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January 11 - Garden News

 

Garden News in Review by Wes Porter

Landscaping
- Barbra Streisands new book My Passion for Design, chronicles the painstaking creation of her four-house Malibu compound, explains Anne Kingston in Macleans. Koi fish in the natural stream are black and white to coordinate with the woodwork. And the diva disliked the idea of cow urine and buttermilk to darken the pale stonework of her primary residence, as recommended by Martha Stewart. Instead, she planted climbing roses and ivy.
- Rain gardens to reduce water runoff are increasingly popular with homeowners and municipalities and are mandatory in many U.S. municipalities. US Department of Agriculture scientists are finding ways to improve rain gardens so they not only reduce runoff, but also keep toxic metals out of storm drains, reports Agricultural Research magazine [Source: ScienceDaily].

Trees
- Three score and ten shalt thy life be on Earth, according to one usually reliable source. Clonal trees get around this by sprouting identical colonies over vast areas, notes New Scientist. A stand of clonal quaking aspens, Populus tremuloides, in Utah may be one of the oldest such examples. While the existing trees seem to be no more than 130 years old, parts of the roots have been dated to around 80,000 years old, says the weekly publication.
- The Tasmanian logging industry has agreed to phase out logging of native forests on the island in a landmark agreement with green groups and the state government, reported The Australian. Now the Wilderness Society is pushing for the same campaign to be extended to the mainland, despite claims from elsewhere that in fact logging of such areas will continue in Tasmania for over the next quarter-century.
- An unknown disease may be killing New Zealands plane trees, writes Stacey Kirk in the Manawatu Standard. While it is possibly due to anthracnose, a fungal disease that takes years to kill trees, tests have been inconclusive. Both oriental and London planes are valued street trees in the country.
- When New Zealands historic Blacketts Lighthouse was relocated from Maori Park to a nearby cliff site, no thought was given that a row of microcarpa trees blocked the lighthouse from the coastline view. Timara District Council district services manager Ashley Harper said he would consider removing the trees [Source: The Timara Herald]
- Vandals destroyed the Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, Somerset in western England prior to Christmas, reported The Daily Telegraph. The tree has roots dating back to the origins of Christianity 2,000 years ago when the original thorn was said to have been planted there by Joseph of Arimathea. Branches were hacked off overnight, leaving only part of the trunk. Police have not ruled out a religious motive, said the newspaper. The thorn tree was renowned for flowering twice every year, at Christmas and again at Easter. Several examples previous propagations of the tree remain in the vicinity [Additional Source: Daily Mail].
- Vancouvers push to become the worlds greenest city includes a bold new plan to plant 150,000 trees in the next decade, in what might be the largest urban tree planting campaign in Canadian history, writes Nancy MacDonald in Macleans magazine. The interim goal is to get 50,000 more in city-owned spaces within the next five years, plus businesses to plant a further 56,000 trees.

Roses
- Its only romantic for a man to leave a trail of rose petals if he then cleans up said rose petals, claims Sarah Silverman, presumably preparing for 14th February
- Miley Cyrus was reportedly considering performing the song Every Rose Has Its Thorn for the American Music Awards. She changed her mind when informed it is a cover of a song by Bret Michaels band, Poison and Michaels was rumoured to be at the centre of Cyrus parents divorce.
- The legendary performer Barbra Streisand is said to insist that rose petals be floating in the toilet bowls of her hotel rooms, according to Anne Kingston writing in Macleans.

Flowers
- Scientists have created an all-black petunia for this coming seasons British gardeners, reported the Daily Mail. Named Black Velvet, it is the result of natural breeding techniques by Ball Colegraves Jianping Ren in Banbury. The plants are expected to sell at 2 to 3 each for these bats out of hell.
- Professor Dave Goulson claims suburban gardens full of annual bedding plants from garden centres are such poor sources of pollen and nectar they might just as well be full of plastic flowers. The conservation biologist at Stirling University, U.K.s Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) is calling for garden centres to stock insect-friendly plants [Source: Horticulture Week].

