In Our "Did You Know" Series We Share Interesting Facts About Plant Science And Agriculture.

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Did you know smart farming can be pocket-sized?

Smart farming is often associated with high-tech greenhouses and tractors, or drones hovering over large fields, however in many parts of the world, smart phones are the real game-changers. Smart phones are helping previously isolated smallholders to grow better crops and get better prices. For example, in India, apps help farmers monitor commodity prices of over 450 crop varieties, in 1300 mandis (local markets), and access forecasts from 3500 weather locations across an area covering 50,000 villages and 17 states.

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Did you know plants help develop COVID-19 vaccines?

Recent innovations in plant biotechnology are making a critical contribution to the future of human health. These techniques have enabled scientists to use plants as “bio-factories” to produce antibodies against cancer and vaccines including for influenza, dengue and now COVID-19. This area of science is also used to help support the emergency need for diagnostic kits and antiviral drugs.

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Did you know natural pesticides bring flavor to the table?

Many plant species including coffee, tea, black pepper, and chili peppers produce chemicals as a natural insecticide. The substances, including caffeine, theine, piperine (black pepper) and capsaicin (which makes peppers hot) are naturally produced by plants to protect against insects.

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Did you know famous gardens such as Versailles are attacked by invasive alien species?

At this time of year, you may notice bare branches and white webbing on box hedges and trees. These are tell-tale signs that an invasive alien species, the box tree moth* has taken up residence. They were unintentionally imported to Europe on box plants from Asia. Box tree moth caterpillars can defoliate and even kill carefully tended trees and hedges in just a few days. This does not only damage private gardens, but also iconic hedges found in gardens like Versailles, or indeed in Tervuren Park near Brussels!

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Did you know that genes transfer between species?

There is increasing evidence that genes can transfer naturally from microorganisms to more complex species such as insects, plants and humans. Well over 100 genes in the human genome ‘jumped’ from microorganisms. Although infrequent, this defies the commonly held belief that, in nature, genes can only be passed on from generation to generation within the same species. Plant scientists have used these natural mechanisms as a basis for applications including, development of suitable traits to improve crops.

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Did you know 60% of EU’s rural households do not have access to broadband internet?

Faster uptake of innovative digital and precision agriculture technologies will rely on rural populations having access to broadband internet. This will be critical for achieving the Farm to Fork Strategy's objectives of reducing environmental impact as well as saving costs & resources. 

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Did you know 1 gram of seeds can produce 9 tons of tomatoes?

We all love eating tomatoes, but we rarely link them to agricultural innovation. Open-fields farmers could expect to harvest up to 4 kilograms of tomatoes per square metre. In modern greenhouses, yields can be increased to 80 kilograms per square metre. This is a 20-fold increase while using four times less water!

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Did you know every 1°C rise in temperature could increase insect pest pressure by up to 25%?

Crops produced in Europe could be significantly impacted by climate change. Higher temperatures could trigger migration of insects from warmer southern to colder northern countries. Insect pests already reduce staple grain crops (wheat, rice, and maize) by an estimated 5 to 20%. Further yield losses due to increased insect pressure could increase by 10 to 25% per degree Celsius of warming. Such a reduction in yields would risk food security, quality, and local food production, resulting in increased food prices.

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Did you know 53% of EU food waste occurs at home?

This means we all have an important contribution to make. In Europe, 70% of EU food waste results from a combination of households, restaurants, catering services and retail, whereas the remaining 30% occurs on farms and during processing. Use of modern crop protection technologies have resulted in only 20% being lost to pests, weeds and diseases on farms.

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Did you know 69% of millennials post photos of their food on social media?

Have you also seen people photographing their meal and wondered why? Could this hint at a deeper transformation of eating habits? Millennials (age 21-35) are more likely than older generations to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and to buy products with a higher sustainability profile. A possible explanation could be that they see healthy and sustainable food as part of their identity. In addition, two thirds of EU consumers would be open to changing their food habits for environmental reasons but identifying sustainable food options remains a real challenge.

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Did You Know A Handful Of Healthy Soil Can Contain More Microorganisms Than There Are People On Earth?

It is calculated that one gram of healthy soil can contain up to 1 Billion microorganisms and several meters of fungal hyphae. This is particularly important as soil microbes are fundamental to not only soil fertility but also, they are key providers of all types of environmental services.

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Did You Know Nitrous Oxide Gas Is 265 Times More Greenhouse Warming Than CO2?

Nitrogen is essential for all living organisms. Its availability is one of the key factors determining agricultural productivity. Although nitrogen is present in large quantities in the air, it is not sufficiently available to crops. Farmers use fertilizers to make nitrogen available for their crops. However, nitrogen use efficiency is low as only about half the nitrogen applied through fertilizers is absorbed by crops. The rest remains in soil, leaches into ground and surface waters or is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia and/or nitrous oxide gas.

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Did You Know Apples Have Twice As Many Genes As Humans?

The Apple Genome Project and other studies allowed an international group of scientists to successfully sequence the apple genome and use the information to compare hundreds of different apple varieties. They discovered that apples have a genome twice as large as humans (approximately 57,000 genes) and that today’s apples all originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where wild apples still flourish.

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Did You Know That Chihuahuas Have Something In Common With Cabbages?

Today’s pet dogs were domesticated over thousands of years from wolves, thanks to selective breeding and domestication by man. The same selective approach was used to breed many of the vegetable varieties we eat today from naturally occurring wild species. For example did you know that cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts all originated from the same wild plant?

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Plants Are Also Infected By Viruses

The Corona Virus is having a serious impact on all our lives. But viruses are not only a serious threat for humans, they can also infect plants. Insects, such as aphids which feed on plants can transmit viruses from one plant to another including many important crops that farmers grow for us to eat.

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Quantities Of Pesticides Applied On Farms Have Reduced By Over 95% Since 1960!

In our efforts to make things even better, we sometimes forget to look back and recognise what’s been achieved in the past.

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Sexual Confusion Can Help Make Wine?

Mating disruption or in French ‘la confusion sexuelle’ is one such approach.

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Did You Know That MRLs Are Commercial Standards, Not Safety Standards?

Pesticides which are used by farmers to control pests and diseases can leave detectable traces of residues on crops when harvested.

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Agricultural Sustainability Can Be Measured - But It’s Not Easy!

Have you ever wondered how measuring agricultural sustainability works in practice, or how the EU's Farm to Fork sustainability objectives can be achieved? Management guru Peter Drucker is known for his statement: “You can't manage what you can't measure”. In other words, without measurement, it is not possible to know whether you succeeded or not.

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