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2019 text

Editor's picks: Top 10 Stanford Earth Matters stories of 2019

In a roundup that spans energy, geology, geophysics and Earth systems, here are some of the most interesting, high-impact and popular research stories from 2019.

Corn plants

Reduced soil tilling helps both soils and yields

By monitoring crops through machine learning and satellite data, Stanford scientists have found farms that till the soil less can increase yields of corn and soybeans and improve the health of the soil – a win-win for global food security.

Farmers in rice paddy

Rice yields plummet and arsenic rises in future climate-soil scenarios

Research combining future climate conditions and arsenic-induced soil stresses predicts rice yields could decline about 40 percent by 2100, a loss that would impact about 2 billion people dependent on the global crop.

Wheat field

How can microsatellite data impact agricultural interventions?

New research finds small satellites can help increase food production in a low-cost and sustainable way.

Turmeric

Finding lead in turmeric

Some spice processors in Bangladesh use an industrial lead chromate pigment to imbue turmeric with a bright yellow color prized for curries and other traditional dishes, elevating blood lead levels in Bangladeshis.

Seafood

What drove the collapse of Mexico’s jumbo squid fishery?

Stanford-led research has identified a perfect storm of warming waters and reduced food to blame in the collapse of the once-lucrative jumbo squid fishery off Baja California.

Farm

A new way to grow crops in marginal soils could help feed the world

The discovery of an eco-friendly form of genetic engineering for plants has the potential to open up more farmland for food production.

Soil

New process rinses heavy metals from toxic soils

An experimental chemical bath and electrochemical filter could now extract heavy metals from the soil and leave fields safe.

Recharge

Can California better use winter storms to refill its aquifers?

With new rules for groundwater management coming into effect, engineers are looking to harness an unconventional and unwieldy source of water: the torrential storms that sometimes soak California.

Tomatoes

When food waste becomes a pollutant

Forty percent of food produced for consumption never gets eaten. Instead, it fills landfills and releases greenhouse gases. California now aims to drastically reduce the amount of food that ends up in the ground.

Dry landscape

Domino droughts: How droughts travel across continents

New research finds one drought can amplify or trigger another. Decreased moisture recycling and transport impacts how droughts form and move across continents.

Wheat

A better way to predict Australian wheat yields

New research harnesses machine learning to accurately predict Australian wheat yields using climate and satellite data. The method could be translated to other crops and nations.

Tulare

Where will flooded fields best replenish groundwater?

Overpumping in California has depleted groundwater storage capacity and caused the land to sink. A new model could help water managers zero in on where to replenish aquifers by flooding fields.

Chickens

Big livestock operations can be big polluters. But where are they?

An algorithm that reads satellite images can help environmental regulators identify potentially hazardous agricultural facilities more efficiently than traditional approaches.

Forest

Farming for natural profits in China

Expanding monoculture threatens valuable services from land, such as flood control and climate stabilization. A new approach promises to protect these benefits, while improving biodiversity and human livelihoods in rural areas.

Agriculture

What does climate change mean for world hunger?

As more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, leading to climate change, crops might carry fewer nutrients, like zinc and iron. Stanford researchers explored this trend and regions most likely

Vegetation

Know Your Planet: How do plants affect weather?

A major component of climate change unknowns stems from interactions between changes in climate and changes in ecosystems. Stanford hydrologist Alexandra Konings explains how plants shape weather patterns and influence climate.

Fork and knife

Q&A: Meat, health and the environment

A Stanford nutrition expert discusses the connections between meat consumption, carbon emissions, water needs and health.

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