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Agriculture News

One Controversial Thing Tractors and iPhones Have in Common

Fortune | Posted on July 3, 2017

Earlier this year, Apple and Micro­soft marshaled their lobbyists in Lincoln, Neb., far from their usual corridors of political power. Their target was a proposed state law—the first of its kind, if passed—that could have set off a costly chain reaction nationwide. For decades, many electronics manufacturers have profited from a choke hold on repairs to their products. For safety reasons, and to protect against intellectual property theft, they often prohibit customers from fixing devices themselves or taking them to local repair shops.But Nebraska’s so-called right-to-repair law would have upended that near monopoly. Companies would have been required to sell repair manuals and spare parts to anyone, not just licensed technicians.In the end, with an assist from tractor maker John Deere the tech companies prevailed in blocking the legislation.In Nebraska, the legal tussle focused on tractors. The machines still have gears and blades, of course, but they are also equipped with sensors and digital consoles. For farmers, this creates a problem because they are often prevented from fixing their machinery without a technician sent by John Deere.“In the case of Deere, it’s about controlling the repair market,” says Kit Walsh, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital advocacy group. Ultimately, farmers end up paying higher prices for repairs and waste more time waiting for technicians to show up, she says.Even if you don’t own a tractor, this dispute between Deere and the farmers should feel familiar. That’s because the right-to-repair issue also affects anyone who owns an iPhone, which comes with Apple’s rigid rules that forbid tinkering with its software and making unauthorized repairs. The fight has now moved to 11 other states, where lawmakers are similarly proposing right-to-repair bills. As in Nebraska, you can count on the tech industry to wage an all-out war to stop them.

Unseasonable Winter Weather Takes A Bite Out Of Georgia's Peach Crop

National Public Radio | Posted on July 3, 2017

For a lot of people up and down the East Coast, Georgia is synonymous with peaches. Think about it; when have you ever heard someone wax poetic about a California peach?

Turns out, though, Georgia peaches, and Southern peaches in general, are having a really tough year.

Mark Sanchez is the CEO of Lane Packing in Fort Valley, Ga. It's one of the big growers in the four county area smack in the middle of Georgia where peaches come from. His office by the loading dock is in fact in Peach County. He says climate is the secret to Georgia's peach dominance. He says California can't touch Georgia's weather. "In Georgia we have the cool nights, lot of rainfall, very hot summers," Sanchez said.

That makes a juicy peach. Hot in the summer here? You bet. It's those cool nights that were missing last winter and that's a problem. Sanchez said before peaches bloom in the spring, they need long, uninterrupted stretches of cold in the winter.

Pennsylvania Law Protects Veterinarians From Lawsuits

The Horse | Posted on July 3, 2017

A new Pennsylvania law shields veterinarians from civil liability when they report suspected animal cruelty to law enforcement authorities. Initially introduced into the Pennsylvania State General Assembly by Representative Mark Keller in 2015, the latest reincarnation was included in HB 1238, which made sweeping changes to the state's animal cruelty statutes.Under the legislation any licensed veterinarian, certified veterinary technician, or veterinary assistant, “who reports in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected violation of (animal cruelty) to the proper authority shall not be liable for civil damages as a result of reporting the incident.”Keller believes the law will eliminate veterinarians' legal concerns about reporting suspected animal abuse and ultimately result in increased animal cruelty prosecutions.“HB 1238 is a huge win for those in the veterinary profession and the animals that receive their care,” he said. Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), said Pennsylvania is among 30 states with laws requiring veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse cases to local authorities. Of those states, 27 have statutes protecting veterinarians from civil or criminal prosecution if they report suspected animal abuse cases.

New Manure Sidedress Method Lowers Fertilizer Costs, Increases Yields

The Ohio State University | Posted on July 3, 2017

With corn needing nitrogen, and pigs and cattle producing a lot of it, anything that offers a better way to use their waste to fortify crops should intrigue farmers. Two agriculture experts at The Ohio State University have redesigned a metal tractor attachment so that it allows farmers to put manure on a field while crops are emerging.Applying manure to growing crops, which is not widely done in Ohio or nationwide, can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses, and give livestock producers and commercial manure applicators another window of time to unload their waste and enrich their crops.While draglining manure, a process that involves applying manure through a hose that pumps it directly from the livestock facility, is not new to many Ohio farmers, it is rarely used to apply manure on a growing crop.

GM purple rice could cut risk of cancer | Posted on July 3, 2017

A purple rice with the potential to combat cancer, heart disease and diabetes has been genetically developed by scientists in China. The rice gets its purple colouring from the high levels of antioxidant-boosting pigments called anthocyanins, which are also found in blueberries and red cabbage.Reporting their findings in the Molecular Plant journal, lead researcher Dr Yao-Guang Liu revealed that he and his team found a way to "stack" the eight genes needed for anthocyanin production and activate them in rice's "endosperm" - a tissue produced inside the seeds of the rice.

