The New Mushroom Based Pesticide That Could Make Chemical Pesticides Obsolete

Humans are dependent on agricultural produce to live a healthy life. However, many agriculture producers use pesticides, and when we consume food, we are also consuming chemical pesticides, which is putting our health at risk. To control the ill-effects of external elements added to the soil and plants, scientists executed several experiments. Eventually, they succeeded in preventing unhealthy components in the plant by using some natural phenomena. 

For instance, imagine a fungi-based pesticide that could kill all the unwanted insects in the farmlands without causing any harm to the desired living organisms. It sounds unlikely, but it is possible. 

Poisoning unwanted things in nature while preserving the required ones is a big business. As per a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) in the year 2012, the sales figure for chemical pesticides within America were reported to be around $14 billion. It means approximately 1.1 billion pounds of chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and chlorine are added to the farming landscape per year. 

At the same time, we need to accept that a sound agricultural setup cannot be created without dealing with unwanted critters present in the farmlands. At the same time, we need to understand the harsh reality that heavy usage of pesticides is harmful to the environment, wildlife, and human beings as well. 

Mycologist Paul Stamets

In such situations, the idea of developing a pesticide that can protect desired elements while killing the unwanted ones can be beneficial. Mycologist Paul Stamets, in the year 2006, patented two fungus-based insecticides with the same concept. One of these was meant to deal with the termites, carpenter ants, and fire ants, whereas another one was developed to deal with the 200,000 different insect species. 

Mushroom spores show repelling behavior towards insects. Conversely, the mushrooms designed by Stamets are delicious to the insect, luring the bug into eating them. Once the bugs have eaten them, the fungi sporulates and sprouts inside them, feeding on their internal tissue until they die, and a tiny mushroom sprouts from their heads, which is how you know it worked. It is essential to mention that although this technology has the potential to change the pesticide industry, the technique is non-toxic to non-targeted living beings including birds, fish, pollinators, and humans. 

Same as insects, fungi are considered as living things in nature. They are capable enough to evolve with time and can adapt to new circumstances. Studies reveal that most of the pesticides become ineffective within a few years because insects build up tolerance against them. Similar to other relationships in nature, such as predator and prey, parasite and host, the bio-pesticides based on fungus also adapt with time to hinder the evolving insects. At the same time, they do not cause any harm to wildlife and humans. Hence, mycologists believe mushrooms to be the most relevant solution to avoid chemical pesticides. 

At present, mushroom-based pesticides are costly, almost 20 times pricey than the existing pesticides. Also, they are more sensitive to environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature. Nonetheless, scientists are certain that this technology will provide high returns to the agriculture industry and the health of the humans and mammals consuming the products.

Scottish Wildcats Being Reintroduced to the Highlands to Help Fight Extinction

Scottish wildcats arrived after the last ice age; these wildcats were once prevalent across northern parts of the UK mainland and Wales. After 10,000 years of isolation, they are now genetically distinct from European populations. However, their numbers have plunged due to habitat loss, disease, human persecution, interbreeding and road deaths.

Scottish conservationists have reported their Scottish wildcats are on the verge of extinction as there are approximately 30 left in the wild. Ecologists have fortunately devised a way to revive their numbers, so this species of cats will not be entirely extinct. They are currently breeding the felines in a captive and release program, and will reintroduce them to the Highlands of Cairngorms National Park- their former breeding homes.

The project is led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and will have a funding of 3.2 million pounds over six years, commencing in 2022. At the reintroduction center located in the Highlands Wildlife Park at Kincraig, the cats will be bred and conditioned freely in a remote area from human intervention. The aim is to release at least 60 wildcats from this shelter. The number may seem low; however, for the cats to freely multiply and thrive, they require considerable and extensive spaces of clear land. Highly-effective GPS collars will track the whereabouts of the cats so their health can be monitored and to ensure they are thriving.

