Invisible insects? The insects in question are not actually invisible, but they do fly high enough for their movement to have gone largely unnoticed. The huge numbers of insects – about 3.5 trillion each year – were recorded flying over the southern UK using a special-purpose vertical-looking radar invented by Professor Joe Riley and Alan Smith during their time at NRI in the 1990s. Their radar was the main technique used in a decade-long insect monitoring study. This long period of continuous monitoring made it possible to produce an overview of total numbers of insects and their ‘biomass’ or amount of living matter, which amounted to about 3,200 tonnes of insects per year. The analyses of this study, carried out by a multinational group of scientists from Exeter University, Rothamsted Research, NRI, and the Hebrew University and the University of Haifa, in Israel, were recently published in Science.
Better nutrition for a growing population is a major challenge of our time. In order to provide a healthy and sustainable diet for all, it is necessary to have a clear and accurate picture of current agricultural food systems. By improving standards for collecting and measuring data and developing innovative methodologies for evaluating agriculture and food systems, scientists will be able to build a robust evidence base which in turn will guide actions to improve nutrition. To that end, NRI has recently been awarded two research grants, both of which are looking to develop innovative methodologies and tools for capturing and measuring data, leading to more effective interventions to improve nutrition.
Rats are everywhere. They cause damage in a multitude of ways, from destroying field crops, to eating and contaminating stored food, spreading serious diseases among people and animals and destroying infrastructure. Rodents can even cause house and farm fires by biting through electrical cables. NRI, together with research teams from six African countries, have been working on a project known as ‘StopRats’ which aims to significantly reduce the impact of rodents on people’s lives.