Vegetables
- Carrots are alleged to be good for eyesight, but researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report they reduce the risk of suffering from heart disease and can protect against cancer as well. Sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins along with dark green vegetables are also recommended for similar protection [Source: The Daily Telegraph].
- The satirical Turnip Prize is awarded annually for bad art. The trophy consists of a turnip mounted on a six-inch rusty nail, the London, U.K.-based website says [Source: 24 Hours].
-Does a good frost improve the flavour of some hardy vegetables? I grow sprouts myself and they do taste better with a good frost before they are picked. They definitely become more sugary, celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson told the Mail on Sunday. Experienced gardeners have known the same applies to leeks and kale.
-Residents in Western Australias port of Esperance, 725 km north of Perth, have been warned against growing their own vegetables in an alarming new development in the towns ongoing lead contamination scandal, reports Perth Now. The warning came four years after the community was repeatedly showered with toxic lead carbonate dust from ship loading at the port.
-The recent short supply of Korean kimchi may be a nightmare for kimchi lovers but for those well-versed officials at the Agriculture and Food Agency of Taiwans Council of Agriculture this is the perfect opportunity to promote local vegetables to kimchi aficionados by way of kimchi DIY sessions for both fun and helping out winter farmers, writes The China Post.

Fruit & Nuts
-Save our monkeys dont feed the coconut sign seen at Briag Saen, Thailand by Rebecca Long and sent to The Daily Telegraph
-Salads: If You Have Tree Nut Allergies. Please Ask Your Server To Remove Your Nuts. Advice on the menu of the Brickyard Pub in Lewiston, New York and submitted to The Daily Telegraph by Vern Banks
-Eating purple fruit such as blueberries and drinking green tea can ward of Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons, a University of Manchester, U.K., report claims. The new research was published in the journal Archives of Toxicology [Source: ScienceDaily]
-They are a symbol of summer Down Under, but Aussie consumers will be lucky to find the iconic Kensington Pride mangoes in stores. It is just one of the many fruits and vegetables affected by extremely wet conditions in Australias principle farming areas at the close of 2010 [Source: The Courier-Mail].
-Claims for protection from pomegranate juice continue unabated. Recent research has suggested adding kidney disease, prostate, skin and breast cancer, even arthritis to a growing list of ailments relieved by use of the juice. An aggressive research program sponsored by California company Pom Wonderful previously linked the antioxidants in pomegranate juice to the fight against cancer, aging, cardiovascular disease and wait for it erectile dysfunction.

Beverages, Herbs & Spices
-Want to curry favour with your liver? Eat lots of curcumin, advises Celia Milne for Metro World News in London. Turmeric, which is loaded with curcumin can prevent and treat liver damage, suggests a new study in the laboratories of Saint Louis University. True but this and many other health benefits have been claimed for that essential ingredient of curries. It also permanently stains, neither of which Ms. Milne saw fit to mention.
-Good news and bad news for imbibers of red wine. Alois Jungbauer and colleagues at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, found really high activity for compounds in red wine that reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. But Jungbauer warns that the wines antidiabetic effects in people may not work like this and anyway, not all the wine compounds studied will be absorbed and available to the body to use [Source: New Scientist, Food and Function].
-University of Illinois scientists have learned how to mask the bitterness of ginseng, common ingredient of many energy drinks, reports ScienceDaily. Ginseng is known to have over 30 bitter compounds although researchers are unsure about the role of each.

Water Gardening
-Here's the very thing for the water gardener who desires the latest in aquatic life: plants that glow violet-blue under ultraviolet light. A team headed by Yen Hsun Su of the Research Center for Applied Sciences at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan, dipped Bacopa caroliana into a solution of gold nanoparticles, reported New Scientist. The effect, say researchers, lasted for from two weeks to two months.

