Phone-connected device detects bacterial toxins in water

Potentially fatal to both animals and humans, blue-green algae blooms occur when overly-abundant cyanobacteria in the water produce harmful substances known as cyanotoxins. The sooner those toxins are detected, the better – which is where a new smartphone-connected device comes into the picture.

Ordinarily, when officials are checking for the early signs of algae blooms in lakes or rivers, they take water samples that have to be sent off to a lab. By the time those samples have been analyzed, the bloom may have already reached the stage where the public should have been alerted.

Led by Asst. Prof. Qingshan Wei, scientists at North Carolina State University set out to make earlier warnings possible, producing what is being called the world’s first portable cyanotoxin-detection system. Users simply place a drop of water on a chip, which is then inserted into a reader device that is in turn mounted to a smartphone.

The chip is preloaded with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) dyes combined with molecules known as aptamers. These bind with any target molecules that may be present in a sample, causing them to fluoresce. As a result, within just five minutes, an app on the phone is able to alert users to the presence and levels of four common types of cyanotoxins – anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, nodularin and microcystin-LR.

The chip is preloaded with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) dyes combined with molecules known as aptamers. These bind with any target molecules that may be present in a sample, causing them to fluoresce. As a result, within just five minutes, an app on the phone is able to alert users to the presence and levels of four common types of cyanotoxins – anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, nodularin and microcystin-LR.

“Our technology is capable of detecting these toxins at the levels EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] laid out in its water quality criteria,” says Wei. “However, it’s important to note that our technology is not yet capable of detecting these cyanotoxins at levels as low as the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit. So, while this is a useful environmental monitoring tool, and can be used to assess recreational water quality, it is not yet viable for assessing drinking water safety.”

The researchers are now working on boosting the system’s sensitivity, so that it can be used to determine if water is safe to drink. They also state that if produced at a commercial scale, the reader device should be relatively inexpensive – it currently costs less than US$70 to manufacture, with the chips coming in at under a dollar each.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Bron: North Carolina State University


Compost, food for thought

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Food for thought
Tossing the wilted kale you never got around to cooking may be a bigger contributor to climate change than throwing away a plastic takeout container. A recent study by Zero Waste Scotland found that the carbon footprint of home food waste is close to three times greater than that of plastic waste, largely because when food goes to the landfill it releases methane gas, which is even more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Composting, which turns organic waste into fertilizer, is one solution to the food waste problem. Humans have been composting for as long as they have been farming. The first written reference (pdf) to compost dates to around the year 2300 BC. George Washington, the first US president and avowed gentleman farmer, spent a lot of time thinking—and writing—about compost at his Mount Vernon plantation.

But large-scale food waste collection and processing is expensive and requires participants to be diligent and well informed. Can cities get citizens to do their part or will the idea end up in the trash heap?

2 months: Time it takes for an apple core to decompose

450 years: Time it takes for a plastic water bottle to decompose, though plastics may never truly disappear

1.94 million: Tons of food composted in the US in 2014

29 million: Tons of food sent to landfills in the US in 2014

$1,500: Value of the food wasted each year by an average American family of four—that’s 2 million calories

2020: Year San Francisco plans to achieve zero waste

95%: Amount of food waste recycled in Seoul, South Korea today

1 billion: Number of people who could be fed on less than 25% of the food the US and Europe wastes

How composting works

While food scraps and other natural waste like dead leaves and lawn clippings will decompose on their own, composting creates optimal conditions to speed up the process. A good compost pile starts with the right mix of organic materials. The pile needs both nitrogen-rch “green” materials, like food scraps and manure, and carbon-dense “brown” materials, such as dry leaves and wood chips.

The scraps should also be small in size to maximize the surface area on which microorganisms can feast. A backyard compost pile is a mini ecosystem, with bacteria and fungi feeding on the organic matter; protozoa, nematodes, and mites feeding on the bacteria and fungi; and predatory nematodes, predatory mites, and other invertebrates feeding on the protozoa, nematodes, and mites.

A compost pile also needs moisture, either from rain or manual watering, and oxygen, which can be added by turning the pile regularly or installing aeration pipes. Lastly, the pile needs to be at least 140°F (60°C) to prevent rot.

Whether you make your own or buy commercially produced compost, the benefits (pdf) to your yard and the environment are myriad. Compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers while adding nutrients to the soil, helping the soil retain moisture, and limiting erosion. And there’s evidence that healthy soil is crucial to addressing climate change.

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Emotional temperament in babies associated with specific gut bacteria species

Rich Haridy June 19th, 2019

A new study from the University of Turku has uncovered interesting associations between an infant’s gut microbiome composition at the age of 10 weeks, and the development of certain temperament traits at six months age. The research does not imply causation but instead adds to a compelling growing body of evidence connecting gut bacteria with mood and behavior.

