October 27, 2016

Health and Agricultural Advances

By Chelsea Follett
Prosthetic Limbs That Receive Brain Signals

As prosthetic limbs utilize cutting edge technology to become more “natural,” the possibility of regaining lost limbs appears to be closer than ever. Researchers at the University of Pittsburg are using electrodes to regain communication between the brain and limbs. The researchers identified parts of the brain that control the sensation of touch and then implanted electrodes in order to create feeling. During tests the results had a high rate of accuracy. With promising test results like that, there is reason to be optimistic about the potential of restoring the lost sense of touch.

Nitrogen Innovation Boosts Soy Production
 
Small changes in plants can lead to big improvements in plant productivity. Biologists from Washington State University have discovered ways to increase the production of soybean plants by maximizing naturally occurring processes. Soy plants have the ability ‘create’ nitrogen from the atmosphere. Nitrogen is a key component to plant growth and is often artificially provided by fertilizer. Protein helps move nitrogen to the parts of the plant that need it most. By increasing the amount of protein, researchers are able to increase nitrogen and the overall health of plants. There are two main benefits from this advancement. The first is that more soy can be produced. The second is that since the plant can get more nitrogen naturally, less fertilizer is needed. The researchers hope to apply this advancement to other crops and help increase food production. 

Fighting Crop Pests with Technology
 
Cowpea farmers in Nigeria have long been plagued by the local insect Maruca. This insect destroys crops and creates losses of up to 80 percent of farmers’ yield. Thankfully, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and the Institute for Agricultural Research have developed a cowpea that is resistant to this pest. Farmers will now be able to grow more of this crop without risking it being destroyed or having to spend their money on insecticides. The cost of insecticides really add up for small farmers, so this advancement will boost profits by limiting cost and improving yields.