Related topics: plants · carbon dioxide · climate change

Nature's decline risks our quality of life

It is no secret that over the last few decades, humans have changed nature at an ever-increasing rate. A growing collection of research covers the many ways this is impacting our quality of life, from air quality to nutrition ...

Mutant roots reveal how we can grow crops in damaged soils

For years, conventional wisdom has held that roots don't grow as deep in hard soil because it's just too difficult for them to physically push through it. But our new research has unearthed another reason: their growth is ...

Hard to crack research reveals how crop roots penetrate hard soils

Scientists have discovered a signal that causes roots to stop growing in hard soils which can be 'switched off' to allow them to punch through compacted soil—a discovery that could help plants to grow in even the most damaged ...

Global trends in nature's contributions to people

In a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team co-led by the University of Minnesota, examined the risks to human well-being and prosperity stemming from ongoing environmental ...

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Crop yield

In agriculture, crop yield (also known as "agricultural output") is not only a measure of the yield of cereal per unit area of land under cultivation, it is also the seed generation of the plant itself, i.e. one grain of wheat produces a stalk yielding three grain, or 1:3. The figure, 1:3 is considered by agronomists as the minimum required to substain human life: one of the three seeds must be set aside for the next planting season, the remaining two either consumed by the grower, or one for human consumption and the other for livestock feed.

Historically speaking, a major increase in crop yield took place in the early eighteenth century with the end of the ancient, wasteful cycle of the three course system of crop rotation whereby a third of the land laid fallow every year -- and hence taken out of human food, and animal feed, production. It was to be replaced by the four-course system of crop rotation, devised in England in 1730 by Viscount Charles Townshend or "Turnip" Townshend during the British Agricultural Revolution as he was called by his early, but quickly converted, detractors. Both simple and obvious in hindsight, the new procedure was nothing short of revolutionary. In the first year wheat or oats were planted; in the second year barley or oats; in the third year clover, rye, rutabaga and/or kale was planted; in the fourth year turnips were planted but not harvested. Instead, sheep were driven on to the turnip fields to eat the crop, trample the leavings under their feet into the soil, and by doing all this, the sheep also fertilized the land with their droppings. In the fifth year (or first year of the new rotation), the cycle began once more with a planting of wheat or oats, in an average, a thirty percent increased yield.

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