Scottish Wildcat and Kitten

The driving force behind this project is the urgent need to save the Scottish wildcats from the face of extinction; they are already witnessing innumerable threats associated with serious endangerment, and if not brought out from this scenario at the earliest, the world will lose its last traces of this species. The project will occur using the Scottish cats that are a part of the captive population and from some other parts of Europe to enhance the pool of genes and open doors for an authentic breed.

The leading cause behind the extinction of the Scottish cats is the rare availability of the species and their crossbreeding. These cats mostly roam freely through the woods and seamlessly enter the domestic realms, they mate the conventional variants of cats, thereby diluting their original constituents gradually. The feral cat is the direct result of the hybrid, which has inherited similar characteristics from both the Scottish and domestic cats. Even when breeding occurs as a natural process, experts state that the general public who own cats will have a crucial role to play to discourage hybridization.

Eileen Stuart, head of policy with Scottish Natural Heritage, a government conservation agency, said efforts to ensure the survival of the species must involve help from the wider public.

“A key part of this will be a national conversation on a domestic pet and feral cat populations and how we manage these,” she said. “The public will have an important role in helping minimize future hybridization. Responsible cat ownership – including micro-chipping, neutering and vaccinations – is one way we can help reduce the devastating effects on wildcats.”

Canadian Engineering Students Invent a Vacuum Which Sucks Up Micro-plastics from The Beaches

Micro-plastics are tiny pieces of plastic that pollute the Earth; being so minute, they resist the regular clean-up and many times, even get buried below the surfaces. From the past few years, getting rid of these harmful particles was a big challenge for humans. However, the great news is engineering students from the Canadian University of Sherbrooke- Quebec, recently designed a vacuum that can separate the harmful micro-plastics from the surrounding environment.

Kamilo Beach, Hawaii

This vacuum is named Ho’ōla One, and the students recently tested it at Kamilo Beach, on the Big Island, located on the southeast coast of the island of Hawaii. It is known for its excess accumulation of plastic marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The results were remarkable, removing roughly 230-pounds of micro-plastics in a few days.

As it is a prototype project developed by students, the machine at the present stage is very complicated, massive, and heavy. It has a large frame of vacuum that requires special arrangements for transportation via a heavy vehicle. However, reports reveal that the trial for this vacuum was successful.

To clean the beach area from plastic waste, it sucks up the sand around and deposits that into the water vats. In this process, the sand, as its general nature, automatically sinks to the vat bottom, whereas the micro-plastics start floating on the top. The technique of separating micro-plastics is quite simple and effective.

During an interview, one of the team members stated it is difficult to pick up all the micro-plastics by hand. He wanted to help the environment and clean the oceans; therefore, he started doing some in-depth research regarding the issue. He soon realized that no such machines had been designed worldwide to handle the problem.

We need to take prompt steps to deal with micro-plastics due to their harmful toxins. Once they are supplemented to sources of water, marine animals ingest them, inflicts pain upon them, and causes the death of millions of marine animals every year.

Ho’ōla One on Kamilo Beach, Hawaii

Beaches all over the world are burdened with lots of plastic waste. The ocean waves keep on collecting the micro-plastics from the shores. A considerable amount of plastic waste also goes to the landfills, and then it is carried by the strong winds to various sources of water. The estimated range of plastic waste that goes into the oceans every year is somewhere around 8 million tons, causing vast amounts harm to marine life.

With time, plastic waste also breaks down into micro-plastics and slowly the plastic becomes indestructible. In such situations, the efforts for the development of Ho’ōla One to deal with this issue are appreciable. The engineering skills are working in the direction of nature, and these efforts may contribute to saving the planet.

The students are also interested in making other versions of this machine that could be more efficient and smaller to handle micro-plastics around the world. More such developments must be initiated worldwide, to save the Earth and marine life.

Ethical Vertical Farming Maximizes Growth Space in San Francisco

One of the biggest concerns the world faces is the issue of global food production. When world hunger is such a widespread problem, how do we not only come up with efficient ways to provide food, but to do so in such a way that in not detrimental to nature? 

“Plenty” has been working on one such method. They are a company based in San Francisco, south of the Mission District. Plenty has been using a technique known as vertical farming, a form of agriculture where the plants are grown without soil in an enclosed, controlled environment. 