This Cornell scientist saved an $11-million industry — and ignited the GMO wars

Business Insider | Posted on July 3, 2017

It started with rotting flesh. Slicing into the green skin of a Hawaiian papaya ordinarily yields juicy, salmon-colored fruit that's almost custard-like in its consistency and sweetness. But in the early 1990s, one Hawaiian farmer instead found bits of whitish, dried-out flesh in his recently harvested fruit. On the skin were discolored spots resembling tiny rings. It was a sign of trouble for hundreds of Hawaiian papaya farmers who, for the next several years, would lose field after field of their crop — altogether an $11-million dollar industry. The culprit was an incurable virus called Papaya Ring Spot Virus.  In 1992, Dennis Gonsalves, a plant pathologist at Cornell University who grew up in the region most acutely affected by the virus, came up with a wild idea to stop it. He wanted to vaccinate the papaya crop from the virus using genetic engineering. To do it, Gonsalves and two other scientists (his wife Carol Gonsalves and David R. Lee) opened up the papaya genome and carefully inserted a gene from the ring spot virus into its genetic code.  After nearly a decade of work, Gonsalves and his team created a papaya plant that was genetically resistant to ring spot. The Gonsalves' crops blossomed across farms that had been decimated by the virus. Today, their fruit, which they named the Rainbow papaya, dominates Hawaii's papaya exports.  Yet instead of ending a storm, as the crop's name might suggest, the Rainbow papaya unleashed its own tempest.

Toledo must nurture urban agriculture

Toledo Blade | Posted on July 3, 2017

Thomas Jackson aimed to bring fresh produce to Toledo, but he may end up bringing much more. Mr. Jackson’s long battle with the city may prompt it to finally draft regulations for urban farming.Motivated by Mr. Jackson’s court case — he has been fined by the city for keeping mulch on three central-city parcels he owns — a few Toledo citizens are working with city officials to draft what they call a “Right to Grow” ordinance for Toledo City Council to consider.Mr. Jackson was found guilty of failing to abate a nuisance after neighbors complained that his lots were unsightly, smelled terrible, and attracted rodents. Actually, he made his lots, and his neighborhood, much better.But one of the problems in Mr. Jackson’s case was that Toledo lacks specific guidelines for urban farming like those that guide such efforts in Cleveland and Detroit. Urban farming thrives in these cities. A Lucas County Land Bank survey released in 2015 estimated there were about 14,640 vacant lots in the city. Creating a framework that can guide neighbors and community groups who want to turn these lots into agricultural oases is good public policy. The city needs clear regulations about where it is safe and appropriate to grow produce, how urban farm plots should be maintained, where would-be urban farmers can go for assistance, and other issues.Turning vacant, often-blighted empty plots in the city into small agricultural operations is practical and builds a sense of community. Greening the city with small farms improves the air and the earth and provides fresh food

After Oranges

The Oxford American | Posted on July 2, 2017

We know that the orange is in fact green. The fruit changes to its namesake color when exposed to cool air. Yet, when the temperature drops below 28 degrees for longer than four hours, ice will form within an orange. The peel will show no injury, but the frozen flesh will turn mushy and the orange will fall from the tree, inedible. When the force that makes us can also ruin us, when a lethal irony is at play, we call the story a comedy or a tragedy, depending on the ending. Even if it is just an orange. 

By the time the brown fungus of Alternaria alternata is spotted on the leaves of a Minneola tangelo tree growing in a low, wet grove, it is probably too late. The tree will be helpless to do anything but drop the fruit. The eggs of the Mediterranean fruit fly are laid below the skin of a host orange. After seven days, the larvae will hatch and feed on the sweet flesh. The symptoms of citrus tristeza virus include small leaves and twig dieback. Beneath the bark, the tree’s trunk will resemble a honeycomb. A tree like that can’t support itself. That’s one way the story can end. Tristeza is the Spanish word for sadness.

Growing Chickens With One Wing Tied Behind Your Back

Lancaster Farming | Posted on June 29, 2017

Shoppers don’t have to go far to see the latest food trends.Grocery stores are filled with labels like non-GMO, organic and gluten-free.But the shift toward chicken grown without the use of antibiotics is posing some problems for Delmarva poultry growers.“A 1950s disease came back because we were made to change the way we grow chicken,” said Dan Bautista, a poultry health expert and director of the Lasher Laboratory at the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research & Education Center.“If this was the ’90s, we wouldn’t even be talking about necrotic enteritis,” he said at a June 19 commercial poultry growers workshop in Georgetown.It was the first Delaware-centric poultry workshop put on by University of Maryland Poultry Extension.Bautista said growers working with antibiotic-free birds must now rely on “elbow-grease” and semi-effective feed additives like oregano to combat a deadly disease.“The fact we have a lot of necrotic enteritis is because we haven’t been able to use the tools we have for decades,” he said. “This is a symptom of a social phenomenon.”

Agro-terrorism prevention bill lands on Trump’s desk

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 29, 2017

A bill designed to heighten preparedness of the nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems has been sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature. The U.S. Senate passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act unanimously on May 24, and the U.S. House voted last week to send this legislation to the president to be enacted into law. Sponsored by Rep. David Young (R-Iowa), the legislation addresses concerns highlighted by the 2015 avian influenza outbreak that wiped out millions of layer hens, turkeys and backyard flocks. Response efforts revealed problematic breaks in the federal government’s ability to communicate with stakeholders and react quickly to large-scale animal disease outbreaks. The disaster also raised concerns among farmers and producers about how well the country would be able to share information and respond to agro-terrorism threats and attacks.