Grapevine: 2012 Plants, La Nina, Early Blooms, New Invasives, Green Walls, Vertical Farms, Royse Murphy, Playing God

Phytolacca americana Sunny Side Up, a gold-leaved cultivar of native pokeweed, is new for 2012 from Plant Delights nursery. Click image for more 2012 plant introductions.

Long La Nina finally winding down
The recent La Niña is one of the strongest since climatologists began recording the phenomenon 50 years ago. The La Niña died over the summer, with neutral conditions developing and continuing until early fall. But in September, La Niña made a comeback in the tropical Pacific Ocean and gradually strengthened through winter. A mature La Niña continued during January 2012 with below-average sea-surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.     Live Science

January 2012 the fourth warmest for the contiguous United States
During January, warmer-than-average conditions enveloped most of the contiguous United States, with widespread below-average precipitation. The overall weather pattern for the month was reflected in the lack of snow for much of the Northern Plains, Midwest, and Northeast.    NOAA

Don’t fret about flowers blooming early
One of the places where the evidence of La Nina is showing up in the United States is in residential landscapes, especially in some parts of the South where bulbs such as daffodils that are commonly associated with early, middle and late spring blooming cycles were in flower in January. Should gardeners be concerned? What will happen if there is a sudden drop in temperatures to below freezing or a plunge into the teens?    MNN

– Screening imported plants to prevent a new wave of invasive species
A recent analysis at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests that climate change predicted for the United States will boost demand for imported drought- and heat-tolerant landscaping plants from Africa and the Middle East. This greatly increases the risk that a new wave of invasives will overrun native ecosystems in the way kudzu, Oriental bittersweet and purple loosestrife have in the past.    Science Daily

Green walls create new urban jungles
Aside from their pleasing aesthetic qualities, vertical gardens could also deliver more practical benefits says Mark Laurence, creative director at Biotecture, a UK company who design and build green walls. …A recent creation erected on the side of Edgware Road Underground station in central London is hoping to improve air quality. …Some believe that in less polluted areas, green walls could be employed to grow food, which could aid urban food security. Biotecture have successfully trialled a wall which grew 45 varieties of vegetables.    CNN

Video: Vertical Farming
By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. Dickson Despommier expounds on the virtues of vertical farming (2:03 minutes).   Vertical Farm

– Video: A conversation with Cornell plant breeder Royse Murphy
Royse Peak Murphy, native of Norton, Kansas and survivor of the Dust Bowl experience, the Great Depression and World War II, joined the Cornell faculty in 1946 with a focus on plant breeding (41:22 minutes).    Cornell University

– Video: Playing God
Meet a new creature created by American scientists: the spider-goat. It is part goat, part spider, and its milk can be used to create artificial spider’s web. It is part of a new field of research, synthetic biology, with a radical aim: to break down nature into spare parts so that we can rebuild it however we please. This technology is already being used to make bio-diesel to power cars. Other researchers are looking at how we might, one day, control human emotions by sending biological machines into our brains. Mind-blowing BBC documentary, one hour.    Top Documentary Films

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