It is still extraordinarily early days for many scientists investigating the broader role of the gut microbiome in humans. While some studies are revealing associations between mental health conditions such as depression or schizophrenia and the microbiome, these are only general correlations. Evidence on these intertwined connections between the gut and brain certainly suggest a fascinating bi-directional relationship, however, positive mental health is certainly not a simple a matter of taking a certain probiotic supplement.

Even less research is out there examining associations between the gut microbiome and behavior in infants. One 2015 study examined this relationship in toddlers aged between 18 and 27 months, but this new study set out to investigate the association at an even younger age. The hypothesis being, if the early months in a young life are so fundamental to neurodevelopment, and our gut bacteria is fundamentally linked with the brain, then our microbiome composition could be vital in the development of basic behavioral traits.

The study recruited 303 infants. A stool sample was collected and analyzed at the age of two and half months, and then at around six months of age the mothers completed a behavior questionnaire evaluating the child’s temperament. The most general finding was that greater microbial diversity equated with less fear reactivity and lower negative emotionality.

“It was interesting that, for example, the Bifidobacterium genus including several lactic acid bacteria was associated with higher positive emotions in infants,” says Anna Aatsinki, one of the lead authors on the study. “Positive emotionality is the tendency to experience and express happiness and delight, and it can also be a sign of an extrovert personality later in life.”

On a more granular level the study homed in on several specific associations between certain bacterial genera and infant temperaments. High abundance of Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus, and low levels of Atopobium, were associated with positive emotionality. Negative emotionality was associated with Erwinia, Rothia and Serratia bacteria. Fear reactivity in particular was found to be specifically associated with an increased abundance of Peptinophilus and Atopobium bacteria.

The researchers are incredibly clear these findings are merely associational observations and no causal connection is suggested. These kinds of correlational studies are simply the first step, pointing the way to future research better equipped to investigate the underlying mechanisms that could be generating these associations.

“Although we discovered connections between diversity and temperament traits, it is not certain whether early microbial diversity affects disease risk later in life,” says Aatsinki. “It is also unclear what are the exact mechanisms behind the association. This is why we need follow-up studies as well as a closer examination of metabolites produced by the microbes.”

The new study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Source: University of Turku

Lees het hele artikel hier:

Nieuw: Vijver-pakket om met EM de vijver natuurlijk schoon te maken en schoon te houden

De is begaan met de balans en de gezondheid van onze vijvers; zij hebben hiertoe een mooi initiatief genomen: er zijn complete EM Vijver-pakketten samengesteld om met EM het natuurlijk evenwicht in vijvers te kunnen herstellen.

In het voorjaar vullen vijvers zich vaak met algen. De algen geven aan dat de natuurlijke balans in het water hersteld moet worden. Effectieve Micro-organismen zijn bij uitstek in staat om het natuurlijk evenwicht te herstellen. Omdat het niet altijd even eenvoudig is om er achter te komen welke EM-produkten je nodig hebt en in welke hoeveelheden, zijn er 3 verschillende pakketten samengesteld op basis van oppervlakte: tot respectievelijk 10, 20 en 30 m2.

Aanlegplaatsen voor micro-organismen
De pakketten bevatten de volgende EM produkten: EM Vijver, EM Bokashi ballen, Microferm, Zeeschelpenkalk, Bokashi strooisel en EM-X keramiek pijpjes.

  • EM Vijver is een variant van EM-Actief die veel specifieke micro-organismen bevat, vooral veel meer fototrope bacteriën.
  • EM Bokashi ballen. Deze bevatten de Effectieve Microorganismen, klei, EM-X keramiek en organisch materiaal en worden over de bodem van de vijver verspreid, 1 per m2. Op deze plakken ontstaan in de bodem van de vijver koloniën van positieve micro-organismen die zich verder over de bodem verspreiden.
  • Microferm. Deze toevoeging van EM-Actief aan het water zorgt gelijk voor een verbetering van het natuurlijk evenwicht in het water vanwege de enorme aantallen positieve micro-organismen. Dit kan het beste gedoseerd toegepast worden (1 liter op 10.000 liter water).
  • EM-X keramiek pijpjes. Deze netjes kunnen in de vijver gehangen worden ter verbetering van de waterkwaliteit. Het is nog beter om ze in een waterpomp te plaatsen zodat het water zoveel mogelijk met het keramiek in contact komt.
  • Bokashi strooisel. EM-Bokashi werd, voordat EM-keramiek op de markt kwam, gebruikt als een soort aanlegplaats voor micro-organismen. Men gebruikte een net met nauwe mazen of een zak om de EM Bokashi in het water te hangen. Voor een beperkte tijd zijn dat ideale plaatsen voor de Effectieve Micro-organismen die aan het water worden toegediend. Ze vermeerderen zich daar en de nieuwe micro-organismen worden voortdurend aan de omgeving afgegeven, waar ze hun zuiverende werking kunnen uitoefenen. Daarnaast wordt het water steeds voorzien van anti-oxidanten en andere gezonde stoffen.
  • De zeeschelpenkalk wordt toegepast tegen blauwalg overlast of ter voorkoming hiervan. Kalk buffert en laat het Fosfaat neerslaan op de bodem. Heeft u last van groenalg dan geen zeeschelpenkalk gebruiken. Stro is wel goed te gebruiken bij groenalg.

meer info op het EM-vijver-pakket

Bokashi Boerenverstand – gespot in de Volkskrant

Gespot in de Volkskrant. Jan Rothuizen bezoekt elke maand een plek waar maatschappelijke dynamiek zichtbaar is. Zoekplaatje…..









