Cocoa Production Tied to Mosquito Pollinization


The yield of a cocoa tree depends much more on how many blossoms are pollinated by mosquitos than its supply of water, light, and nitrogen.

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Press release: Mosquitos provide better cocoa harvest

Nr. 109/2010 – 01.06.2010

Mosquitos provide better cocoa harvest

(pug) The yield of a cocoa tree depends much more on how many blossoms are pollinated by mosquitos than its supply of water, light, and nitrogen. This is what agricultural ecologists of the University Göttingen recently found out in Indonesia. The stagnation of world-wide cocoa production is driving up prices for cocoa beans and is leading to bottlenecks in the industry: so far, efforts to raise the agricultural output concentrated either on the cultivation of more productive and more resistant varieties or an increase of the yield through greater use of fertilizers and light. “So far, the role of pollination has remained largely unnoticed,“ states the Göttingen agricultural ecologist Dr. Yann Clough, who conducted the investigations. The scientists published the results of their research in the online edition of the journal “Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics”.

On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the Göttingen researchers investigated the conditions under which cocoa trees can benefit from increased pollination. In their experiment, they manually pollinated 10, 40, 70, or 100 percent of a cocoa plant’s blossoms. At the same time, they altered the respective avalability of water, light, and nitrogen. Just an increase from 10 to 40 percent in the pollination intensity of the blossoms was sufficient to double the yield of the tree. “In nature, pollination rates of at most 10 percent are assumed. The potential for an increase of yield is therefore enormous,” explains Dr. Clough.

The cocoa tree, which grows to between 3 and 20 meters, is unique as an agricultural crop in many ways: the fruit with the beans used for the production of cocoa is located directly on the trunk and the blossoms are – unlike, for example, coffee – not pollinated by bees but tiny mosquitos. ” In order to increase the pollination intensity, and therefore the yield of a cocoa tree, the mosquito population in the plantations has to be deliberately promoted,“ says Dr. Clough.

Original publication: Groeneveld, J.H., Tscharntke, T., Moser, G., Clough, Y. Experimental evidence for stronger cacao yield limitation by pollination than by plant resources. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. DOI:10.1016/j.ppees.2010.02.005

Contact adress:
Dr. Yann Clough
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Department of Crop Sciences
Agricultural Ecology
Waldweg 26, 37073 Göttingen
Telefon (0551) 39-22358

Climatic Change Images Correlate with US Military Conflicts

When military campaigns end the momentum often leads to conflicts with nature.

The Visual Framing of the Three Cycles of Climate Control in the New York Times 1851 to Present

This research explored the visual framing of climate control in The New York Times through three cycles of media history. Although no peer-reviewed study has explored this specific topic, a wealth of prior communication articles on both the visual and textual aspects of climate change and geoengineering in the media was mined in order to discover the frames present. Once the visual frames of climate control (war, fix, people, and impacts) were revealed a content analysis was conducted in order to see which frame elements were most and least frequent considering the images of climate control. When combining all three cycles the frame with the highest overall mean was the fix frame (M=1.7517, SD=1.34128) indicating that it is the most occurring climate control frame per image. The frame with the lowest overall mean was the war frame (M=.5137, SD=1.02544). Frame frequency from cycle to cycle was relatively constant since only the impacts frame had a significant mean difference between cycle one and cycle two (M= .72453, p= .042). This initial analysis did not provide support for Downs issue-attention cycle theory. Although when the frame element frequencies were graphed three spikes were separated by three valleys considering climate control imagery in The New York Times through about one and half centuries. This information can go towards making correlations with: events, exposure to certain stimuli, and judging effectiveness of communication strategies over time. The discussion considered whether currently the war and fix frames could be too small in order to produce effective communication with a distrustful public. Also the recent people frame increase correlates with non-acceptance regarding climate change considering Republicans.


Hempcrete Rediscovered


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According to this article:

Hempcrete was discovered in a bridge abutment in France built in the 6th century. Since its rediscovery it has seen growing use in Europe. Industrial hemp is grown by certified commercial growers so the crop can be certified to be very low in THC. Hemp is not psychoactive. Given it has survived 14 centuries, people expect hempcrete buildings will have a long life.

It goes on to say:

Hempcrete is a bio-composite made of the inner woody core of the hemp plant mixed with a lime-based binder. The hemp core or “Shiv” has a high silica content which allows it to bind well with lime. This property is unique to hemp among all natural fibers. The result is a lightweight cementitious insulating material weighing about a seventh or an eighth of the weight of concrete. Fully cured hempcrete blocks float in a bucket of water. It is not used as a structural element, only as insulating infill between the frame members though it does tend to reduce racking. All loads are carried by internal framing. Wood stud framing is most common making it suitable for low-rise construction. Hempcrete buildings ten stories high have been built in Europe.


Automobiles Autonomous Help 3rd World?

This article talks about:

5.9 Developing countries

Third world countries struggle with a lack of transportation infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and public transport, which is impeding their economic development. Adoption of AVs by these developing countries may spare them the costs associated with expanding capital-intensive infrastructure. A similar paradigm was seen when developing countries leap-frogged over to mobile phone technology which exempted them from expensive landline infrastructure [7, 59].

Autonomous vehicles: challenges, opportunities, and future implications for transportation policies

Car and Driver might have to change their name to Car and Rider?