Using stacked layers, vertical farming is a relatively modern concept, first being proposed in 1999, but it has become a more widespread practice since then. The vertical farms act as tall, narrow, indoor containment units for the plants. The process helps to increase crop yield, on account of the plants not needing to share the same plots of land with each other. Another advantage of the process is that, with the crops being kept inside, weather disruptions cease to be a problem. Vertical farms also use up less land overall than traditional farms. 

Plenty’s controlled-environment vertical agriculture

At Plenty, the focus is on ‘Clean’, ‘Flavor’, ‘Local’, and ‘Efficient’. No washing is required with the plants, which are sanitary and ready to eat by the time they are fully grown. The organization also prides itself on being able to deliver their goods across relatively short distances, and on the rich flavour of their specially-grown vegetables. Matt Barnard, the CEO and co-founder of Plenty, even states that they only use 1% to 5% of the water to grow crops that a traditional farm would use. 

After the company launched its farm in San Francisco earlier this summer, they got right to work in setting up another. Their second farm will be located in Compton, although it likely will not be fully active until late 2020. Once completed, however, it is expected that the Compton farm will have even greater growing capacity than the one in San Francisco. Combined, the farms will be used to supply produce for countless restaurants, grocery stores, and schools. On top of all that, these new vertical farms will hire locally to create plenty of new job opportunities. 

Other places have been building vertical farms of their own. The Association for Vertical Farming is dedicated to exactly that. Recognizing the importance of clean, healthy food, the AVF is a non-profit organization whose mission is to implement vertical farms all across the globe. While many of their companies and projects are currently based in eastern Europe, they do have a few locations in other corners of the world, including the United States, Japan, and even a couple of places in South America. 

Efficient food growth is undoubtedly a serious dilemma for the world we live in today, and it will continue to be in the years to come, but we must not lose hope. Technology is an amazing and ever-changing beast. As vertical farming has shown to us, unexpected new innovations are coming up all the time. 

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Singapore’s Eco-Friendly Buildings

Singapore is a small, populous island that is 100% urbanized. And yet, it’s also one of the greenest cities in the world. Travelers all over the world are excited to spend some time in the greenery of Singapore. In the year 1963, Lee Kuan Yew announced a Tree Planting Day. To date, tree planting is still a trend, and people are still planting trees contributing to this green metropolitan. However, the greatness of this city is not limited to the green streets. The entire island has initiated an eco-friendly lifestyle 

The more Singapore became a part of this green revolution with its eco-friendly developments, the more substantial corporations moved in. Many big companies, such as Prudential and Facebook, moved their offices to the new complex in Singapore. The offices are combined with solar panels for power, solar tubes for hot water, harvesting of rainwater and certain floor levels lined fully with green plants, the complex is green in every sense of the word. Reports say that this workspace is much more than the traditional office. Regardless, developers keep coming to Singapore looking to be part of the green movement.

Marina One is a famous mixed development project at the central business district of Singapore. It comes to the well-designed area for stores, restaurants, commercial spaces, residential buildings, offices, and gyms. This eco-friendly building is setting a remark for future living. 

Singapore’s Ecological EDITT Tower.

The project has four towers, and they are all connected via a “green heart.” This specially designed area is loaded with millions of trees, plants, and many waterfalls as well. Even the terrace and sky bridges are filled with greenery. The entire premises include around 160,000 plants. Developers reveal that the biodiversity of Marina One is comparable to the six Olympic sized swimming pools. 

This development is a significant investment, somewhere around $5.1 billion. It was completed as a joint-venture under a land-swap deal between Singapore and Malaysia. Note that this project is also designed by Christoph Ingenhoven, the same architect who developed the fantastic designs of Luxembourg’s European Investment Bank and Sydney’s 1 Bligh Street. 

Singapore condominium called Tree House.

It is essential to mention that this development is certified by LEED platinum. The project is finished in such a manner that the building contributes to reducing the carbon emissions, electricity as well as water consumption. The architect planned orientation in such a way that this structure could reduce heat gain in the premises so that office employees can stay fresh all the time. At the same time, the greenery all around contributes to improved air quality and reduced heat. 

