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Overlooked in the global food crisis: A problem with dirt

Science has provided the souped-up seeds to feed the world, through biotechnology and old-fashioned crossbreeding. Now the problem is the dirt they're planted in.

As seeds get better, much of the world's soil is getting worse and people are going hungry. Scientists say if they can get the world out of the economically triggered global food crisis, better dirt will be at the root of the solution.

Soils around the world are deteriorating with about one-fifth of the world's cropland considered degraded in some manner. The poor quality has cut production by about one-sixth, according to a World Resources Institute study. Some scientists consider it a slow-motion disaster.

Image
©AP/Bullit Marquez
Farm laborers plant rice seedlings at the experimental plots of the International Rice Research Institute, IRRI, at Los Banos, Laguna province 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Manila, Philippines Saturday May 3, 2008. IRRI scientists are working on better ways to improve rice yields through better soil and water management. Started in 1963, IRRI, planted Saturday its 133rd crop in long term trials in plots with zero fertilizer and nitrogen.

Comment: Although the issue of soil quality is very important, this article fails to properly address the reasons WHY soil quality is deteriorating, and underplays the negative role that modern intensive farming has had in this, for example: the over-use of chemical fertilizers; large-scale monoculture; genetically modified organisms.


Cloud Lightning

UK: Family home hit by lightning

Lightning struck a house as thunderstorms hit the town.

It blasted a chimney on Hodges Street, Springfield, causing a shower of debris in a family's front room.

The lightning travelled down the aerial and into the back of a TV set-top box, which burst into flames.

Four other appliances, which were connected on a four-way plug adaptor, caught fire.

Cloud Lightning

India: Lightning kills five children in Orissa

At least five children were killed and four critically injured Monday afternoon in lightning strikes in a village of Orissa's Sundergarh district, the police said.

Cloud Lightning

UK: Boy sleeps on as lightning hits

A three-year-old boy has slept through a lightning strike which blew a hole in his bedroom wall.

Elis Roberts's parents found him fast asleep in his room, which was covered in masonry, plaster and dust.

The lightning blew all the light bulbs and electrical equipment in the house and other homes in the Flintshire road as storms hit north Wales.

"We have been so very lucky," said his mother Pat Mulreay, of Edwin Drive, Flint, after Saturday morning's strike.

"It could have been a lot worse."

The lightning hit Edwin Drive at about 0045 BST as many parts of Wales experienced thunder and lightning and some had flash flooding.

The blast, heard throughout the neighbourhood, sent debris all over the bedroom, covered in Liverpool Football Club posters and other memorabilia.

Cloud Lightning

Kansas, US: Lightning strike injures teen in shower

A teenager was injured Saturday when a bolt of lightning traveled into a house on N.W. Valencia Road and shocked her as she showered, public safety officials said.

Felicity Wishkeno, 15, didn't suffer any burns but did show all the "signs and symptoms of a lightning strike," said Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Rewerts, of Shawnee County Fire District No. 4.

Bizarro Earth

US: East Bay to face water rationing for first time in decades

The East Bay's largest water utility is expected to impose mandatory water rationing today for the first time in nearly 20 years to conserve depleted water supplies after two droughty years.

The 1.3 million customers in the East Bay Municipal Utility District will probably be prohibited from hosing off sidewalks, washing cars with a hose that doesn't have a shutoff nozzle or watering lawns two days in a row, among other measures.

Bizarro Earth

US: Reno Quake Activity Lessens But Threat Remains

The number of earthquakes in a nine-week-long swarm of temblors that has shaken Reno has leveled off in recent days, but the threat of a major earthquake still is not over, seismologists said Friday.

John Anderson, director of the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno, said it appears the activity that began Feb. 28 on the west edge of Reno has tapered off over the last three days.

Cloud Lightning

Olympic pressure helps to foster a caring response to earthquake

Only three months ago the Chinese Prime Minister stood in a railway station to apologise through a megaphone to thousands stranded by snowstorms. He was so poorly informed about conditions that he had been forced to fly to a neighbouring province and finish his journey by train. Wen Jiabao has not allowed his Government to be taken by surprise this time.

On his race from Beijing to reach the epicentre of the deadliest earthquake to rock China in more than three decades, Mr Wen made sure that his first public comments hinted at the gravity of the tragedy

Cloud Lightning

China earthquake brings out citizen journalists

Minutes after the earthquake struck in Sichuan on Monday the internet was alive with videos and eyewitness accounts of the disaster.

It was a contrast to the events in Tangshan 32 years ago, when the Chinese government refused for months to admit the 7.8 magnitude earthquake had even happened, despite the deaths of an estimated 240,000 people.

Bizarro Earth

Russia: Karymsky volcano on Kamchatka spews ash column to 4,5 km

The Karymsky volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula has spewed an ash column to a height of 4.5 kilometres above sea level. There is no danger to nearby settlements, the Kamchatka branch of the Geophysical service of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Itar-Tass on Saturday.

A surge of seismic activity in the area of the volcano has been registered.