issues. Spearheaded by several organisations across both countries, including the North American Millets Alliance, India Millets Initiative, Sorghum United, and the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, the initiative aims to raise awareness about the benefits of millets and sorghum and increase and exchange research regarding their implementation into current food systems.

Despite being overshadowed for so long, millets and sorghum offer numerous nutritional and environmental benefits, and it’s time we take advantage of them. These grains have a significantly higher tolerance to drought and heat than maize, wheat, and rice, making them more reliable crops as global temperatures continue to elevate. Moreover, millets and sorghum require 30% less water than current staple crops, holding the potential to reduce water irrigation demand by 33%. In addition, they also provide numerous health benefits that wheat, rice and maize lack. 

As the Indo-US Millets Initiative works to bring millets and sorghum back into the limelight, there are several challenges to overcome. In order to increase the production of these grains, there is a pressing need for additional research into developing high-yielding seed varieties and efficient processing strategies as well as technical support for farmers. Public access and awareness must also be increased in order to incentivise these important steps.

The United Nations declared 2023 the 'International Year of Millets,' demonstrating an increasing interest in exploring millets as a weapon against food insecurity. With the initiative and other millets programmes, such as the Alternative Crops Lab, based in Nebraska, the area is poised to take the lead as a hub for millets and sorghum research and development within the US. Recently, experiments have been greenlighted to study the contrast in greenhouse gas emissions from maize and millets, and new varieties of millets have been tested in Nebraska’s climate. There have also been efforts to begin studies of consumer demand and farmer profitability.

Given the uncertainties surrounding future food production and the challenges posed by climate change, the importance of investigating millets and sorghum as viable solutions cannot be overstated. As these grains gain renewed popularity, they illuminate a sustainable path toward improving global health and securing food stability.

For more information, visit: https://sorghumunited.com/

Key outcomes of the meeting included the development of plans for establishing Centres of Excellence on Millets in major millet-producing countries. (Image source: ICRISAT)

Representatives from the global south gathered in Dubai from 25-26 March, to convene a collective action plan to secure the future of millets

High-level representatives from leading millet-producing countries in the global south including India, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Malawi, alongside prominent organisations such as the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), and the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), came together to devise strategies for strengthened collaboration under a shared vision of resilience for the drylands.

Key outcomes of the meeting included the development of plans for establishing Centers of Excellence on Millets in major millet-producing countries, that envision to serve as hubs for innovation, research, and knowledge exchange, driving sustainable crop production, resilient value chains, and broader consumer access to affordable and nutritious millet-based diets. The convening also served as a platform to reaffirm a shared commitment to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the global south, particularly by supporting food security, poverty eradication, and environmental sustainability.

“It is important that we build on the momentum and legacy of the International Year of Millets 2023 (IYM2023) to ensure the world has access to millets, which are Smart Food with the ability to feed and nourish the planet amid growing global populations, increasing temperatures and climatic events,” remarked director general of ICRISAT, Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes.  

For more information, visit: https://www.icrisat.org/ 

ZeaKal's PhotoSeed technology improves the crop’s oil and sustainability profile without compromising yield or protein. (Image source: ZeaKal)

In an attempt to deliver higher energy corn, agritech company ZeaKal recently developed its new groundbreaking PhotoSeed technology to improve the oil and sustainability profile of the corn crop, without compromising its yield or protein

Upon immediate implementation of this technology, replicated field trials during the first year showed a significant 23% increase in corn oil composition. The technology was found to enhance the plant's photosynthetic capacity, capturing more CO2 and sunlight. This additional carbon capture increases oil production without taking away the energy necessary to maintain modern yields.

Just as in soybeans, nutrient and energy densification in PhotoSeed corn translates to more carbon captured in the seed. With higher oil production that does not require additional inputs or land, PhotoSeed becomes a sustainability embedded trait that has the potential to lower the carbon intensity score of the crop. 

In 2022, ZeaKal created a closed loop US system called the NewType model to capture and share premiums from better composition, processing advantages, and improved sustainability metrics with farmers and producers. Starting with its integration into Gro Alliance—the nation's largest, independently owned contract producer of seed corn and soybean seed—ZeaKal follows the model's success into the company's extensive germplasm collection, breeding programme, and fully integrated seed production. 

“The future of agriculture must be grounded in innovation that democratises value creation or else agriculture will not be responsive to demands for improved sustainability, nutrition, and energy,” said co-founder and CEO of ZeaKal, Han Chen. “Starting with the grower, our vision is to leverage trait technology and replicate our NewType model to ensure value creation and sharing across the entire supply chain.”

PhotoSeed corn commercialisation is expected in the 2027 growing season.

For more information, visit: zeakal.com

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