Wildflowers
-Is the native coneflower, Echinacea, good for health? E. purpurea is the species that studies show is most beneficial for your health, according to Gene Stone, the best-selling health writer, interviewed by Kate Fillion for Macleans. The kind that was taken by Native Americans, E. angustifolia, turns out not to be the kind to take, which is counterintuitive because we like to think they knew it all, the author claimed.
-More than 35,000 new species of flowering plants may be lying undiscovered in cupboards around the world, it has been claimed by a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Of the 70,000 flowering plants experts believe are yet to be found, over half could already be in collections in about 3000 herbaria worldwide [Source: BBC science News].

Houseplants
-The Living Rock cactus, Ariocarpus fissuratus, of southwestern Texas, a small, ground-hugging, spineless succulent, copes with high temperatures by pulling itself deeper into the soil. It achieves this by contracting its roots, revealed a new study conducted by Dr. Gretchen North, published in the American Journal of Botany. Air temperatures in the cactus native habitat of the Chihuahuan Desert can reach over 36C and soil temperatures as high as 70C [Source: ScienceDaily].
-Its a thrillers, fillers and spillers style recommended for indoor planter combinations by Kathy Lalibert, director of gardening at Gardners Supply Company, Burlington, Vermont. Create a cool pot with one showcase plant, another that tucks under or fills in, and something else thats trailing. [Source: Metro]
-Ive never felt very warmly towards cactuses. Kate Weinberg, The Daily Telegraph
-WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange keeps his precious records, like many servers, in a futuristic bunker drilled into granite 100 feet below Stockholms Vito Berg Park. Designed by Swedish architects inspired by James Bond movie sets, the Bahnhof Internet service provider opened in 2008. The staff work areas include lush interior plantings kept alive by what the Daily Mail terms brilliant solar lighting and artificial waterfalls.

Orchids
-Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards allegedly killed an orchid in the main branch of the New York Public Library. Enjoying a cigarette prior to a guest appearance, Richards stubbed it out in the plants saucer. According to unnamed sources, ventilating the room with chilly air and the nicotine smoke caused the orchid to wilt and die. At least it wasnt the wacky weed.
-Natural reforestation of abandoned farmland in the southern Pyrenees favours the re-establishment of the lady slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus, which is endangered in some European countries. A 13-year study by researchers at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC) was published in the journal Conservation Biology [Source: ScienceDaily].

For the Birds
-Conservationists are blaming DDT contaminated sea lions for causing the California condors eggshells to become dangerously thin. The condors feed off sea lions that eat contaminated fish from an offshore dumping ground [Source: New Scientist].
-An Asian crow, capable of killing calves, kid goats and poultry, was on the loose in northern Queensland after reaching Australia by boat, according to Brisbanes The Courier-Mail. A Biosecurity Queensland spokeswoman told the newspaper: The pest is known to raid crops such as wheat, maize and sunflower as well as causing severe damage to vegetable and fruit crops including mangoes, guava, pawpaw, fig, apple, pear, grape and stone fruit.
-Birds exposed to mercury in their diet have a significantly higher chance of being gay, researchers at the University of Florida suggest [Sources: Toronto Sun, BBC News, Daily Mail]

