Thursday, 19 June 2014

"Super" banana to face first human trial

"Super" banana to face first human trial
SYDNEY: A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday.

The project plans to have the special banana varieties -- enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A -- growing in Uganda by 2020.

The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon.

"Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food," said project leader Professor James Dale.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to see conclusive results by year end.

"We know our science will work," Professor Dale said.

"We made all the constructs, the genes that went into bananas, and put them into bananas here at QUT."

Dale said the Highland or East African cooking banana was a staple food in East Africa, but had low levels of micro-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron.

"The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000-700,000 children world-wide dying ... each year and at least another 300,000 going blind," he said.

Researchers decided that enriching the staple food was the best way to help ease the problem.

While the modified banana looks the same on the outside, inside the flesh is more orange than a cream colour, but Dale said he did not expect this to be a problem.

He said once the genetically modified bananas were approved for commercial cultivation in Uganda, the same technology could potentially be expanded to crops in other countries -- including Rwanda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

"In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well," he said.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Living Lawn Mowers on Roof Garden

Living Lawn Mowers on Roof Garden

Vertical Gardening For Space Utilization and Landscaping

This time of year provides good “thinking” time regarding gardening. It is a time to look back on what went well and what could stand some improvement.

For example, if it seems that your yard needs some more oomph or pizzazz, but you can’t quite put your green thumb on what would help, try looking up and consider growing more plants vertically. It’s a change of perspective that adds interest to your outdoor living space.

Climbing plants are somehow more welcoming, with their living beauty embracing you. In addition, if your yard space is limited, trellises and other support structures make the most of the space you have. Because vines grow upward, you don’t have to worry about them spreading. Also, you may be able to use previously unused areas to add color and interest.

It’s wise to consider the structures you will use before buying plants. Metal, wood, plastic — what fits your garden’s style? What materials do you already have in fences, for example, that would harmonize with a new vine support? Supports can include arbors, trellises, tepees made of branches or bamboo, cages (tomato or bird), string, fences or a major structure such as a pergola.

While a rustic-looking trellis you make from the leftover trimmings from a tree will look charming in a casual garden, it might look out of place in a more formal garden or near a house of modern architecture. Use a design that goes well with its surroundings. Light-colored or white supports create a bold contrast to the mostly green plants that will grow on them. Brown and green structures blend more readily into their surroundings.

Vines can hide or soften fences or other things you’d like to hide. The “cyclone fence” in my backyard looks ever so much better with grapes growing on it. A smaller, softer vine like a passionflower can do wonders to make a sturdy wooden fence seem less so. If you have a dead tree that it would be difficult to remove, plant something substantial-looking, such as a climbing hydrangea, near it. Screen the view of your compost pile, perhaps, or of your neighbor’s backyard.

Consider scale when choosing a support, keeping in mind the plant with which you’d like to pair it. Some vines, such as wisteria or climbing roses, get thick and heavy and need some heft in their support, but a morning glory or moonflower would look out of place on a structure made of two by fours.

Some ideas for vines you might try include morning glory, sweet peas, clematis, scarlet runner beans, sugar snap peas, hops, passionflower, climbing roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, grapes, climbing hydrangea, wisteria, trumpet vine, kiwi and moonflower. And I love my mandevilla on the arbor straddling a flagstone path, even if it takes extra care to keep it alive over the winter.
Building a structure for a vining plant might be a good winter project. Next spring, as you install it before planting, be sure to set it securely, as this is something you want to get right the first time. Set it in the ground even deeper than you might think necessary. Large, heavy structures might need concrete footings.

With some planning, a vertical garden is delightful — it may even become the focal point for your outdoor living area. With its beauty displayed right at eye level, it will be a feast for your senses.
Vertical Gardening For Space Utilization and Landscaping