The two residential towers of Marina One include approximately 1000 units. However, it is not that easy to buy an apartment over there, especially for the budget-conscious people. A two-bedroom apartment with two-bathroom and an estimated area of 1152 square feet is currently listed with a price tag of $2 million. 

Few other eco-friendly developments in Singapore include CapitaGreen, Tree House; NTU School of Art, Design, and Media; and Oasia Hotel. These developments are expected to enrich the relationship of human begins with nature. 

Alberta Cannabis industry uses a solar rooftop to lower the impact on the environment

The solar energy invention is essential for two reasons; firstly, the rays from the sun are unlimited; thus, ensuring that no other natural source is exhausted, and secondly, solar power reduces the overall cost of energy production by a generous chunk. Keeping the same in mind, Freedom, an Alberta-based cannabis industry, shifted their cradle of energy to a rooftop solar system that stretches up to 20 kilometers in the west of Edmonton and is named as the most extensive base of solar operation in the heart of Canada.

Humans who treat the well-being of their country and environment as a part of their duty; this particular cannabis grower does the same. The company has affirmed that these solar panels would help the company to successfully save a lot of money and curb the uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases formed as a consequence of widespread cannabis cultivation.

The cannabis company’s co-founder and executive director, Troy Dezwart, said: “It is our responsibility to recognize our industry’s impact on the environment and work to do everything we can to minimize it.” The production and distribution of cannabis have increased incredibly in the last few years, especially after the discovery that these natural elements are one of the most beneficial alternatives of antibiotics and synthetic medicines aimed to calm the raging pain ensued by painful diseases.

To make the ends of this ever-growing demand meet, the process of mass cannabis production requires infinite amounts of lights, ventilation, heating, water pumps, and fans. From observations, one can formulate an estimation of the total energy that goes into pooling all these bindings efficiently day-to-day. Even though there is no robust statistical proof, yet, it has been stated that the cannabis growers based in the United States employed enough electricity that could have otherwise supplied power to around 1.7 million houses in 2017.

Now, coming to the specifications of this solar boundary encircling Freedom Cannabis, there are a total of 4,574 panels installed in the entire arrangement laid over an area of 126,000 sq. ft., in Acheson, AB, with a maximum capacity to produce 1,830KW of energy every day. If this scheme follows the initial plan of action with which it initially outlined, the cannabis industry will not only reduce 1,041 tons of greenhouse gas emitted annually but will also procure 8% of the total energy derived from the building.

Every other manufacturer must tread on this brilliant path laid forward by Freedom Cannabis with the interests of the world at heart; however, unfortunately, about 70% of the total cannabis produced in the country is based in the outdoors while legal marijuana is to be grown in the indoors. To bring about a positive change and encourage the other industries to give in to this innovation, this project will need to be equipped with all-round participation from its contemporaries as well.

Virunga National Park Battles to Protect The Critically Endangered Species of Africa

Virunga National Park is a national park in the Abertine Rift Valley, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country within Central Africa. 

The park was created long ago, a result of the European conservation movement. The idea behind the movement was to establish a protected area in the northeastern Belgian Congo. Originally the protected area was set up in 1925 as Albert National Park. It was later expanded in 1929 to include Virunga National Park. It wasn’t until 1969 that the two parks were merged together as to become just Virunga National Park. 

A massive park, measuring at 8,090 square kilometers, it is one of the first ever areas in Africa to become protected. And for good reason; among the countless other species, there are over 200 mountain gorillas in the park, roughly one-quarter of the entire mountain gorilla population. 

Even as a protected area, Virunga National Park has still seen a lot of struggle. The park has suffered from the many years of war and other armed conflicts in the region. Climate change, community expansion, and poachers are also ongoing problems. Still, Virunga’s team of over 600 rangers do the best job that they can to defend the park and the wildlife that resides in it. 

Mountain Gorilla in Virunga National Park.