The Good, the Bad and the Bugly
-Beneath its yellow and brown stripes, the oriental hornet, Vespa orientalis, packs a power cell that would turn an Energizer bunny green with envy, reports New Scientist. This insect is known for being able to trap sunlight, converting it to electricity. Thanks to research at Tel Aviv University, Israel, we now know more about how its done [Source: Naturwissenschaften].
-Okanagan orchardists have labelled an introduced fly that destroyed $2 million-worth of fruit last season the mad fly disease of the cherry industry. They fear the damage caused by the spotted wing drosphila, native to Japan, may be worse this coming summer. A species of vinegar fly, it was first detected in Kelowna, B.C. in 2009. There is no clear one way to get rid of the pest, says fruit grower Greg Norton [Source: CBC Science News]
-A 3-inch giant Egyptian grasshopper was found in a pack of Tesco supermarket salad greens by a woman in Lewes, East Sussex, England. It went to a new home at Drusillas Zoo nearby [Source: Daily Mail].
A massive locust swarm in Australia threatened to spill over from New South Wales into Victoria State, prompting warnings of risks to pastures, horticultural crops and immature grain even motorists were warned to be wary as residents checked at conditions at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/locustswww.dpi.vic.gov.au/locusts [Source: Herald Sun].
-The estimated million bats lost so far in eastern North America to white-nose syndrome would be consuming about 700 tons of insects a year, writes David Quammen in National Geographic: Beyond the unsolved riddles of the disease itself is another: What might America look like without hibernating bats?
-As if the threat of sudden oak death (SOD) decimating Englands famed oaks wasnt bad enough, climate changes have allowed the oak processionary moth, Thaumetopoea processionea, has recently established itself there from Europe. Terence Hollingworth writes in New Scientist that there have been infestations on an epidemic scale in northern France and Belgium.
-The worst in 30 years, is how one Australian farmer described locust swarms in northern Victoria state, 250 kilometres north of Melbourne, where the densest swarms are amassed, hunting for vegetables and pastures that have flourished with the spring rains late last year [Source: The Australian].
-Europes infamous cabbage white butterfly apparently snuck into New Zealand from a ship, but MAL Biosecurity has decided against a costly aerial spray program to wipe out the pest in the city of Nelson, conceding that the pest is probably in the country for good [Source: The Nelson Mail].
-The terrible hairy fly, Mormotomyia hirsuta, first discovered 1933 at a single location in Kenya and again in 1948, has been rediscovered at the same isolated location, a 20-metre-high rock. More resembling a spider, the flightless fly prefers to breed in bat faeces [Source: The Toronto Sun]

Buzz on Bees
-Do scientists have the explanation for bee colony collapse disorder? We dont know the primary cause, but we know the combination of poor nutrition, heavy pesticide use and bee disease have put bees into a tail spin, Martha Spivak, an entomology professor at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times.

Soil
-According to the Home Depot website, potting soil for containers requires proper drainage and extra nutrients because: For garden plants gravity pulls water through the soil. Containers, however, are too small and shallow for gravity to do its job. New Scientist reader Marianne is as incredulous of this suggestion as you doubtlessly are.

Compost
-Peter and Ellen Smith win the Kauhoura, New Zealand View from the Street garden competition for their steep, north-facing garden. Peter Smith credited hard work and sheep manure to their success [Source: Kauhiura Star].
-Millions of British gardeners are to be banished from using peat to protect Britains bogs and prevent the release of half a million tons of greenhouse gases every year, reported the Daily Mail. Environment Minister Richard Benyon is calling for Brit home gardeners to cease using peat by 2020 and commercial growers a decade later.

Fungi
-Billionaire Stanley Ho, owner of a Macau casino, bid US$330,000 for a pair of Italian white truffles, including one weighing about 900 grams, matching the record price he paid at a similar auction three years ago for one of the giant fungi. The charity auction at Ho's Grand Lisboa hotel in the former Portuguese colony of Macau raised $373,500 for various charities in Macau, Britain and Italy.

Pathogens
-In attempt to prevent the spread of the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, or Sudden Oak Death (SOD) the Forestry Commission of Wales has issued a temporary ban on the felling of larch, Larix, until May 2011 [Source: Horticulture Week].
-A virulent tree disease has surfaced in Scotland. For the first time in Britain, Phytophthora lateralis has been identified on a Lawson cypress tree at Balloch Castle Country Park on the now not so bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Some 80 other trees in the park show symptoms of the disease and are being tested as are 27 dead and dying yews, reported Horticulture Week.
-A mystery fungus has halved Afghanistans opium crop for this year, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, resulting in shortages of heroin elsewhere [Source: New Scientist]
-Did your lettuce turn limp last summer or your grapes rot into a mould mass? Blame downy mildews. But an international team of scientists has cracked the genetic code of this widespread class of plant pathogens in research that made the cover story of the journal Science.

