The Stream, July 22: Understanding Drought And Unlocking Solutions

The Global Rundown

An alarming number of citizens in China have been killed or are missing because of intense flooding. The history of drought in Ghana could hold clues to avoiding famine. One U.S. agtech startup is re-engineering drought-resistant seeds at the microbial level. Regional drought is effecting the Amazon’s ability to mitigate global carbon. An unlikely Olympic athlete from a drought-stricken state in India may medal in rowing. The United Kingdom is uniting unlikely allies in the Middle East to tackle water scarcity.

“Today’s great scientific challenges take no heed of manmade borders. If we are to combat the challenges of today, we are going to need to do it together. In the Middle East and many other regions, there is great need for improved access and management of water.” Robin Grimes, chief scientific adviser of the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Two new programs, STREAM (Science, Technology & Research Exchange Across the Middle East and North Africa) and GROWTH (Graduate Research Opportunities in Water-Technology & Health), are expected to encourage scientific collaboration between Israel and its neighbors.

By The Numbers

75 Number of northern Chinese citizens who have died or gone missing due to flooding since Monday. That brings the total this year to 576 people. Excessive rain across traditionally dry regions like Beijing continues to cause widespread flooding and evacuations. Transportation has also been strongly affected by the persistent rain. The Chinese government is scrambling to respond, mobilizing military assets and discharging water from the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze. BBC 

300 Samples of charred grains from 10 different Ghana archaeological sites are shedding light on how inhabitants of the region have dealt with drought over the past 1,000 years. Evidence indicates historically Ghanaians avoided famine despite periods of prolonged drought like the one the country is currently caught in. Anthropologist hope the research can help experts better understand the relationship between drought and food security. NPR

Science, Studies, And Reports

Recently published research indicates drought directly affects the Amazon rainforest’s ability to help contain the planet’s carbon excess. Currently, trees in the Amazon absorb and store approximately 100 billion tons of carbon, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere. By killing trees and stunting the growth of those that survive, drought reduces the rainforest’s biomass and its effectiveness in trapping carbon. Scientists expect the Amazon’s ability to mitigate carbon will continue to decrease as drought and deforestation increases. Mongbay

On The Radar

Agtech startup Indigo just launched a line of probiotic-covered seeds, which utilize microbes to reduce water consumption. The seed coating’s microbes should replenish those removed from heritage plants by years of industrial farming. In trials, plants produced by the probiotic-covered seed exhibited desirable stem diameters and root mass, positive indicators for the plants’ capacity to manage water stress. The company’s new line, Indigo Cotton, is projected to increase crop yields by 10 percent. Indigo also expects to bring their next probiotic-covered seed, Indigo Wheat, to market later this year. The Verge

Until recently, Indian Olympic rowing athlete Dattu Bhokanal’s only relationship with water had been lugging it for miles to his family’s onion farm in the drought stricken Maharashtra state. Bhokanal discovered rowing in 2012 when he joined the army to provide for his family. After intense training, Bhokanal took silver at the Olympics qualifying regatta in South Korea. Now his story is quickly spreading among sports enthusiasts and underdog supporters around the world. CNN