(klik op het plaatje voor een grotere versie)


Perma-tuin Roeach experimenteert met Bokashi

Roeach is, samen met anderen EMbassador van Agriton. “Hoe meer we leren over dit mooie product hoe enthousiaster we worden. In onze perma-tuin voeden we de bodem regelmatig met Bokashi”, lichten Janet Pasveer en Tine Sietsma toe. “Begin april hebben we de in de 3 verhoogde bakken Bokashi ingegraven”.

Bak 1 kreeg 1 kg Bokashi per m2 (= geadviseerde hoeveelheid). Bak 2 kreeg 2x zoveel, Bak 3 kreeg 4x de geadviseerde hoeveelheid Bokashi.
“We kozen voor hogere doseringen omdat de aarde in deze bakken arm is aan voedingsstoffen. Ruim 2 weken later hebben we de bakken ingeplant en ingezaaid met verschillende groenten zoals bijv. raapstelen, bieten, uien en koolrabi. In elke bak staan dezelfde groenten in rijen. Nu afwachten hoe ze zich gaan ontwikkelen. Wij zijn erg benieuwd!”.

Wil je meer weten over compost en Bokashi maken? De voor- en nadelen van beide manieren en wil je weten hoe je goede compost en goede bokashi maakt? Kom dan naar de workshop in mei.

Meer info over de perma-tuin en workshops lees je op Roeach.


The one magic trick you need to know about Bokashi juice

Over the past 12 years, I have been experimenting with Bokashi in many different ways – from small scale to large scale, residential to commercial.

I have set up large scale Bokashi at big restaurants and have learnt many lessons along the way with this from problems that have occurred. During this process, I discovered an incredibly handy, magic trick that solves one of the major inconveniences of using Bokashi – and I’m going to reveal this to you now…

One of the difficulties of using Bokashi on a large scale or with a large family is taking off the juice. If you leave it, this juice becomes incredibly smelly and can linger in the air for days. You can smell it on yourself for days too, which can become very unpleasant!

Five years ago, I started experimenting with an absorption method for the juice, and I found the magic solution.

I calculated that the maximum volume that can easily be handled is about 100 litres at a time, so experimented with using a large bin on wheels with a flip lid.

In the bottom of this bin, I put old soil, paper or any absorbent materials like sawdust for example. The extracted juice absorbed into this material so that there was no juice to take off. It was enormously successful – so I played around a little more!

I discovered it can even be used in a 20 litre bucket, as long as you have a tight-fitting lid. When tipping the bucket into your soil, the part that has absorbed the juice can be spread out much further, as it is super potent with lots of added microbes per cm3.

In turn, you can revitalise a much bigger portion of your soil. Magic!

Just when you thought Bokashi couldn’t get any better!

This method is perfect for those with large families, or those with really busy lives who cannot / choose not to prioritise gardening, as it is quick and easy.

However, if you are wanting to restore large areas of soil to grow food, larger-scale Bokashi is your best friend.

Top tip: I hear people say they don’t have enough carbon to process their Bokashi with when it is buried, so my advice is to work smarter, not harder. When the leaves fall off the trees in autumn and winter, collect them and store them for spring and summer to use when there is less carbon around. Also, if you have pampas growing in your neck of the woods, cut it with a pair of shears, dry it out and store it for later use, as this is really beneficial! It contains a high level of phosphorus, which our soils seriously lack.

Really, it is just a matter of thinking ahead for the whole year, as opposed to the here and now.

Bokashi will:

  • Improve your soil structure
  • Process all your kitchen scraps
  • Enable your plant roots to be stronger and longer
  • Add beneficial micro-organisms to your soil
  • Boost the immunity of your plants against pest and disease
  • Enable more water-holding capacity in your soil, so you need less water over summer
  • Improve the colour and cell structure of your plants
  • Start repairing your soil to a rich well-balanced medium

This concludes my series about Bokashi. I hope you’ll agree by now that Bokashi is magic! As ever, if you have any questions about my blogs, just get in touch and I’ll do my best to help. I’d love to see just one person take up Bokashi as a result of the knowledge I have shared here. Give it a go!

Happy Bokashi-ing