Tag Archive | entrepreneurial spirit

Getting bees hooked on flowers with nicotine

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While some researchers have been busy developing a possible vaccine to help humans beat their nicotine cravings, others have been getting bumblebees addicted to the stuff. But the experiment wasn’t just an exercise in getting the bees buzzed, it was an investigation into whether or not the drug could influence the insects’ ability to learn the color of flowers. Hint: It can.

They sure do love their bumblebees over at Queen Mary hooked on flowers. Researchers there have previously taught the pollinators how to push a ball around a playing field, and pull a string to get food rewards. In a further demonstration of how a creature with a brain about the size of a pin head can be trained to execute particular behaviors, researchers there used nicotine-laced nectar on artificial flowers to see if they could get the creatures to show a preference for one color over another.

So they laced blue flowers with a plain sugar solution and purple flowers with a sugar solution containing nicotine. They then set 60 different bees lose in their artificial garden to see how they behaved. Sure enough, the bees showed a clear preference for the nectar that was doped with nicotine in the purple flowers. Interestingly though, the bees were repelled by the nicotine-containing flowers if the concentration of the chemical was too high.

The researchers then reversed things: They laced the blue flowers with the nicotine solution and the purple flowers with the plain nectar. The bees continued to fixate on the purple flowers however, showing that they had associated the color with the reward, even if they could get a nicotine buzz by visiting the other flowers (pin-head-sized brain, remember?).

“Flowers typically reward pollinators ‘honestly’ with rewards such as sweet nectar, but nature’s trick box is endlessly resourceful, said professor Lars Chittka from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. “Some plant species gain an unfair advantage over competing species by spiking their nectar with addictive substances, such as nicotine in tobacco flowers.”

While the experiment might seem a bit obvious – of course bees would prefer a buzz-bringing solution over plain sugar water – the researchers say it opens the door to wide range of future studies analyzing ways in which plants might out compete each other for the attentions of insects that can spread their pollen.

For More Information: Michael Franco

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U.S. Department of Agriculture: Make school meals great again

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that school lunch regulations under the Obama administration would be less restricted.

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Perdue was joined by Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts at a Virginia elementary school‘s lunch for the announcement.

Sodium reduction and whole-grain requirements would be suspended. One percent fat flavored milk (chocolate milk, anyone?) would be allowed back into school cafeterias nationwide. These loosened restrictions are for federally funded school lunch programs.

Under current law, schools have to serve fresh fruits and vegetables, along with more whole grains.

“I wouldn’t be as big as I am today without chocolate milk,” Perdue said.

Critics of these changes say it sets back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act from former First Lady Michelle Obama. She was widely known for her campaign against obesity.

Karina Knights, one of the few registered dieticians in the Sacramento area focused on children’s nutrition, said most health professionals supported Obama’s campaign, but acknowledges that schools and even parents had mixed reactions.

Perdue argues that the new administration is slowing down the process, but not going back on any health standards.

“This is not reducing the nutritional standards whatsoever,” Perdue said.

Instead, he said they’re meant to provide “regulatory flexibility” for the National School Lunch Program, a meal program that gives nutritionally balanced lunches to students for free or at a reduced cost.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in 2015. Knight calls it an investment.

“At the end, it will cost less overall for the government,” said Knight. “[Because] they will spend less of any of the medical costs that come with obesity.”

These new rules are for the 2017-2018 school year.

The department is using the slogan ‘Make School Meals Great Again,” a play off President Trump‘s campaign slogan.

For More Information:- Frances Wang

Warracknabeal celebrates its entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to agriculture

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A town in Victoria’s wheat belt is celebrating its history of agricultural machinery manufacturing.

The town of Warracknabeal turns 150 this year, and the historical society has gathered wagons, tractors and other machinery from the town’s founding to today.

The invention of the tractor was a game-changer in agriculture, and innovation and invention are what keep the industry going.

Warracknabeal Historical Society secretary Leslie Steffen said the first blacksmiths to come to the town were the beginning of a long line of manufacturers to make their mark.

“The blacksmiths were really the foundation for a lot of the manufacturing that happened here,” she said.

“Because the blacksmiths then turned to making ploughs and other machinery that the farmers needed to grow crops, basically to start the wheat industry in Australia.”

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The Wheatlands Warracknabeal Agricultural Machinery Museum re-opened its newly refurbished museum at the weekend to coincide with the annual Easter Vintage Machinery Rally.

Outside, the museum is surrounded by vast amounts of space displaying old wagons, tractors, harvesters and more.

Ms Steffen said it was a draw card for all kinds of tourists.

“I’m really not into machinery, but you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty amazing collection,” she said.

Innovation in firefighting

All sorts of agricultural tools were invented in the town, including a vital tool used in fighting fires.

Ms Steffen said an important firefighting tool was invented in Warracknabeal, a water pump called the Aussie pump.

“This Aussie pump was used by the CFA and right throughout Victoria. It was put on to a lot of fire engines many years ago,” she said.

“It was very popular because it was very good at pumping a large amount of water.”

Ms Steffen said Warracknabeal had an entrepreneurial spirit.

“It’s certainly not boasted about, but I guess there is,” she said.

Fordson tractors over a century

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As well as Warracknabeal-made machinery, there is also a display of Fordson tractors.

Gordon Mills runs the Warracknabeal Machinery Show, and said the organisation wanted to celebrate 100 years of the tractors.

“Starting from one of the earliest models they ever made and right up until the 60s or 70s,” he said.

“The Fordson tractor was one of the cheapest tractors that farmers could buy at the time, and most of them were reliable.”

For More Information:- Jess Davis