The rainforest serves as a natural home for the mountain gorillas, who thrive and raise families in the lush environment. There have been conservation efforts to further assist the gorillas, and while the efforts have done much to restore the species’ population, we still have a long way to go. Extensive deforestation in the region has proved to be very damaging, and the mountain gorilla is still a critically endangered species. 

It’s not just gorillas that are in danger. There has been an extensive battle to protect the elephant population as well. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed on a yearly basis for their ivory tusks. While there was an official ban on international trade that was placed in 1989, which did help the population to recover, there has remained a lot of ivory poaching and trafficking. 

Among the other endangered species are the African wild dog, the African penguin, Grévy’s zebra, the Ethiopian wolf, the black rhinoceros, and the white rhinoceros, to name just a few. Thankfully, the African Wildlife Foundation is dedicated to protecting as many of these precious species as they can. They have devised many solutions, which includes deploying sniffer dogs, and training wildlife rangers and law enforcement officers to help prevent wildlife crime. 

Elephants roaming through the Congo’s national park.

And ultimately, the African Wildlife Foundation is just one of many such organizations dedicated to helping the environment. There is also the International Volunteer HQ, Enkosini Eco Experience, ELI Abroad, the African Conservation Experience, among many others. 

For all the damage that the human race has done to the environment, we are also the ones who are tasked with the responsibility of repairing that damage and making this world a cleaner, healthier place to live in, both for our own sake and for the sake of the many wonderful animals who inhabit it. 

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Humpback whales making a comeback and why we need to keep our oceans clean

Experts worried that the waves of extinction could hit the humpback whale. Instead, the whales have made a comeback. If the latest preliminary data is to the believed, there were about 30,000 humpback whales spotted in the Western Indian Ocean recently. Since the 1970s, this is the first time this particular species of whale appeared in a number as terrific as this. A specialized team led by Chris Wilkinson, the Technical Manager of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, is dedicated to counting the whales as they make their way past the Cape Vidal, located on South Africa’s East Coast. 

Similar to the animals that migrate to warmer conditions before the onset of winter. The humpback whales switch their breeding spots from the Antarctic waters to Mozambique. After conducting careful surveys throughout 2018 and the years prior, it has been asserted that the total population of the humpback whales in the western Indian Ocean, sum up to a figure close to 30,000.

Considering the ever-swelling depreciation of the land and the oceans, the conservation efforts to bring back the humpback whales in large numbers have proven successful. This phenomenon has implied that if all the straps of animal management are fortified, it will help these mammals locate their ideal environment to grow and thrive without much interference. Out of all the other factors that led to the endangerment of the humpback whales, whaling is the most profound and strenuous one. 

A humpback whale swimming in the Indian Ocean.

Biologists have been trying to delineate the causes that prompted the whales’ disappearance. The implementation of modern vessels used to chase and hunt down these whales, increase the chance of their captivity. Moreover, the fact that the humpback whales are particularly slow and prefer basking in the comfort of the coastal waters increases their vulnerabilities in the ocean. Another factor is that the humpback whales have been the prime target of the hunters since they contain an exceedingly high amount of body fat, a constituent that is otherwise absent in the other water animals. 

The whales spend about 4-5 months of the year in the tropical conditions, as we have already mentioned before, and it is this trend of the humpbacks that have initiated into being the whalers favorite pawn. The whalers would mostly be around South Georgia from spring to autumn every year and slaughtering the whales in abnormally large numbers. During the 1960s, scientists discovered that the population of humpback whales was plunging to an unsustainable level, close to extinction, and it was only then that the International Whaling Commission rolled out stricter laws. Rules and regulations to safeguard the animals and procure them with enough time and a suitable environment to multiply in numbers. 

Laws have been created to terminate the mindless whale hunting; there is also a fair number of them that die in the ocean due to the pollution that they are subject too. Choking on plastic and getting trapped in ghost nets are some of the most glaring reasons for the population to hit the brink. We need to steer away from any further crises. The call of the hour is to keep the oceans clean and let our fellow creations live out their lives peacefully. Presently, Operation Earth 5, along with the rest of the humanitarians, are collectively pursuing this mission.

