Cashew gum hydrogel as an alternative to minimize the effect of drought stress on soybean

The use of hydrogels helps the production of plants in drought-stress environments. Thus, this work evaluated using different hydrogels to minimize drought stress in soybean cultivation. The treatments employed two different hydrogels, one already commercialized and the other produced with cashew gum (Anacardium occidentale), five levels (0, 30, 60, 120, and 240 mg pot-1) of the hydrogels, and two levels of drought stress in sandy soil. The growth and yield of soybeans and the levels of macro- and micronutrients in soybeans were evaluated. The use of CG hydrogel promoted 12% increase in protein content in the seeds in the when soybean plants were subjected to drought stress. The levels of 30 mg pot-1, corresponding to 7.5 kg ha-1, improved the 'morphological and productive parameters of the soybeans. The increasing levels of hydrogel promoted the increase in P, K, Ca, Mg, and Fe and reduced S and Cu on an exponential scale. The use of cashew gum hydrogel increased the K and Ca contents in soybean seeds compared to commercial hydrogel.

Advancements in peanut mechanization: Implications for sustainable agriculture

Context: Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) hold significant global economic and nutritional importance, positioning them as a crucial crop in the realm of sustainable agriculture. In this comprehensive systematic and meta-analytic review, we thoroughly examine the extensive research and innovative strategies related to mechanizing peanut farming, with a specific focus on activities encompassing tilling, sowing, and harvesting. Objective: Our primary aim is to provide a meticulous and analytical exploration of the far-reaching implications of mechanization in peanut production. We emphasize the urgent need for cost-effective, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable practices. Methods: Through a rigorous analysis of existing literature, we unveil the multifaceted impacts of mechanization on factors such as yield, quality, and losses in peanut cultivation. To ensure a comprehensive analysis, we primarily concentrated on peer-reviewed articles sourced from distinguished databases such as Scopus® and Web of Science™. Specifically, our review encompasses studies published between 1989 and 2022, covering a diverse collection of bibliographic resources. This range spans from the inception of the term “mechanizable peanut” to the most recent publications in these interdisciplinary databases. To refine our search, we developed research-specific search strings by combining relevant keywords, including “PEANUT”, “TILLAGE”, “SOWING”, “DIGGING”, “HARVESTING”, and/or “MATURITY”, along with appropriate Boolean operators. A team of reviewers meticulously evaluated the readability, consistency, and eligibility of papers by scrutinizing titles, highlights, abstracts, keywords, as well as materials and methods sections. We selectively included papers that aligned with our research scope, while excluding studies related to intercropping, rotation systems, fertilization, pests and diseases, and manual labor-related operations. Results and conclusions: Our findings highlight the potential for increased productivity and quality in agricultural systems that embrace mechanization, all while minimizing losses and their environmental impact. To optimize yield and quality while reducing losses, it is imperative for stakeholders to collaborate and endorse conservationist tillage practices, precision sowing techniques, and advanced harvesting methods. Significance: This meta-review serves as a call to action directed at the scientific community, policymakers, and producers, urging them to prioritize the integration of mechanization into peanut farming. This approach not only advances sustainable agricultural practices but also addresses the growing global demand for this essential crop. By examining advancements in conservationist tillage, precision sowing, and harvesting methodologies, we equip stakeholders with the knowledge required to enhance peanut cultivation. We particularly emphasize the importance of harnessing cutting-edge technologies, such as remote sensing for maturity prediction, to facilitate informed decision-making in the field.

Maize/peanut rotation intercropping improves ecosystem carbon budget and economic benefits in the dry farming regions of China

Monoculture is widely practiced to increase crop productivity, but long-term adaptation has drawbacks as it increases the depletion of soil nutrients and reduces soil quality, especially in dryland areas. Conversion from traditional maize monoculture to intercropping improves sustainable production. However, maize/peanut intercropping, especially rotation of planting strips impacts of maize/peanut intercropping in dryland on carbon (C) budgets and economic benefits remain unclear. In this study, a 5-year field experiment was conducted to evaluate the influence of maize/peanut intercropping with rotation of planting strips on soil health, indirect CO2-eq greenhouse gas emissions, and ecosystem C inputs. Four intercropping treatments viz. maize monoculture, peanut monoculture, maize/peanut intercropping, and maize/peanut rotation-intercropping were tested from 2018 to 2022. Maize/peanut rotation intercropping significantly improved the land equivalent ratio followed by intercropping and monoculture. Rotation-intercropping also improved economic benefits over intercropping and monoculture which were mainly associated with increased peanut yield where the border rows contributed the maximum, followed by the middle rows. Moreover, rotation-intercropping significantly increased the soil organic C and nitrogen (N) content. Rotation-intercropping decreased indirect CO2-eq greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystem C inputs by 3.11% and 18.04%, whereas increased ecosystem C outputs and net ecosystem C budget by 10.38% and 29.14%, respectively, over the average of monoculture. On average for intercropping and monoculture, rotation-intercropping increased ecosystem C emission efficiency for economic benefits by 51.94% and 227.27% in 2021 and 2022, respectively, showing the highest C utilization efficiency than other treatments. In the long run, maize/peanut rotation-intercropping can be practiced in dryland agriculture to achieve sustainable agriculture goals.

