The world’s population is currently 7.98 billion people and predicted to exceed 9.8 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. How can we sustainably feed a growing population amongst a backdrop of environmental and political changes?
World Food Day, marked on 16th October 2022, provides an opportunity to highlight the work that scientists are undertaking to investigate new technologies and growing practices that can increase yields, both in the field and nutritionally, from food grown around the world.
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Food production has a significant impact upon the environment, particularly meat production, which emits greenhouse gases, pollutes water, causes deforestation and can enhance antibiotic resistance, to name a few. In the Nature Portfolio Bioengineering Community, Seren Kell shares new hopes for researchers creating meat grown from cells (which differentiate into muscle and fat), from biomass fermentation (where microorganisms produce animal proteins) or texturally recreated using crops. But how can sustainably produced meat be as tasty, affordable and convenient as traditional sources of protein? New researchers, from across the scientific fields, are needed.
Legumes benefit from a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in soils, making them ideal crops for sustainable agriculture, Jie Zhao and Huadong Zang write in the Nature Portfolio Bioengineering Community. In China, legumes have been planted for hundreds of years to boost soil fertility and maintain a high crop yield, with new research suggesting that legume-based crop rotations can increase subsequent crop yield by 20%. Adopting such a farming practice could help increase yields of staple crops to support food production globally.
Enormous amounts of food are thrown away each day, but could there be a way of using food residues to boost cardiovascular health? Mônica Volino-Souza and Thiago Alvares address this in the Nature Portfolio Sustainability Community. Food residues and by-products generated by the food industry include rinds, peels and seeds. Researchers investigated whether watermelon rind, an important source of the amino acid L-citrulline, could impact cardiovascular health The researchers harnessed new food technologies to microencapsulate watermelon rind and turned it into a consumable powder which improved the function of the endothelium associated with the arm's main artery.
Heat-tolerant wheat varieties are being bred to withstand rising global temperatures. In the Nature Portfolio Earth and Environment Community, Tianyi Zhang writes that breeders face a challenge in making both spring and winter wheat varieties heat-resistant in North America. At present, only new winter varieties are showing an improvement in resilience to heat compared to the old wheat varieties, with new spring varieties appearing to be more sensitive to heat than their predecessors. It can take 10 years to adopt new wheat varieties, therefore this research aims to provide new knowledge on wheat breeding which could help to accelerate the development of heat-tolerant wheat varieties.
Charlotte is a Freelance Research Content Manager at Springer Nature and is based in Birmingham. Her main focus is spotlighting the research published by Springer Nature through Behind the Paper blogs in the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Communities, and engaging audiences through social media content creation.