A Watchdog and a Baby Giraffe Develop a Friendship

Last week at The Rhino Orphanage, in Mokopane South Africa, a local farmer brought in an abandoned baby giraffe he had found. The baby giraffe was only two days old and abandoned by his mother. When the calf was first discovered, he was weak and dehydrated. Caretakers named the calf, Jazz.

At The Rhino Orphanage, based in the Limpopo Province, lives a dog, a watchdog named Hunter. Hunter resides in the sanctuary and protects the Rhinos from predators. When Jazz, the giraffe, came to the reserve the resident watchdog Hunter rapidly began to care for the new strange calf. Not long after, Hunter and Jazz were inseparable.

The workers at the non-profit organization noticed Jazz and Hunter were always together. The baby giraffe is being fed leaves and given IV therapy to help him become stronger and stay hydrated. Hunter is still there when Jazz is feeding, and they have been observed sleeping together too.

Jazz and Hunter sleeping at the Orphanage. Credit: AP

Mammals naturally need companionship, like humans, to reduce their stress and they need their community. Hunter’s fellowship to Jazz during his time of recovery has no doubt aided the calf. The caretakers expect that Jazz will be released to the wild soon and live out his days eating leaves from tall trees in the Savanna.

Plant more Trees To Restore Healthy Balance In Your Life and For The Planet

Are you a part of the busy city life that keeps on stressing your mind all the time? Probably, you need to schedule a walk to the forests that can recharge you to the peak energy levels. Yeah! It is scientifically proven that just a small connection to nature can enhance your psychological balance. Spending some time in the forests can result in some real physical and mental health benefits. Even if you spend around five minutes in the natural greenery, it may improve your overall health by a considerable level. And the best part is that it doesn’t leave any side effects behind. 

Incredible health benefits of connecting to nature:

  • Enjoying a visit to forests can improve the functionality of your immune system.
  • It lowers down the blood pressure levels. 
  • People who spend more time with nature are likely to enjoy a better mood with reduced stress levels. 
  • Nature can improve your concentration level, especially in the kids who have ADHD.
  • Spending time in forests can speed up the recovery from illness or surgery.
  • It improves energy levels to a great extent.
  • Forests and trees can improve sleep levels.

Recently a study was conducted in the University of Hong Kong on almost 160 people who were made to take part in stressful scenarios. They were either subjected to give tough maths test, prepared to deliver a speech, or made to stand in front of cameras or judges. When they were under the peak stress, they were allowed to view a 10 minutes video of trees planted in the city streets. The readings about their stress levels were recorded during this activity, and it reflected considerable reduction with the view of trees. 

A young man walking through a stream and leaving the city life behind.

When we breathe in the fresh air, it makes our body cells function better with the dose of antifungal and antibacterial qualities. Sitting in the forest for some time can balance your stress hormones and decrease the level of depression, anxiety, anger, fatigue, and confusion. Being a part of natural activities, such as looking at water, plants, birds, or spending time in nature, can give a considerable boost to our cognitive brain. With this, we can naturally enjoy better focus and higher concentration.  

You can also capture some images in the greenery to collect some memories for life. Those collections can help you lower your stress levels in the future, as well. Science Alert Reports say that it regulates the health of the nervous system while improving sweat production, myocardial contractility, and heart rate. 

Emerald Ash Borer Beetle on a tree in Ontario, Canada.

Another study reveals that emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), referred to as EAB, is a species of metallic wood-boring beetle native to East Asia, including China and the Russian Far East. Yet, the species has infested North America, harming the ash trees. EAB has provided some stats about how human life will be without trees, and the details are terrifying. EAB infestations lead to higher cases of lung and heart disease. It had been observed that EAB was linked to additional 15,080 deaths due to heart problems and 6113 deaths due to lung disease. 

To ensure a healthier life and a happier planet for the coming generations, we must make efforts to plant more trees around us. The efforts should not be limited to the rural areas; instead, it is good to fill city streets with trees and greenery.