Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Cockroach May Pollinate Flowers Extremely Rare Find

In the scrub lands of central Chile, wild roaches are feeding on pollen and may even be helping plants to propagate.

Caroline Plouff

They may be reviled as a scourge of urban living, but most of the world's cockroaches don't scurry anywhere near a city.

A whopping 99 percent of the 4,500 known cockroach species thrive in wild places, playing vital roles in ecosystems ranging from the rain forests of Brazil to the deserts of Saudi Arabia.

Now, a new study reveals that the cockroach Moluchia brevipennis, native to central Chile's scrublands, feeds on flower pollen—and may even pollinate plants.

"People think of them as being in the streets or in the trash, but there are these wild cockroaches hanging out at the tops of tall flowers," says study co-author Cristian Villagra, an entomologist at the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la EducaciĆ³n in Santiago, Chile.

Pollinating cockroaches are exceedingly rare: Only two species are known, one in French Guiana, the other on Malaysian Borneo. Then again, studies of wild cockroaches are also scarce, the researchers note in their paper, published recently in the journal Revista Brasileira de Entomologia.

Only 178 scientific papers have focused on this understudied group between 2000 and 2016, compared with tens of thousands of papers about more well-known insects such as ants and bees, according to the study authors.

For their research, Villagra and colleagues conducted the first-ever survey of M. brevipennis in various sites of Chile’s semi-arid Matorral region.

"Kids are not scared of cockroaches, but as they grow older and become adults, then they get freaked out by them," says Villagra, who is also a National Geographic Explorer. "We want to give people an opportunity to learn about these insects."

Roach Raids

For their research, Villagra and colleagues conducted the first-ever survey of M. brevipennis in various sites of the semi-arid Matorral region.

They team found that these cockroaches emerge at dusk to eat pollen from many native plant species, including evening primrose, and lay their eggs, or ootecae, only on a genus of bromeliad plants called Puya.

The entomologists suspect the cockroaches evolved to depend on native plants for shelter and food because it's a safer bet than non-natives: Endemic flora can best endure the dry, harsh climate, he says.

Insects eat pollen—essentially, plant sperm—because it’s a “really energy-packed, nice tasty treat,” says University of Arizona entomologist Katy Prudic.

For More Information: Christine Dell'Amore

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Top End cut flower grower is calling on next gen to get involved in the industry

Caroline Plouff

Jan Hintze has been involved in agriculture for nearly 40 years in the Top End, with the last 20 years dedicated to growing flowers.

Now in her 70s, Ms Hintze said the youngest person she knew in the industry was in their 50s.

"I put mostly this down to it is so much hard physical work that children of farmers look at what their parents are doing and think 'no, I'm not doing that'," she said.

"That's not always the case though, sometimes the children decide 'yes that is the way I want to live' but a lot of the time that doesn't happen."

But Ms Hintze said it is not only the cut flower industry that is struggling to attract young people, it is agriculture as a whole.

She said in order to change, the industry needed to highlight the benefits of being a farmer.
"We need to make sure the children that are coming along understand more about what is actually involved in farming," she said. 

"You don't need to spend fortunes at the gym because you have already walked 10 kilometers a day. It is a really great life."

When it comes to selling a life in the cut flower industry to the next generation, Ms Hintze said the focus should be on the beauty.

"There is a whole stack of upsides to it, it is a very good cash crop for starters, you have got an income coming from it every week," she said.

"You walk out and you see the flowers growing and they are so beautiful and you know that you are going to sell them to people who appreciate them.

"It makes a difference in their lives, whether it is for commemorative occasions or just a bunch of flowers to go on the dining room table, it lifts peoples spirits and it is fairly good to be in an industry that does that."

With just a handful of growers [six or seven] left in the industry in the Territory, Ms Hintze said the reality was if young people did not get involved in growing cut flowers, Australia would have to rely on imported flowers.

"We have introduced so many diseases and pests bringing flowers in from overseas that it has devastated various sectors of not only the flower industry but other horticulture areas as well," she said.

"We need to be able to look after Australian people with product that is grown to our standards.