A feasible re-use of an agro-industrial by-product: Hazelnut shells as high-mass bio-aggregate in boards for indoor applications

The present work investigates the feasibility of producing boards, with unconventional materials, namely hazelnut shells as a high-mass bio-aggregate and a sodium silicate solution as a no-toxic adhesive, and discusses possible applications based on an extensive characterization. The aim is to define a feasible reuse of a largely produced agro-industrial by-product to reduce the high environmental impact caused by both the construction and the agriculture sectors, by proposing a building composite that improves indoor comfort. The presented combination of aggregate-adhesive generated a product with characteristics interesting to explore. The thermal conductivity is moderated, and the composite achieved values of σmax = 0.39 N/mm² for flexural strength and σmax = 2.1 N/mm² for compressive strength, but it showed high sorption capacity with a moisture buffering value of about 3.45 g/(m² %RH), and a peak of sound absorption between 700 and 900 Hz. Therefore, the boards' most promising performance parameters seem to be their high hygroscopicity and acoustic absorption behaviour, namely in the frequency range of the human voice. Hence, the proposed composite could improve indoor comfort if applied as an internal coating board.

The INC Advances in the Implementation of its Sustainability Agenda

The INC is committed to supporting the nut and dried fruit industry and member companies in their sustainable journeys. To do so, three objectives have been identified where we could all come together and make a difference.
  1. Safety-net: Monitoring sustainability policies to ensure regulations are achievable and commercially feasible.
  2. Knowledge-share: Increasing the understanding of sustainability challenges and opportunities through communication, awareness and partnerships.
  3. Positive-messaging: Disseminating the improvements the sector is implementing.

The Sustainability Agenda requires working collaboratively with stakeholders. As a first step, the INC created an international working group with experts from both the academic and the private sector that will serve as a repository of key talking points and fact-based information across the nut and dried fruit sector.

Through its Sustainability Manifesto, the INC publicly calls for the nut and dried fruit industry to accelerate sustainability commitments that are tangible, quantifiable and measurable. The INC believes that all actors throughout the supply chain can take action to tangibly improve and communicate how the industry has an impact on sustainability and contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. [Manifesto]

In addition, as part of its mission to stimulate and facilitate sustainable growth of the global Nut and Dried Fruit Industry, the INC has identified a shortlist of focus Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the sector. It is conceived as a guide for companies to help them incorporate the SDGs into their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies, identify specific metrics and indicators and implement concrete actions. [Focus SDGs]

High-Nut Diet Associated with Large Gains in Life Expectancy

Sustained shift toward a healthier diet can increase lifespan by up to 10 years

A recent study published in Nature Food used prospective population-based cohort data to show the effects on life expectancy of switching from an unhealthy diet to a longevity-associated dietary pattern over the long term.

Using data from the UK Biobank database on 467,354 participants, the researchers estimated the life expectancy gains associated with a sustained change from median or unhealthy dietary patterns to a longevity-associated dietary pattern.

The findings showed that sustained dietary change from unhealthy to longevity-associated dietary patterns was associated with gains in life expectancy of 10.8 and 10.4 years in men and women, respectively. The longevity-associated dietary pattern had a high intake of dairy, vegetables, nuts and legumes; moderate intakes of whole grains, fruit, fish and white meat; a relatively low intake of eggs, red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages; and a low intake of refined grains and processed meat.

The biggest gains in life expectancy were associated with increased intake of whole grains and nuts, and with reduced intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats. The researchers concluded that these food groups should be specific targets for clinicians in the guidance of patients and for policymakers in the development of public health policy.

Fadnes, L. T., Celis-Morales, C., Økland, J. M., Parra-Soto, S., Livingstone, K. M., Ho, F. K., Pell, J. P., Balakrishna, R., Javadi Arjmand, E., Johansson, K. A., Haaland, Ø. A., & Mathers, J. C. (2023). Life expectancy can increase by up to 10 years following sustained shifts towards healthier diets in the United Kingdom. Nature Food, 4(11), 961–965.

Walnut-Enriched Diet Changes Serum Oxylipin Profile in Healthy Older Adults

Oxylipins play a role in cardiovascular disease and aging

A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition investigated the long-term effects of walnut consumption on the generation and metabolism of serum oxylipins, which play a role in cardiovascular disease and aging.

Oxylipins are derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Walnuts are a source of α-linolenic acid, the primary plant-derived omega-3 PUFA.

This was a substudy of the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study, a dual-center, single-blind, randomized controlled trial. A total of 115 participants aged 63 to 79 years were randomly assigned to receive either a diet enriched with walnuts at ≈15% energy (30–60 grams/day) or a control diet (abstention from walnuts) over a period of two years.

Serum concentrations of 53 oxylipins were measured in all participants at baseline and post-intervention. Two-year concentration changes were calculated and group differences were assessed for age, sex, body mass index and baseline concentration of each oxylipin.

