VOA双语新闻:“超级植物”能为人类带来什么好处?

发表时间:2017-10-12内容来源:VOA英语学习网

How we're creating 'super plants' to help humanity

“超级植物”能为人类带来什么好处?

You eat them, you wear them, you put them in vases and gawk at them appreciatively– but are you really using them to their full potential? According to researchers at the Botanical Gardens at Kew in the UK, there are plenty more ways we could be harnessing the power of plants. From being natural fire-fighters to potential famine-thwarters, here are four incredible ways that plants could revolutionise our world.

它们供人食用,供人穿着,人们还把它们放到花瓶里观赏——但是它们的全部潜力是否都已开发?英国皇家植物园丘园(Botanical Gardens at Kew)的研究人员表示,植物中还蕴藏着巨大的魔力有待人类发掘。从天然灭火器到饥荒终结者,植物能在四个方面改变我们的生活。

Cross-breeding super plants

超级杂交植物

When we eat vegetables on our dinner plates, what we’re looking at were once ordinary crops that were grown on a farm. But those farm-grown crops had relatives out in the wild - that were “to our food plants what wolves are to dogs”, according to the project Crop Wild Relatives (CWR).

我们每天都会食用蔬菜,而这些蔬菜曾经却只是农场中的普通作物。这些农场作物都有野生近亲-"与蔬菜的关系类似于狼与狗",一家名为"农作物的野生近亲"(Crop Wild Relatives ,简称CWR)的组织如此宣传。

But those roguish cousins living in the wild – far away from domesticating farms – have developed resilience to pests, diseases, soil salinity and climate change.

然而,这些生存条件与农田大相径庭的野生植物却发展出了对虫害、病害、盐碱土壤和气候变化的抵抗能力。

That’s why plant breeders are working to crossbreed these wild crops with our domestic crops to make them just as hardy as their cousins – while still offering us the benefits that tamed plants offer, such as a high yield.

育种师们正在试图将农业作物与其野生近亲进行杂交,使之在具备与后者相同的抵抗力的同时,还能够具有高产等农业作物的优势。

It’s a truly worldwide plan; the countries that have the highest number of wild plant cousins are Brazil, China, and India, while the countries with the highest concentration of them are Azerbaijan, Portugal and Greece. The benefits that this cross-breeding programme could have in developing countries in particular could be indispensable as world population growth reaches over nine billion.

这是一个全球性的计划。野生近亲作物资源最丰富的国家为巴西、中国和印度,分布密度最高的则是阿塞拜疆、葡萄牙和希腊。随着世界人口即将突破90亿大关,这一作物杂交计划对于发展中国家的价值不可忽视。

However, despite this global spread of crop wild relatives, they’re being threatened by a wide array of environmental antagonists. Most of these are down to humanity’s intrusion, be it through land-use change, global warming, pollution, war and the intensification of agriculture. The Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is working alongside partners that run breeding programmes around the world and save these hearty wild cousins in the next several years.

然而,尽管野生近亲作物正在全世界获得扩展,但却受到多种环境拮抗物的威胁。大部分威胁来自土地用途变化、全球变暖、环境污染、战争和农业集约化造成的人类入侵。皇家植物园内的千禧年种子银行计划在未来几年内与伙伴合作,在全球范围内启动杂交育种计划,同时对这些野生近亲物种开展保护。

Using plants as medicine

用植物制造药物

This isn’t anything new – the use of plants is medicine has been known since time immemorial. But are we being too slow to register new uses?

这个主意并不新鲜,自从人类出现以来,就一直在用植物作为药物。然而,植物新药的开发速度是否有点太慢?

Over 28,000 plant species are currently recorded as being of medicinal use, but fewer than 16% of them are cited in a medicinal regulatory publication. When the World Health Organization last estimated the plant-based medicinal industry’s worth in 2012, it totalled a mind-boggling $83bn (£62bn).

迄今为止,共记录有2.8万种植物可用于医药用途,然而其中只有16%的植物曾在医学定期出版物中提到过。2012年,世界卫生组织估计,植物基医药产业的市场价值高达830亿美元。

The industry is growing increasingly popular; in Germany, around 90% of the population use herbal medicines that are derived from plants such as foxglove and garlic. But one major problem, of course, is that health regulators are keen to stop the proliferation of unsafe or phony products entering the market; a lazy approach to authentication has already meant that herb names have been confused with those with similar sounding names and patients have ended up ingesting a wildly inappropriate (and potentially lethal) drug.

植物基医药产业正在迅速发展。90%的德国人服用由毛地黄或大蒜等植物提取的药物。但是目前一个主要问题在于,卫生监管部门对不安全或假冒的产品一直保持严打势头;药物鉴定认证过程不严谨,导致植物名称很容易与读音相似的名称相混淆,使得出现过患者服用过名不副实张冠李戴(且有潜在致命性)的药物的情况。

China is one country trying to stop this. In December 2016, Chinese government officials announced their aim to integrate more traditional Chinese medicine into their healthcare system by 2020, as well as presenting detailed illustrations and descriptions of the source plants to stop any future confusion happening.

