Pheromones that interfere with insect mating patterns, crops that are grown together with others and fields edged with wildflowers are just some of the techniques being developed by European scientists to defend crops from pests without resorting to pesticides, which have been linked to widespread insect biodiversity loss.
From the possible demise of Merlot grapes in Bordeaux to loss of olive trees in north Africa, the impacts of climate change will be felt by farmers across the Mediterranean region, say climatologists.
Fears over supermarket shortages during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic led many people to buy their food from local producers, raising the prospect of a transformation in the way people get their food in the future. But while eating locally and shorter supply chains are often viewed as a more sustainable alternative to our global food system, the reality is much more complicated, explains Dr Tessa Avermaete, a bioeconomist at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.
Cultivating mushrooms produces a lot of waste. For every kilogram of mushrooms produced, about three kilograms of soil-like material containing straw, manure and peat is left behind. In the EU, this results in more than 3 billion kilograms of waste per year.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the global food system and emphasised its structural inequity – from unequal food distribution to workers in the system going hungry. Experts are calling for a reimagining of the way we produce and distribute food so that everyone can access quality food. Despite producing more food by volume than humanity has to date, millions of people remain food insecure. Agriculture is also a major contributor to environmental degradation and climate change.
Food fraudsters have found myriad ways to trick shoppers – from cheap horsemeat sold as beef to conventional apples labelled as organic. But new rapid testing and tracing technologies may help turn the tables on food crime.
Dairies in Europe are major economic drivers in rural areas, but they produce significant waste from cleaning and processing. Wastewater and milk residue, which are typically disposed of, are now being turned into new products such as phosphate-rich fertiliser and bioplastics.
The world’s poorest – who have lost their incomes from illness or because of lockdowns – are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and, unless they receive enough support, hunger levels will soar and some countries may see rising violence, experts say.
How do you feed a city? It is one of the great questions of our time. After all, for a species that ultimately depends on plants to feed ourselves, we do tend to cram ourselves into places that are rather unfriendly towards them. Our cities are built around cars, offices and perhaps the odd park – not fields of crops.
Hyperloops could replace short-haul air travel.
Car manufacturers are rolling out higher levels of automation but public acceptance is lagging behind.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.