Fertilizer
-Money is like muck not good unless it be spread. Sir Francis Bacon

Pesticides
-Insecticides have labels that list their toxicity: Caution, Warning and Danger. These are not words to be taken lightly, says Jeff Wasieliwski of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida. Insecticides are by their very nature dangerous and toxic, he writes in The Miami Herald. The full effects of insecticides on humans and the environment are not entirely known; therefore, insecticides must be treated with extreme care and only used when absolutely necessary by trained professionals.
-Catnip oil has proven 99 per cent effective in repelling blood-sucking insects from horses and cows, according research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Catnip oil is already known to repel a dozen families of other insects, including houseflies, mosquitoes and cockroaches [Source: ScienceDaily].
-A 36-year-old English father died after drinking herbicide his father left in a pop bottle. Phillip Ward of Findern, Derbyshire got up in the night to quench his thirst and drank deadly weedkiller paraquat from a bottle left on the kitchen table that he mistook for Lucozade, a proprietary brand of energy drink. It takes just two teaspoons of paraquat to kill and adult, noted the Daily Mail.

Gardeners
-As of 1st January, Edward Ned Friedman became the new director of Harvards famed Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts, only the eighth in the 138 year history of the 265-acre institution. Research scientist Friedman moved from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he and his wife, a research botanist, were keen gardeners. Last fall, they put down 80 quarts of tomatoes while Ned, who grows hops, brews his own beer, said The Boston Globe.

Gardening in the City
-The book Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Canons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars and More Dynamite Devices by William Gurtstelle is available through Amazon for those fed up with their neighbours.

Science and the Gardener
-Peruvian foraging societies were already chewing coca leaves 8,000 years ago, archaeological evidence has shown, an international team reports in the journal Antiquity [Source: BBC News].
-While the worlds media rushed to popularize a report in the journal Science of an arsenic munching bacterium, BBC News perhaps summed it up best: New form of life found in California. The implications are extraordinary though: the newly discovered bacterium replace phosphorus with arsenic as one of the six elements believed essential to all life up to now, giving hints of alien life on other planets [See also: Washington Post, CBC, ScienceDaily in particular]
-Strange fossils like nothing else alive have been baffling botanists for a century, Roberta Kwok reported in New Scientist. Giant log-like fossils have been found in rocks between 450 and 375 million years. The biggest found was more than 8 metres long and a metre wide, and they have patterns like the growth rings of modern trees long before trees are thought to have developed. The first person to study them, Canadian geologist John William Dawson, thought they were the remains of the first conifer trees hence the name he gave them in 1859, Prototaxites. Are they giant fungus, rolled up lichen or what? The argument continues as at least one scientist proposes to look further in New Brunswick.
-Your Christmas tree may last longer next year thanks to Canadian research to create a special hormone block. This will prevent the needles dropping for up to 87 days instead of 40 days without the treatment. Scientists at Universite Laval and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College report the treatment prevents the release of ethylene by the wounded tree and could find use by tree growers or purchasers.
The role that a key molecule plays in plants ability to remember winter, and therefore bloom in spring, has been identified by scientists at the University of Texas Austin and published in Science Express [Source: ScienceDaily]
-Research scientist Joel Barker of Ohio State University has discovered a mummified forest on Ellesmere Island in Arctic Canada. The forest was buried in an avalanche between two and eight million years ago. Barker discovered dried out birch, larch, spruce and pine in 2009 and returned last summer on a research grant. There are a dozen mummified forests in the Canadian Artic, but this is the furthest north yet discovered [Sources: CBC News, Digital News].