On the Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and Its Implications

Richard S. Lindzen1 and Yong-Sang Choi2

1 Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, U. S. A. 2 Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea

Abstract: We estimate climate sensitivity from observations, using the deseasonalized fluctuations in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the concurrent fluctuations in the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) outgoing radiation from the ERBE (1985-1999) and CERES (2000- 2008) satellite instruments. Distinct periods of warming and cooling in the SSTs were used to evaluate feedbacks. An earlier study (Lindzen and Choi, 2009) was subject to significant criticisms. The present paper is an expansion of the earlier paper where the various criticisms are taken into account. The present analysis accounts for the 72 day precession period for the ERBE satellite in a more appropriate manner than in the earlier paper. We develop a method to distinguish noise in the outgoing radiation as well as radiation changes that are forcing SST changes from those radiation changes that constitute feedbacks to changes in SST. We demonstrate that our new method does moderately well in distinguishing positive from negative feedbacks and in quantifying negative feedbacks. In contrast, we show that simple regression methods used by several existing papers generally exaggerate positive feedbacks and even show positive feedbacks when actual feedbacks are negative. We argue that feedbacks are largely concentrated in the tropics, and the tropical feedbacks can be adjusted to account for their impact on the globe as a whole. Indeed, we show that including all CERES data (not just from the tropics) leads to results similar to what are obtained for the tropics alone – though with more noise. We again find that the outgoing radiation resulting from SST fluctuations exceeds the zerofeedback response thus implying negative feedback. In contrast to this, the calculated TOA outgoing radiation fluxes from 11 atmospheric models forced by the observed SST are less than the zerofeedback response, consistent with the positive feedbacks that characterize these models. The results imply that the models are exaggerating climate sensitivity.

Crickets from the media…..

Free Speech and Climate Change

THE TIME, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defence would be necessary of the “liberty of the press” as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government. No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preceding writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place. Though the law of England, on the subject of the press, is as servile to this day as it was in the time of the Tudors, there is little danger of its being actually put in force against political discussion, except during some temporary panic, when fear of insurrection drives ministers and judges from their propriety; 1 and, speaking generally, it is not, in constitutional countries, to be apprehended, that the government, whether completely responsible to the people or not, will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of the public. Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

John Stuart Mill (1806–1873).  On Liberty.  1869.

Bad Media or Bad Audience?

Many people today say the media is to blame for everything. I think the problem is with the audience.

  1. The audience has no time. The average news consumer can only afford 10 seconds of concentration per day.
  2. We want good news but we don´t want to pay for it.
  3. We want good journalists but we will not protect them if they tell the truth.
  4. If you want to read an article about something you have 100 choices to read it on the internet.
  5. The audience lacks critical thinking skills. These have been cut for technical classes.

Costa Rica´s Jungle Train Offtrack

The old train station in Limon looks vacant. A few trains come in said one of the locals but it looks like it has seen better days. The train to Limon was just as important as the Panama canal? So why has the train fell off the tracks? Whatever the reason the result is more traffic and more traffic jams on the road from San Jose to Limon.

(The track offers a splendid introduction to the magnificent jungle-clad mountain landscape of Costa Rica. The line, with its 100 miles of embankments and dizzying trestles, took 20 years to complete. Malaria, dysentery and heat exhaustion are said to have buried 4,000 men who worked on it, Chinese, Italians and Hondurans – more even than the cutting of the Panama Canal – and only the laborers brought over from Jamaica proved strong enough to survive the punishing work. But when the track was opened, it shortened the trip to Europe, which had until then included a trip round Cape Horn, by three months.)

Sorry, you can’t ride the train to Limon anymore. The extensive miles of iron tracks, on which the train potently ran at one time, fell into disrepair years ago. The Costa Rican government shut down the train in December of 1990 after one hundred years of service. The inclemency of our tropical rains, irregular topography and constant mudslides have prevented the famed jungle train from returning.

Due to extensive earth slides the line between Cartago and Turrialba was destroyed in 1988 which divided the railway network into two parts. A powerful earth quake damaged in 1991 the lines along the atlantic coast which, however, were reinstated within two weeks. The Atlantic banana transport line had become unprofitable already earlier, because of the exhaustion of the banana fields and the high current costs. Bananas are transported in the evening when tariffs are at their highest, and the power stations would not reduce the tariffs. Further reasons were the high personal costs due to overstaffing, and so the banana transports were transferred to trucks. As a consequence operation ceased in 1995. The atlantic overhead line was in competition with private copper thiefs dismantled. In 1997 and 1998 the country’s government made several efforts to privatise the railway. But the potential operators made too high demands on the state or wanted only to take over parts of the lines. As the overcharging of the roads increased constantly, it dawned on the government that without the railway nothing more was possible, which made the government to reactivate INCOFER. INCOFER took over operations and repaired the lines. Today both on the Pacific line and the banana transport line diesel locomotives are used. The only passenger train, an excursion train, is the Tico train of America Travel which underway stops at Rio Grande de Atenas where the railway museum is situated, and which then continues to Caldera. A branch line of 4,6 Kilometres from Salinas connects the former railway with the new harbour which in the seventies replaced the harbour at Puntarenas, which was no longer deep enough, and the entry of which is too narrow for container ships. The Tico train operates, however, only on 2,3 Kilometres on the harbour branch line as far as the beach at Caldera. The train consists of a GE diesel electric locomotive U11 B of 1979 (two of ten imported locomotives), with Caterpillar motors type 388 and 398 of 1100 HP at 6000 Volts, which can reach a maximum speed of 80 Kilometres per hour, weigh 64 tons, and are 38 feet long, 12 feet high and 9 feet large. Furthermore there are passenger coaches from 1941, from Germany (blue cars) with 46 seats, metal coloured cars from 1960, from Japan, and caboose cars. A timetable can be found at the Fahrplancenter. INCOFER has a very modest home page. There one can find some hopeful information, that the railway can be resurrected in three steps. First the banana transport lines at the Valle de la Estrella, later the other Atlantic lines and finally the Pacific line shall be put out to concession. Furthermore the substation at Tacares shall receive more power within the available possibilities.