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Agriculture News

More milkweed may not cure what ails monarchs: study

Agri-Pulse | Posted on April 29, 2016

The American Soybean Association is touting a new study that finds a lack of nectar sources, habitat fragmentation, and changing weather patterns are the primary contributors to a decline in monarch butterfly populations.

The study by Cornell researchers found “problems in the butterflies' migration from the U.S. and southern Canada to Mexico in the fall, rather than with lack of milkweed - the only food source for caterpillars in the summer,” the ASA said. Other theories have blamed the species' decline on the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops and an increase in herbicide use.

To help the monarch survive, he advised ASA members to “be aware of existing milkweed in your non-crop areas,” and cautioned against spraying those areas. “These milkweed are critical for the survival of this species. While this new study suggests monarchs are facing several challenges, we can do our part to ensure a sustainable population.”

Anurag Agrawal, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said “lack of milkweed, the only host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, is unlikely to be driving the monarch's population decline, as the problem appears to occur after they take flight in the fall.” Agrawal was the lead author on the paper published this month in Oikos, an online journal.

Oyster farms, shorebird vie for space on NJ bay beaches

AP | Posted on April 29, 2016

Oyster farming is the kind of business an environmentalist should love: it doesn't use harmful chemicals or deplete natural resources, and the locally grown shellfish actually help clean the water.

It's a green, sustainable industry that brings nearly $1 million a year to growers in the New Jersey Delaware Bay area and puts shellfish on restaurant plates around the northeast.

But when that industry sits on the lone feeding ground in the western hemisphere for the largest population of a threatened species of shorebird, things get complicated.

New Jersey's oyster aquaculture industry is centered on the same Delaware Bay beaches that provide irreplaceable feeding grounds for the red knot on its annual 10,000-mile journey from South America to the Arctic. And that has environmentalists worried, particularly given the extensive efforts to restore Delaware Bay beaches damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that have succeeded in stabilizing the red knot population, albeit at lower levels.

Protecting and enhancing pollinators in urban landscapes

Michigan State University Extension | Posted on April 29, 2016

“Protecting and enhancing pollinators in urban landscapes for the US North Central Region” provides information for landscapers and gardeners who want to attract pollinators and protect them during pest management tactics or pesticide applications.

This 30-page PDF resource includes:

  • Plants, shrubs and trees known to create better habitat for pollinators.
  • How to select plants so that you are providing blossoms throughout the season.
  • Problem-prone plants you may want to avoid.
  • Best Management Practices to protect pollinators and other beneficial insects during pest management.

Pennsylvania Ag Secretary warns of new invasive insect

Fox 43 | Posted on April 29, 2016

An invasive pest new to the United States was discovered for the first time on a farm in Lancaster County and has been found to have spread to at least four other counties, according to officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The invasive pest, known as allium leafminer Phytomyza gymnostoma, infects crops such as leeks, onions, garlic, chives, shallots and green onions. While researchers are still working to understand this invasive species, previous research suggests that the pest can be more damaging in organic, non-commercial farms or homeowner gardens.

“There is indication that the movement of plant crops impacted by this pest could result in transport of the pests,” Redding added. “That’s why it is of the utmost importance that we provide education and awareness about the leafminer and stop it from spreading anywhere else in Pennsylvania or beyond our state lines.”

The adult leafminer are about three millimeters in length and appear to be gray or black flies with a distinctive yellow or orange patch on the top and front. The yellow coloring is also present on the side of the abdomen. When resting, the wings are positioned horizontally over the abdomen. The eggs appear white, about 0.5 millimeters in length and slightly curved. The larvae are white, cream or yellowish in color and up to eight millimeters in length.

Do It Yourself High-Speed Internet

DTN | Posted on April 29, 2016

By coincidence, I recently ran into an Indiana farmer/entrepreneur who is working on ways to cross to the internet divide. Steve Gerrish calls his company airBridge, and its business model is to help farmers establish robust local high-speed internet networks. The idea isn't new; farmers for years have used systems to extend their WiFi systems beyond the office and onto the farm. But Gerrish brings an enthusiasm and a vision to the issue that is kind of inspiring.