"A lot of the flowers that come in from overseas have been sprayed, dipped and or treated … in systems of cultivation that don't meet our standards of chemical control which we would never be allowed to do if we were growing them and shifting them around Australia."

For More Information: Lydia Burton

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flowers for Vegetable Gardens

I have always been more of a practical gardener than an idealist. Although it is nice to have an array of pretty bedding flowers I am not inclined to invest the time or space for such luxuries: for me each plant has to earn its place in the garden and be productive in some way. This doesn’t mean that my vegetable plot is devoid of flowers however. Flowers play an important role in any organic garden but the criteria for selecting them are different to ornamental gardens – it’s not the size or color of the flowers that count but their attractiveness to the right kind of insects.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Google's new visual recognition app can identify flowers you don't know

Caroline Plouff

Google (GOOGL, GOOG) CEO Sundar Pichai announced a visual recognition product called the Google Lens on Wednesday at its Google I/O developer conference.

The Lens feature, which will be used on phones, sees what the viewer sees through the camera and provides information about the object. In a demonstration, Pichai showed the app correctly identifying a flower, inputting a Wi-Fi router’s password and SSID from the sticker, and giving a restaurant’s Google rating and reviews all when the phone camera was pointed at each object. Google wants to pre-empt your googling.

Google Lens follows other visual recognition products put out recently by other tech companies. Amazon, for instance, has had a product recognition tool built into its shopping app to allow users to see how much the company will undercut brick-and-mortar competitors for the same item. Samsung’s Bixby app can scan a photo of a business card and save the information as a contact, something more aligned with Google’s new capabilities.

Owering all this is new hardware from Google, Tensor Processing Units, or TPUs, which are behind Google’s AI training system. Users will never see these “deep learning” systems, however, because Google is all about the cloud doing the heavy lifting it takes for a computer to identify real-life stuff through its camera.

As the HBO show “Silicon Valley” illustrated on a recent episode with its “food Shazam” app, getting a camera to identify real-life stuff from a variety of angles, lighting situations, and with different phone cameras is quite the computational challenge. This time, however, Google isn’t buying these processors from Nvidia (NVDA), but is making its own, optimized to its software. (Nvidia was Yahoo Finance’s company of the year in 2016.)

For More Information: Ethan Wolff-Mann

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Perennial flowers that bloom all summer

Long-blossoming perennials make life simple for nursery workers who
hunger for shading all late spring. Undoubtedly, through cautious choice
and arranging, consistent succession of blossom can be accomplished
utilizing a large number of plants that bloom for however a concise
time. Yet, having enduring blossoms that sprout all late spring gives us
more space for mistake. Simply plant these workhorses in a place where
they will be glad and let them take the necessary steps for you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Plants for Europe launches new ranunculus at National Cut Flower Centre - Caroline PLouff

Plants for Europe's Graham Spencer says there has been supermarket interest after he used the National Cut Flower Centre to promote breeder John Fielding's new robust Rococo Ranunculus.

Caroline plouff

Rococo Ranunculus has been bred in England by Fielding and launched last week at an event at the National Cut Flower Center organized by Plants for Europe.

Spencer said: "The Rancorous event was very successful. We had visitors from cut flower growers, cut flower wholesalers and a major supermarket. We also had visitors from growers producing plants for gardens centers, a major mail order house as well as some garden writers/journalists. We are delighted with the outcome and will now move the project to the next stage, with further production trials and building stock up for a launch anticipated for 2019.

"Visitors were particularly impressed by the robust flower stems that support the flowers, the resistance of the flowers to damage, and the large number of flowers per stem. All four colors displayed received a positive response, with the pink candidate (seedling 2009-21) receiving the most favorable comments. Vase life trials are ongoing, with initial indications suggesting that a vase life around 14 days is typical.

"The trial at the Cut Flower Center has been an excellent opportunity to show these new varieties to interested parties – it has been very helpful for the independent breeder, John Fielding, who does not have extensive facilities of his own. We are very grateful to the Cut Flower Center for their support."

For More Information :  Matthew Apple