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SciTech is independently reported and edited through the newsroom of The Charlotte Observer. The underwriter plays no role in the selection of the content.

New drone’s goal: Helping farmers improve their crops

Farmers can now get a birds-eye view of their fields – in full HD. Michigan State University researchers are using its first unmanned aerial vehicle to help farmers maximize yields by improving nitrogen and water management and reducing environmental impact such as nitrate leaching or nitrous oxide emissions.

For this initiative, MSU’s UAV measures how crops react to stress, such as drought, nutrients deficiency or pests. The drone flies over the field documenting the field’s status – down to centimeters. The portrait gives farmers details on the current health of their crops.

Armed with this knowledge, farmers can quickly pinpoint problem areas and address them with precision, said Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystem scientist. “When you have a cut and need disinfectant, you don’t dive into a pool of medicine; you apply it only where you need it and in the quantity that is strictly necessary.” msutoday.msu.edu

Calif. meteorite contains unusual organic molecules

Scientists led by Sandra Pizzarello of Arizona State University have learned that a meteorite that exploded last year in a fireball over California contains organic molecules not previously found in any meteorites. This discovery suggests a far greater availability of extraterrestrial organic molecules than previously thought possible.

The work was published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Detection of the falling meteor by Doppler weather radar allowed for rapid recovery: Scientists could study for the first time a primitive meteorite with little exposure to the elements, providing the most pristine look yet at the surface of primitive asteroids.

Pizzarello’s team hydrothermally treated fragments of the meteorite, then detected the compounds released by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The hydrothermal conditions of the experiments, which also mimic early Earth settings (a proximity to volcanic activity and impact craters), released a complex mixture of oxygen-rich compounds, the probable result of oxidative processes that occurred in the parent body.

This addition to the inventory of organic compounds produced in extraterrestrial environments furthers the discourse of whether their delivery to the early Earth by comets and meteorites might have aided the molecular evolution that preceded the origins of life. asu.edu

Study links obesity to body-produced fructose

Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine reported last week that the cause of obesity and insulin resistance may be tied to the fructose your body makes in addition to the fructose you eat.

In recent years the role of added sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup and table sugar (sucrose), has taken center stage as risk factors for obesity and insulin resistance. Numerous studies suggest that the risk from added sugars may be because of the fructose content.

But in the study published in Nature Communications, the team reports that fatty liver and insulin resistance may also result from fructose produced in the liver from nonfructose containing carbohydrates.

“Our data suggest that it is the fructose generated from glucose that is largely responsible for how carbohydrates cause fatty liver and insulin resistance,” said Miguel Lanaspa, a co-author of the study. ucdenver.edu

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