Posted: 17 Jan 2011 08:00 AM PST
Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that comes in part from the application of nitrogen fertilizer to croplands, and researchers at the University of Missouri are documenting a simple way to make a big cut in those emissions. The low tech solution – simply tilling the soil in strips and applying fertilizer in bands – illustrates how significant actions can be taken to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gases in the near future, while new technologies to manage climate change over the long run are still in development.
Tilling in Bands to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The researchers compared strip tilling/band application to the spreading of nitrogen fertilizer across an untilled field. They found that the lower greenhouse gas emissions resulted when corn is planted and fertilized in bands of strip-tilled soil. This method sequesters the nitrogen fertilizer more deeply in the soil, saves energy, helps to prevent excess evaporation, and saves energy. In a test field, the strip/band method also produced a greater crop yield.
More Conservation Options for Farmers
If borne out by additional research, the finding provides farmers with another management tool that can boost the bottom line while cutting greenhouse gases and conserving natural resources. Further abetting this disentangling of economic growth from environmental destruction is a group of initiatives funded by the Obama administration. These include the new AgStar program which helps farmers convert manure to high value biogas and compost, and a $30 million loan and grant program that is funding more than 500 agricultural energy efficiency projects.
Image: Corn by bchow on flickr.com.
Posted: 17 Jan 2011 05:21 AM PST
When it comes to efficiency, computer science has a lot to learn from the fruit fly, according to researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. The communication between nerve cells in the fly’s hairlike sensors has evolved with razor-sharp efficiency, and the research team is developing a means of translating that logic into a more efficient means of managing computer networks. The applications are wide-ranging, including remote control and data management for networks of robots that collect environmental information.
Green Jobs for Robots
Robot swarms are already being developed to collect environmental data from hard-to-reach spots. At Northwestern University, they’re working on small, lobster-like devices that can crawl across rough underwater surfaces in rivers and coastal zones. UC San Diego is also working on a small underwater robot that can drift on ocean currents. On the larger end of the scale, a more efficient network could improve the performance of agricultural robots and infrastructure robots, and the U.S. military is working on a robotic “pack mule” that could see double duty for environmental work and disaster relief.
Fruit Flies and Computer Networks
The nerve cells in the fruit fly’s sensors are ideal for swarms of remote sensors and other distributed networks, because only a small number of cells serve as “leaders” that direct all the other nerve cells. That’s the basic principle behind computer networks. The researchers found that the fruit flies arrangement is more “simpler and more robust” than anything computer scientists have been able to come up with in the past thirty years.
More Green Jobs for Robots
Aside from creating more efficient corps of robots for sensing and collecting raw data from the environment, a more efficient network design would help lower the cost of robot-based manufacturing operations for solar panels and other high tech products that are playing a critical role in our new clean energy future.
Image: Fruit Fly by Image Editor on flickr.com.
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