Plants are Living Things and They Make Decisions, Too

The Chicago Journal, The American Naturalist, has come out with a report titled, “Adaptive and Selective Seed Abortion Reveals Complex Conditional Decision Making in Plants” which tells us “Recently, evidence for plant behavior is accumulating, mostly from plant physiological studies. Here, we provide ecological evidence for complex plant behavior in the form of seed abortion decisions conditional on internal and external cues. … Ecological evidence for complex decision making in plants thus includes a structural memory (the second seed), simple reasoning (integration of inner and outer conditions), conditional behavior (abortion), and anticipation of future risks (seed predation).”

And that’s just after a Univ. of Missouri scientist told us that plants respond with off-putting chemicals when they “hear” the chewing sounds of predators.

What next? Are they self-aware?

Have You Had Your Soylent Today?

For those of us who eat to live, rather than those who live to eat, the food nutrient all in one packet, Soylent, has arrived. This is real, as the company is already seeing $10,000 in orders per day.

When today’s average person has been bombarded with so many sound bites about what is wrong with every food on the shelf already you-name-it, this choice could look rather appealing, eh?

Soylent-like products are nothing new. Herbalife, a blender food diet product, has been around for a long time. There are also nutrient packets of a few different varieties and sources being used to combat starvation in vulnerable nations, today. And, this is one of the reasons that I don’t expect growing global populations to starve – when people discuss unendingly how are we going to feed the world in 2050 – because of the resiliency afforded by our human diets.

Nutrient Mixes + Blenders and Food Printers = Humans that are Fed.

Now, scream altogether… 1… 2… 3… NOOOOooooooo!!!

To learn more about Soylent, I recommend this Business Insider article.

China is a Major Importer of Distillers Grains DDGS

This graph will show you what rising incomes and more meat consumption in China mean for the U.S. agricultural export market.

China’s demand for imported grains, much of it from the United States, has surged recently, with imports of cereal grains rising to 16 million tons in 2012 and 18 million in 2013. Imports in 2013 included 3 million tons of corn and 4 million tons of DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles; a co-product of U.S. corn ethanol production used for feed) from the United States.

In 2013, the United States supplied 70 percent of China’s wheat imports and, for the first time, China became a major market for U.S. sorghum. China’s demand for feed grains appears to have reached a turning point, as a tightening labor supply and rising feed costs force structural change in China’s livestock sector.

Labor scarcity, animal disease pressures, and rising living standards are prompting rural households to abandon “backyard” livestock production and shift more production to specialized farm enterprises that rely more heavily on commercial feed. Because of this, China has switched from being a corn exporter to importing 3-5 million tons annually since 2009.

Rising feed demand has also pushed up costs and motivated feed mills and livestock producers to explore new feed ingredients like DDGS and sorghum.

source: usda

Biodiversity in Boulder County Colorado

We all know that loss of biodiversity is one of the big problems with today’s global agricultural system. I’m lucky that my county which is part of the Rocky Mountains has a lot of open space and wild space, so there is a lot of diversity left even though the urban areas are encroaching badly on this beautiful place. The three photos below were all taken recently here in my county. Let’s celebrate and strive for biodiversity as we set farm policies around the world… Please.

A moth on a doorstep.
Photo by Gordon Hardman.

Photo by Bodo Blaczak.

Cooper’s Hawk “Hawklets”.
Photo by Alek Komarnitsky.

Industrial Tomato Farming

This large equipment is being used to harvest tomatoes commercially in New Zealand. When you watch it, it is rather obvious that the tomatoes are not being treated gently, and so will be used for sauces and processing.

As someone who has always grown tomatoes in a garden, the video felt rather shocking, like there should be a humane treatment for tomatoes law somewhere. Ouch.

Not surprisingly, the data (below) from the USDA shows us that the majority of our tomato crop is turned into sauces or liquids.

ERS researchers recently analyzed Americans’ vegetable consumption from all sources: plain raw or cooked vegetables; juices; sauces; and vegetables from mixed dishes like soups, stews, pasta dishes, and others. Tomatoes accounted for about a quarter of the average 1.5 cups of vegetables Americans ate per day. Most tomato is consumed as an ingredient in mixed foods, such as pastas and pizza.

These mixed foods are much higher in sodium and calories than raw tomatoes. Researchers found that among foods prepared at home, raw tomatoes accounted for 22 percent of tomato consumption, while 24 percent came from tomato sauces for spaghetti and similar pastas. Among foods eaten away from home, pizza provided the largest share of tomato consumed (32 percent), followed by raw tomatoes (17 percent), and spaghetti and similar pastas with tomato sauce (15 percent).