Weather
-The packaging of the Nortene rain gauge that Brian King bought told him that it was for measuring rainfall; calibrated in inches and millimetres for easy use; for indoor and outdoor use. [Source; Feedback, New Scientist]
-Australia records its wettest spring since records commenced being kept 111 years ago
-President Hugo Chavez blamed Venezuelan weather woes on capitalism. He clamed criminal capitalism has created climate change that has brought chaotic floods to his country with dozens of deaths and 70,000 left homeless.

Down on the Farm
-Groundwater supplies are sinking at an unprecedented rate, a study by Marc Bierkens at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and his colleagues has shown. They found depletion rates to be highest in some of the worlds major agricultural regions, including northwest India, northeast China, and the central United States. Worse still, a significant amount evaporates and precipitates over the ocean, account for about 25% of the annual rise in sea level [Source: Nature].
-An international slump in oat harvests has resulted in a 50 per cent cost rise in the past year doubling the price of a bowl of porridge, writes Andrew Hough in The Daily Telegraph.
-Tasmanian farmers in the grip of a vegetable production crisis in Australias island state are cautiously optimistic that the legal raising of opium poppies can save their farms. Tasmania now has 2,500 hectares of the poppies under cultivation, reports Bruce Mounster in Hobarts The Mercury.
-Researchers at Ume Plant Science Center in Sweden have discovered a previously unknown gene in sugar beets that bocks flowering. Only with the cold of winter is the gene shut off, allowing the sugar beet to blossom in its second year. The company Syngenta collaborated in the joint study, which was published in the journal Science. [Source: ScienceDaily].
-Two men from lower mainland British Columbia have been charged in connection with the largest opium field ever found in Canada. RCMP in Chilliwack discovered the three-hectare field containing 60,000 poppy plants late last August. Harvested the Papaver somniferum would have been used to produce the highly addictive drug doda.

Organic Scene
-Out on the left coast, 25 trees were cut down by the proprietors of Natures Path cereal company at their home in upscale Point Grey. Macleans describes the pair as Vancouvers organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, but notes they apologized profusely and even demanded they be heavily fined under the city bylaws that definitely forbid such dastardly practices.

Genetic Modification
-A British Columbia biotech company has developed a non-browning apple using genetic modification (GM) techniques. It has became the first apple application among 100 GM petitions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, as such, could be years away from approval. If and when such is achieved, it may yet fail to win support of American orchardists, nervous to the core. But Neal Carter of Okanagan Specialist Fruits told CBC News: They look like apple trees and grow like apple trees that produce apples that look like all other apples . . . The benefit is something that can be identified by almost anybody. [Additional sources: The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun].
-A team of undergraduates from Cambridge University who were participated in the annual International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (iGEM) modified genetic material from fireflies and the luminescent marine bacteria Vibrio fischeri too boost the production and activity of light-yielding enzymes. The results could lead to plants, even trees that glow at night, writes Frank Swain in New Scientist.
-Scientists have both the right and moral duty to be stewards of God by genetically modifying crops to help the worlds poor, scientific advisers told the Vatican, reported New Scientist. In a statement condemning position to GM crops in rich countries as unjustified, a group of scientists including leading members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is demanding a relaxation of excessive, unscientific regulations for approving GM crops, saying that they prevent the development of crops for the public good [Source: New Biology].