中国正在采取措施解决这一问题。2016年12月,中国政府官员宣布,将在2020年将中药纳入其医疗卫生体系,同时提供有关源头植物的详细图示和描述,从而消除混淆。

If we’re to utilise plants to their full life-saving potential,the researchers make urgent recommendations: sourcing plants from sustainable resources, cultivating them, introducing reliable traceability procedures and secure more effective quality control.

为了充分利用植物在促进人体健康上的潜力,研究人员提出如下紧急建议:寻找具有可持续源头的植物物种,进行育种栽培,采取可靠的追溯程序,并实施更为高效的质量控制。

Bananas on steroids

高营养香蕉

Well, not quite bananas. The enset is a member of the banana family that has been cultivated in Ethiopia for tens of thousands of years – the Ethiopians in fact have over 200 names for it – and it has several different uses. As well as being a staple crop in Africa it can make rope, medicine, shelter, animal feed and clothes, not to mention also providing an ideal microclimate for coffee plants to flourish in. It withstands drought, heavy rain and flooding. Basically – is there anything that this ‘false banana’ can’t do?

严格来说是香蕉的一个分类。作为香蕉家族的一员,恩赛特蕉(enset)在埃塞俄比亚已经有数万年的种植历史,埃塞俄比亚语里有200多个词汇描述各种恩赛特蕉。除食用外,它还有一些其他用途。除了作为非洲人的主食外,恩赛特蕉还可用于制造绳索、药物、搭建住宅、作为牲畜饲料和衣服原料,另外还可为咖啡树提供生长所需的良好微环境。恩赛特蕉可耐旱,还可耐水淹。这种"假香蕉"简直无所不能。

Scientists have been investigating where else this climate-smart plant could be grown elsewhere, particularly in other African regions and in countries that face famines. It feeds more people per square metre of crop than most cereals and is made into three foods – a sour-tasting dough, soups and porridges, and a boiled root similar to a potato.

科学家正在研究能否将这种环境耐受能力极强的植物引种到在其他地区,尤其是饱受饥荒之苦的其他非洲国家。与大多数谷物作物相比,单位面积产出的恩赛特蕉能够养活更多人,并可制成三种食物:味道偏酸的面包、汤粥、以及类似马铃薯的块根。

But first, they’re going to have to figure out how to gather its seeds – at the moment, farmers take cuttings from the plants to grow more of them, meaning no one actually knows how enset is pollinated. However, once they work out this super banana’s secrets, there’s no telling the good it could do.

但是,科学家首先必须成功收集种子,农民目前采用扦插方法繁殖,没人知道恩赛特蕉是如何授粉的。一旦这种超级香蕉的秘密被揭开,就会改变整个非洲的面貌。

Fire-fighting plants

灭火植物

Most people throw burger patties or hot dogs onto a flaming barbecue – Kew Gardens in England instead decided to throw some plants on it.

大多数人会把汉堡肉或热狗香肠丢到炭火上烧烤,但是英国皇家植物园却想丢一些植物到炭火上灭火。

The flammability of plants is seriously important when you think about wildfires and the devastation that they cause economically, socially and environmentally. It can happen because plant diversity is poor, and also because non-native plants simply haven’t adapted in time to the climate of their new home. But fire is a normal, important process in some ecosystems.

想象肆虐的野火造成的惨烈经济、社会和环境损失,植物的可燃性是一个非常重要的问题。野火常常发生在植物多样性差、外来植物物种长期无法适应新气候条件的地区。但是对于某些生态系统而言,火灾却是一个正常而重要的演化过程。

Kew Gardens are looking into identifying flammable plant families and planning landscapes that can be more resilient to wildfires. They could be used as natural fire breaks and reduce the amount of valuable resources that are burned.

皇家植物园正在寻找易燃植物物种,并设计能够抵御野火蔓延的种植形式。这些易燃植物可以作为天然防火带保护珍贵的森林资源免于火灾危害。

Plants that are likely to tolerate future increases in the frequency of fires are those with a thicker bark, a quick ability to resprout and the presence of serotinous cones; just like a phoenix from the ashes, these cones house seeds which are released into the air if a fire burns away the serotinous resin protecting it, ensuring the survival of the species elsewhere.

防火能力强的植物一般树皮较厚,发芽速度快,果实为球果;这些球果内含种子,在火灾时能够释放出来,种子包裹有一层树脂作为保护层,使植物物种能够在火灾过后得以幸存并继续繁衍。

来自:VOA英语网 文章地址: http://www.tingvoa.com/html/20171012/501584.html