New research reveals for the first time the most likely months and routes for the spread of new strains of airborne ‘wheat stem rust’ that may endanger global food security by ravaging wheat production across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the wider world.
Archaeological research shows that our prehistoric ancestors built resilience into their food supply. Now archaeologists say ‘forgotten’ millet – a cereal familiar today as birdseed – has a role to play in modern crop diversity and in helping to feed the world’s population.
Africa’s food requirements, along with its population, are growing fast. Three research programmes ask how a better understanding of viruses, parasites and the spread of disease can pave the way to improving agricultural yields.
A photoreceptor molecule in plant cells has been found to moonlight as a thermometer after dark – allowing plants to read seasonal temperature changes. Scientists say the discovery could help breed crops that are more resilient to the temperatures expected to result from climate change.
Study of bee-manipulating plant virus reveals a “short-circuiting” of natural selection. Researchers suggest that replicating the scent caused by infection could encourage declining bee populations to pollinate crops – helping both bee and human food supplies.
Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) discusses how genetically modified crops could help solve the problem of food security.
A protein that detects hormones in smoke has a much wider and more ancient role in the plant kingdom – detecting microscopic soil fungi which colonise plants and feed nutrients to their cells. This ancient symbiosis with soil fungi is thought to be how plants survived on land millions of years before they evolved roots.
The Cambridge Animal Alphabet series celebrates Cambridge's connections with animals through literature, art, science and society. Here, Q is for Queen Bumblebee, one of the UK's 1,500 species of wild pollinators that play a vital role in the environment and food production.