The study found that, compared to the walnut-free diet, supplementation with walnuts at ≈15% energy increased the serum concentrations of most examined oxylipins derived from α-linolenic acid. These findings add novel mechanistic evidence on the cardioprotective effects of walnuts.

This study was supported by a grant from the California Walnut Commission.

Cofán, M., Checa, A., Serra-Mir, M., Roth, I., Valls-Pedret, C., Lopez-Illamola, A., Doménech, M., Rajaram, S., Lázaro, I., Sabaté, J., Ros, E., Wheelock, C. E., & Sala-Vila, A. (2023). A Walnut-Enriched Diet for 2 Years Changes the Serum Oxylipin Profile in Healthy Older Persons. The Journal of Nutrition, S0022-3166(23)72794-6. Advance online publication.


Prune Supplementation May Mitigate Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women

Eating prunes improved immune, inflammatory and oxidative stress markers

A study published in The Journal of Nutrition sheds new light on the effect of prune consumption on bone loss in postmenopausal women. Specifically, given that an elevated inflammatory profile may be linked to accelerated postmenopausal bone loss, the researchers investigated the impact of prune supplementation on immune, inflammatory and oxidative stress markers.

This was an ancillary study of a larger 12-month randomized controlled trial called the Prune Study. A total of 183 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 75 years completed the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a “no-prune” control group, a group that ate 50 grams of prunes per day, and a group that ate 100 grams of prunes per day. Blood samples were collected at baseline and after 12 months of intervention.

The researchers found that dietary supplementation with 50-100 grams of prunes daily for 12 months reduced proinflammatory cytokine secretion from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and suppressed the circulating levels of activated monocytes. These findings suggest that eating prunes may have a role to play in reducing the effects of bone loss in postmenopausal women.

This study was supported by the California Prune Board.

Damani, J. J., Oh, E. S., De Souza, M. J., Strock, N. C., Williams, N. I., Nakatsu, C. H., Lee, H., Weaver, C., & Rogers, C. J. (2023). Prune Consumption Attenuates Proinflammatory Cytokine Secretion and Alters Monocyte Activation in Postmenopausal Women: Secondary Outcome Analysis of a 12-Mo Randomized Controlled Trial: The Prune Study. The Journal of Nutrition, S0022-3166(23)72732-6. Advance online publication.


Desensitization and remission after peanut sublingual immunotherapy in 1- to 4-year-old peanut-allergic children: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Background: Prior studies of peanut sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) have suggested a potential advantage with younger age at treatment initiation. Objective: We studied the safety and efficacy of SLIT for peanut allergy in 1- to 4-year-old children. Methods: Peanut-allergic 1- to 4-year-old children were randomized to receive 4 mg peanut SLIT versus placebo. Desensitization was assessed by double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) after 36 months of treatment. Participants desensitized to at least 443 mg peanut protein discontinued therapy for 3 months and then underwent DBPCFC to assess for remission. Biomarkers were measured at baseline and longitudinally during treatment. Results: Fifty participants (25 peanut SLIT, 25 placebo) with a median age of 2.4 years were enrolled across 2 sites. The primary end point of desensitization was met with actively treated versus placebo participants having a significantly greater median cumulative tolerated dose (4443 mg vs 143 mg), higher likelihood of passing the month 36 DBPCFC (60% vs 0), and higher likelihood of demonstrating remission (48% vs 0). The highest rate of desensitization and remission was seen in 1- to 2-year-olds, followed by 2- to 3-year-olds and 3- to 4-year-olds. Longitudinal changes in peanut skin prick testing, peanut-specific IgG4, and peanut-specific IgG4/IgE ratio were seen in peanut SLIT but not placebo participants. Oropharyngeal itching was more commonly reported by peanut SLIT than placebo participants. Skin, gastrointestinal, upper respiratory, lower respiratory, and multisystem adverse events were similar between treatment groups. Conclusion: Peanut SLIT safely induces desensitization and remission in 1- to 4-year-old children, with improved outcomes seen with younger age at initiation.

Shipping Disruptions Continue in Red Sea

Commercial vessels transiting the region remain under threat

Disruptions in one of the world’s most critical shipping lanes continued this week as Houthi rebels defiantly continued their attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea despite strikes by US-led forces against targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen.

The latest alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration states: “There continues to be a high degree of risk to commercial vessels transiting the Southern Red Sea between 12N and 16N. While the decision to transit remains at the discretion of individual vessels and companies, it is recommended that U.S. flag and U.S. owned commercial vessels remain North of 18N in the Red Sea or East of 46E in the Gulf of Aden until further notice.”

A growing number of shipping companies have stopped using the Red Sea passage amid the escalating situation. As of January 17, the logistics company Kuehne+Nagel had identified 334 vessels impacted by the Red Sea situation, representing an estimated total capacity of 4.42 million TEU. The global shipping news service TradeWinds reported that Red Sea war risk insurance rates could soon exceed 1% of hull value, up from about 0.5% prior to this week’s Houthi attacks.