Gerrish has done a version of that on his own farm in west-central Indiana. First, he brought a fiber optic line to the farm to gain internet speeds of up to 1 gigabyte. He then placed an omni-directional antenna on a 45-foot pole. He will place BATS units on farm vehicles so they can capture signals from the antenna and establish a network among themselves, the office and other vehicles. The system is line-of-sight, so signals are lost over the horizon or behind obstructions. But with an eventual 200-foot-tall tower, Gerrish said, it will work within an 18-mile radius.

To demonstrate the value of an on-farm network, Gerrish created the AgBOT Challenge, an event to take place on his farm May 6 and 7.

Teams of contestants from universities and private industry will compete using autonomous vehicles to plant and fertilize half-mile long test strips. Each vehicle will rely on a BATS mobile tracking antenna to provide internet access for real time video and data transfer.

Litigation filed by farmers against Pilgrim’s dismissed

Wattagnet | Posted on April 28, 2016

A federal judge in Texas has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Pilgrim's nearly ten years ago by poultry growers who accused the company of violating federal law by manipulating poultry prices with intentions of shutting down some of the growers’ operations.

AB-free has its limits, say avian pathologists | Posted on April 28, 2016

Antibiotic use in poultry should be minimized “through carefully planned and well-executed preventive practices,” but the birds’ health should not be sacrificed for a marketing message, said a position statement released by the American Association of Avian Pathologists.

Antibiotics should remain “a viable option when appropriate and necessary for the health and well-being of the animal, even when marketing and consumer preference dictate otherwise,” the organization summarized in a release.

California dairy argues manure not solid waste

Farm Futures | Posted on April 28, 2016

A Washington State U.S. District Court last year engaged in a faulty analysis of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act in determining cow manure is a regulated solid waste.

A new U.S. District Court case in California –Blackwood V Mary DeVries – is taking the correct approach that Congress and EPA have argued for.  The California dairy gets it right. “Congress did not intend for RCRA to regulate agricultural material such as manure produced by [a] dairy…”

The DeVries dairy makes arguments which should have been made in the Cow Palace case in Washington State. It tells the Court in a recent filing that manure is not a solid waste under RCRA. The brief makes clear “Congress has confirmed its intent that manure from a dairy which is reused [is] exempt from classification as a solid waste,…[moreover] EPA has respected this intent by not regulating manure from dairies under RCRA.“  

Farmers’ Market Friendly Laws Can Be Trumped By Health Boards

Growing Produce | Posted on April 28, 2016

It’s critical for vendors to know for themselves, or at the very least to know that the market manager knows, the state and local health department, as well as weights and measures, which will get the fresh folks, too, though I’m not sure about the “label font” regulations mentioned in the article, and business licensing regulations for each market where they plan to sell. It may differ from one community to the next, depending how much they want a farmers market. Some may require individual mercantile licenses while others offer an umbrella license for the market. Health inspection certs will likely be for individual vendors, unless there’s a blanket exemption, and the list goes on.

Livestock's Contributions to Climate Change: Facts and Fiction

American Feed Industry Association | Posted on April 28, 2016

'Efficiencies in U.S. livestock agriculture have lowered this industry's combined greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low of about four percent of the nation's total,' said Mitloehner. 'Furthering recent advances will be paramount to satisfy a growing global demand for animal protein without depleting natural resources.' 'With Frank's expertise and years of research, I am glad he is able to provide sound, science-based information to consumers,' said AFIA President and CEO Joel G. Newman. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the livestock industry accounts for 4.2 percent of the U.S. GHG emissions. Energy production and transportation are the largest contributors, together equaling more than half of the total U.S. GHG emissions.
In perspective, if Americans practiced 'Meatless Mondays' there would only be a 0.6 percent decrease in U.S. GHG emissions. However, replacing incandescent lightbulbs with Energy Star bulbs would be twice as effective--1.2 percent.