Thursday, April 30, 2015

New way to protect plants from insects

Scientists have found how to make scents that repel and attract insects.

The research team at Rothamsted Research Centre in the United Kingdom say the scents that repel could keep insects away from crops. Those that attract could be used to lure them into traps.

They have pioneered the production of tiny molecules which mirror a naturally-occurring scents.

"We know that many organisms use smell to interact with members of the same species and to locate hosts of food or to avoid attack from parasites," said chemistry professor Rudolf Allemann, who led the research.

"However, the difficulty is that scientifically smell molecules are often extremely volatile, chemically unstable and expensive to recreate.

“This means that, until now, progress has been extremely slow in recreating smells that are similar to the original.”

The researchers were able to make insect repellent scent molecules which are structurally different but functionally similar to the original.

His colleague at Rothamsted Research, John Pickett, said: "This…provides a novel way of producing a smell with different properties and potentially better ones than the original but at the same time preserving the original activity.”

Potash more profitable

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is reporting increased profits for its first quarter and predicts even higher profits for the upcoming quarter.

Last year the company joined two other major producers – Agrium and Mosaic – in reducing production and in some cases shutting down mines in an effort to boost prices.

Prices tumbled two years ago when a deal between Russia and Belarus fell apart and they started competing, instead of cooperating, on production and marketing.

Potash Corporation’s profit was $370 million in U.S dollars, an increase of $30 million over the same quarter last year. It said the 8.8 per cent increase in profits came from higher potash prices and lower production costs.

Saskatchewan's potash taxes increased and the company sold less nitrogen as it faced stiffer competition on global markets.

Sales for the three months ended March 31 were nearly $1.67 billion compared with $1.68 billion last year.

The company says that the decline in the value of the Canadian dollar since last year will likely continue to push costs per tonne lower.

More funds sought to fight avian flu

Four federal politicians are asking the Obama administration to make more money available to stop the spread of avian influenza.

The virus has affected nearly 100 farms in more than a dozen states, requiring the depopulation of about 11 million birds. It is spread by migratory birds. In Minnesota, nearly all of the 54 impacted farms are located within a few hundred yards of a lake, the letter noted.

The four sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, suggesting he be empowered to dip into the Commodity Credit Corp. funds.

The letter was sent by two Republicans - Agriculture Committee chairmen Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas and House of Representatives member K. Michael Conaway from Texas – and two Democrats – Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and House of Representatives member Collin Peterson from Minnesota where the governor has declared a state of emergency and has called out the national guard.

Maple Leaf’s turning the corner

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. cut its first-quarter losses from $124.6 million a year ago to $2.8 million this year.

It has also closed the last of the plants that are involved in consolidation to its new facility in Hamilton.

Sales hit $780 million, a 9.7 per cent increase from last year.

The hog production business posted a profit of $2.5 million, much better than the $346,000 loss last year. It made a profit even though sales declined from $5.9 to $3.5 million.

Listeria prompts sliced apples recall

Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc. is recalling sliced apples and products containing sliced apples produced in its Brampton facility because some have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that although there have been no confirmed illnesses, ‘consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes should not sell or use the recalled products.”

The recall is for sliced apples sold under the Subway, Starbucks, Shoppers Drug Mart and Sun Rich labels.