The Stream, August 14, 2020: New Technique Could Reduce the Amount of Water Used in Agriculture

The Global Rundown

A new gene-modification technique could produce higher crop yields and reduce the amount of water used on farms globally. Almost half of schools around the world lack basic handwashing facilities. Hundreds of homes in southern England have been out of water since Friday due to high demand. European cities are finding creative new ways to lower temperatures in urban areas. Farmers in Colorado are suffering at the hands of extreme drought in the state.

“It’s mentally taxing and exhausting.” – Matt Pieper, a farmer in Akron, Colorado. Extreme drought has taken hold of a large swath of Colorado counties and many dryland farmers in those counties are seeing corn crops die in the field. Pieper and other farmers in the area worry there might not be enough crop to make it worth harvesting this year. Colorado State University Water Resource Specialist Joel Schneekloth also said that if farmers don’t produce a profit, it will affect other industries in the area. The Denver Channel

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By The Numbers

43 The percentage of schools around the world that lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019, according to a new report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The report comes at a time when children are preparing to return to school even as Covid-19 continues to spread. The report concludes that to control the spread of the virus, governments must balance the need for implementation of public health measures with social and economic impacts of lockdown measures. WHO

300 The number of homes in southern England that have not had water since Friday when temperatures reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Others had intermittent supplies and low pressure. The lack of water has been blamed on an increase in demand due to high heat and the coronavirus lockdown. The area’s water supplier, South East Water, said it is working around the clock to restore supplies but said the process was “complex” and that supplies will continue to be “intermittent.” The Independent

Science, Studies, and Reports

A new technique for growing crops could produce higher yields and use less water. In a complex process, plants are modified with a protein found in algae, improving their photosynthesis and increasing growth while using a significantly less amount of water. In a new study, the process was successfully used on tobacco plants, soybeans, cowpea and rice. The research comes at a time where the agricultural industry is trying to meet the increased demand for food during a time where droughts are expected to become much more regular. Nature Plants

On the Radar

European cities are looking for new ways to handle climate change as heatwaves persist across the continent. The “urban heat island effect,” as it is often called, occurs in urban areas when water runs off surfaces into drains rather than being absorbed into the ground and vegetation is reduced. European cities have attempted to mitigate the problem in a myriad of ways, like creating temporary “outdoor living rooms” with drinking fountains and water spray misting machines and adding more water and reflective surfaces to urban architecture to cool the pavement and decrease the overall temperature. BBC

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