Environment
-A sense of wonder is not reflected in attempts to protect life on Earth. The recent diversity negotiations in Nagoya, Japan, focused on the economic value of the living world. While that may be a pragmatic approach to saving life from destruction, we must never allow the bottom line to eclipse the value we place on life's exuberance. Editorial, New Scientist.
-The nations that make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have made some changes aimed at improving how the organization responds to critics, deals with scientific uncertainty, and handles its day-to-day affairs [Source: Science].
-The site of UN environmental conferences is an ecological disaster. Cancn was created 40 years ago by the Mexican government on a pristine strip of sand and mangrove forest. Most of the forest has been lost and the offshore coral reef destroyed, reports Louis Gray in The Daily Telegraph. Work has commenced to plant 10,000 trees around Cancn, but the beach has to be rebuilt every three years at a cost each time in excess of $15-million since the sand is eroding so fast.
Alarming predictions that global warming could cause sea levels to rise six feet in the next century are wrong, according to a study by the U.K.s Met Office. The forecast made by the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which would have seen cities around the world submerged by water now looks unlikely, said the study. However, sea levels could rise by two to three feet, the Met Office concedes [Source: Daily Mail]
-Cutting carbon emissions will help combat obesity even if global warming is a myth, a senior scientist has said, reports Louise Gray, environmental correspondent for The Daily Telegraph of London, U.K. Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropcial Medicine said there is a direct correlation between carbon emissions and expanding waistlines.
-Tree-huggers are fond of saying the planet is sick and they may be onto something. The huge drops in biodiversity in recent decades could cause increases in disease, notes New Scientist, reporting recent research published in the journal Nature by Felicia Keesing of Bard College in Annandale, New York, and her colleagues.

Show Biz
-Hollywood star Ellen Page has entered the battle over the proposed processing of sewage biosolids from her native Halifax into compost by company N-Viro. The controversial plan is on hold until an assessment is completed later this year. Meanwhile, the Oscar-nominated young actress and environmentalist has voiced her adamant opposition to the scheme.
-Tonights message: water the root, enjoy the fruit! Kate Perry suggests although she might not have meant exactly what readers of this might assume
-Following the now-notorious video of Miley Cyrus smoking hallucinogenic salvia (Salvia divinorum), a Saskatchewan D.J. lit up on the air. Within minutes Ryder doubled over on the floor, CBC News reported. His claim to draw attention to the dangers of the supposed Mexican spiritual plant was widely condemned. Use of S. divinorum falls into a murky legal area in Canada. CBC News notes that it is not approved but there is no law banning the drug. It is often sold in stores as a natural health product.

Uncivil Servants
-Toronto's ombudsman is unimpressed with officials in the city's municipal licensing and standards division. An elderly woman suffering from dementia had her silver maple axed on orders from a city inspector responding to a neighbours complaint. Adding insult to injury, the 76-year-old was billed $4,820. Her son had sent over 30 e-mails to the city, none of which elicited a response. Newly elected Mayor Rob Ford has demanded those responsible be fired. Meanwhile, the ombudsman has ordered the tree be replaced by one of at least 20-centimetre diameter and financial restitution be made with an approved apology.

Law and the Gardener
-There is no such thing as pure chocolate, the EU high court has ruled, ending an EU-Italy food fight over chocolate labels. The ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union voided an Italian law that recognizes some delicacies as pure chocolate. [Source: Metro].
-A German hippie in Montebaur, near Koblenz, was arrested after police discovered his two-metre-tall cannabis plant seasonally decorated, only awaiting gifts to be placed beneath it. As Britains Daily Mail put it, Happy Spiffmas.
-Disabled farmer Edward Tibbs, 62, shot at a fox but accidentally hit two trespassing intruders attempting to steal from a secret cannabis grow-op in a rented outbuilding on the Essex, eastern England farm. After the pair turning up at a local hospital for treatment, investigating police discovered 50 marijuana plants unknown to MS sufferer Tibbs who believed he had missed the fox and was unaware of the injuries his shotgun blast had caused. The incident was widely reported in British media.

