From fungal spore spray to insect egg dispensers, unleashing an army of living enemies on crops to keep pests and diseases in check may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s part of a more natural approach to agriculture, designed to decrease reliance on chemicals.
The last place you might expect to find drones and rovers is checking up on a corn field, but they could soon join tractors and ploughs on a farmer’s list of must-have agricultural tools, thanks to their potential to reduce pesticide use and increase the amount of crops that can be grown.
Beetles, wasps and flies could be at the forefront of the next agricultural revolution as scientists draw on insects’ millions of years of farming experience in a bid to find new, environmentally friendly ways of cultivating crops.
Researchers are getting ready to test a tobacco-powered aeroplane thanks to a new bio jet fuel made from the seeds of nicotine-free plants, and the result could be a 75 % reduction in carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels.
Sustainable farming practices and a chemical process that turns brown coal into organic compounds are bringing over-farmed fields back to good health, boosting crop yields and locking greenhouse gases underground.
Non-edible biomass could replace petrochemicals in providing energy to heat and light our homes, as well as in producing a vast array of plastics, lubricants, paints and a host of industrial chemicals, according to Dr Philippe Mengal, the recently appointed executive director of the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), a public-private partnership between the EU and bio-based industries.
The increase is partly driven by climate challenges.
Neuroimaging techniques are helping us read the pictures in our heads.
There is unlimited kinetic energy all around us and harnessing it could change the way we interact with the world, says Dr Gonzalo Murillo.