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Quantity, quality and other Christmas considerations

Of Gifts—

Just in time for Christmas, a study from American researchers suggests that when it comes to gifts, quantity can diminish quality.

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This challenge to the “more is better” rule comes from a study to appear in The Journal of Consumer Research on why buyers might not go for a seller’s “but wait, there’s more!” package deal. One of the examples used to explain this so-called “presenter’s paradox” involved a hotel advertising a five-star pool and a three-star restaurant. The researchers found that study participants who saw an ad featuring the ratings for both the pool and the restaurant expected to pay less for the hotel compared to the participants who saw an ad that only featured the five-star pool rating.

In their report, the team said the results from this study could be useful for sellers who may not necessarily be bundling their products, but are focused on making these items as appealing as possible to buyers.

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One example of a costly item that might be diminished if bundled with something else comes from Swiss scientists. In November, they announced that they’d developed a process to coat yarn with a very thin layer of 24-karat gold. The resulting fiber has proven flexible enough to work with, leading to the production of a few ties and handkerchiefs. The researchers said their gold fiber could be used to produce other accessories such as handbags, but the gold fiber can’t be produced on a large enough scale to generate more than a few hundred at best of the items.

Frankincense—

Another Christmas-themed study comes from an international team of ecologists monitoring the health of the trees that produce the frankincense best known as one of the gifts from the Wise Men. After two years of analyzing samples from trees in Africa and the Middle East, the team reported that in the next 15 years, the amount of frankincense produced by these trees could be halved, impacting their use for incense and in making perfumes.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the researchers primarily attributed the projected decline to pests attacking the trees, but they also noted other factors that keep young trees from thriving in these areas.

and Rice

Regardless of what’s being served during the holiday meals, there’s likely to be a space on the table for rice. A study published in May by American researchers showed that the world’s dependence on this crop can be traced back to China, where it was first cultivated nearly 9,000 years ago. The team reported that the two main types of rice—one sticky and short-grained and the other nonsticky and long-grained—came from a single wild rice species first cultivated in China.

As the world’s population is expected to increase by another billion within the next few decades, it’s not surprising that many of the studies published in 2011 focused on improving rice’s tolerance for conditions such as salinity, heat and drought in order to improve their yields under less than ideal conditions. One report published in November came from a Japanese company that described a technique for growing rice in the tsunami-ravaged paddies by counteracting the higher salt concentrations with the help of a popular artificial sweetener.

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Another study from the same month focused on a Chinese practice of raising carp in rice paddies. The fish keep the plants weed-free without the aid of pesticides and in turn help supply the plants with needed nitrogen without resorting to commercial fertilizers. “The recognition of the ecological legacy of these traditional agricultural systems and the integration of these unique experiences into our future farm designs could help us to develop more sustainable agriculture,” the team wrote in their report published online Nov. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

E-mail the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: Agriculture, christmas, frankincense, gifts, Science
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