Business
-Wanted Young Girls for Picking & Bottling notice seen by Les Colbert at Blists Hill Victoria Living Museum, Madeley, Shropshire, U.K. and submitted to The Telegraph
-Shedworkers Britain calls them some 80,00 backyard businesses, including lawyers and IT workers, are being run from upgraded garden sheds, writes Steve Hawkes, business editor for The Sun, who reports that they contribute 6.1-billion annually to the U.K.s distinctly dodgy economy. For more, visit the blog shedworking.co.uk.
-The extra weekend bank holidays in Britain announced for the royal wedding on 29 April is expected to set up the best fortnight ever for garden centres there if they can ensure stock deliveries, industry sources predict. Between 22 April Good Friday and the May Day holiday, this year on 2 May, garden centres should be extraordinary busy [Source: Horticulture Week].
-The ever-interesting Feedback feature of New Scientist magazine tells us that US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) manufactures two different cigarettes in the interest of safety. Standard Cigarette for Ignition Resistance Testing is used to test furniture inflammability by manufacturers and cost US$239 for 10 packs. Cigarette Ignition Strength Standard is for sale to tobacco companies to test their products against the risk of igniting furniture.
-Urban trees play a big part in the atmospherics market researchers drool over, writes Nancy MacDonald in Macleans. A year-old University of Washington study found that consumers spend 12 per cent more in treed shopping districts than in those without.
-A shopper hung herself in the gardening section of the British DIY store Homebase in Maidstone, Kent amidst plants, gardening equipment and lumber. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, was not named by authorities [Source: Daily Mail].

Health
-A couple of glasses of tomato juice a day helps fight osteoporosis, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. The key ingredient is thought to be lycopene, the antioxidant already credited with reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men, as well as protecting against heart disease. Some of questioned about reliance on commercial tomato juice, often loaded with salt, while a plaintive inquiry from Clare of Toowoomba, Australia to the Daily Mail asked if it was with or without vodka.
-Gene Stone, best-selling health writer, chews a daily clove of garlic he informed Kate Fillion in a Macleans interview. Never mind the smell, she inquired, what about the taste? He always has a piece of dark chocolate afterwards, he told her. He carries a bulb of garlic everywhere I go, much to the consternation of the security guards at the airports, who probably think Im Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
-The University of Illinois scientists who linked eating tomatoes with a reduced risk of prostate cancer have developed a tool that will help them trace the metabolism of tomato carotenoids in the human body, reported ScienceDaily.
-A man was killed after the bean-picking machine he was operating overturned into a creek in Queenslands Lockyer Valley [Source: The Courier-Mail]
-While the 2008 listeriosis crisis, where 22 people died after eating contaminated sandwich meat, put people on the alert about meat, produce can be just as bad, says food safety expert Rick Holley, according to The Toronto Sun. Canadians should worry just as much about the safety of the fruits and vegetables as they do about the meat they buy says Holley.
-Scientists have raised doubts over the health benefits of some vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn and soya, according to The Sunday Times of London, U.K. Research led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that although such oils help lower cholesterol in the body, they may have other potentially damaging effects, especially on the heart, that can cancel out these benefits.
-Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have found a way to expand plants pharmaceutical repertoire by genetically engineering them to produce unnatural variants of their usual products, reports the journal Nature. Many plant products that already find modern medicinal use could be tweaked by using these skills, notes ScienceDaily.
-Cannabis is a double-edged sword: by dampening the immune system it provides relief from inflammatory diseases, but this also increases the risk of infection, says New Scientist, adding that thanks to new research, now we know how it does this: its active ingredient targets a newly-discovered type of cell that lowers the immune response.
-Australian scientists have identified fragments of a peanuts makeup that could underpin the worlds first treatment for the often-lethal food allergy, reports The Courier-Mail of Brisbane. Professor Robyn OHahirn led the team at Melbournes The Alfred hospital and Monash University who published their study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
-Researchers at Kings College London and the University of East Anglia have discovered that women who consumer diets high in allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions and leeks have lower levels of hip osteoarthritis. Their findings were published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders [Source: ScienceDaily].

Bullfighter
-Europes biofuel plans will produce more greenhouse emission, not less. So says an analysis from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), based in London and Brussels, reported New Scientist. It reckons 4.1 to 6.9 million hectares of land must be cleared to meet targets and feed Europe. The IEEP calculates that 80 to 167 per cent more carbon emissions will be released from 2011 to 2010 that if the EU sticks to fossil fuels the equivalent of another 12 to 26 million cars on the road. Despite this the process has started: Europe is already grabbing land in Africa to service its projected biofuel needs.

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