Neonicotinoid Pesticides Hurt Bees. Plus, More Agriculture News This Week.

I took the above photo on a Boulder County Open Space farm tour in 2012.

Below, is a selection of recent agriculture-related news.

Some UK farmers will be selling their farms after the tough farming year of 2012 when wheat yields fell to their lowest in 20 years, and the potato harvest was the smallest it’s been since the 1970’s.

Two more make five corn ethanol plants shut down temporarily in Nebraska in this unfavorable market. This Arizona Daily Star opinion piece calls for an end to ethanol mandate. Ethanol exports were down following the drought this year.

Front Range Energy has reached a deal valued at more than $100 million with Rochester, N.Y.-based Sweetwater Energy to generate ethanol at Front Range’s facility. Sweetwater Energy will convert crop residues and wood biomass into sugar, which Front Range will ferment into ethanol.

The company, Vinema, is investing $354 million in Brazil to build ethanol plants that will use sorghum, rice, and oats for feedstock.

Four environmental groups are lobbying to end the use of biofuels in the EU.

Farmgate informs us about various ways to control waterhemp and Palmer amaranth superweeds this coming year.

This Worldwatch article brings us the latest on acres devoted to organic farming around the world and includes a graph showing those acreage amounts.

Using Google Earth, a doctoral candidate in Chicago mapped the city’s community gardens and found that only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.

Kubota plans to expand into overseas markets.

Cows in Africa which wear a collar containing the stench of the waterbuck can repel the harmful tsetse fly.

The Guardian provides us with a slide-show explaining Layer Farming, a method to save the rain forest in South America while providing the subsistence farmers with food and income.

The United Nations reported that it was unable to deliver food to up to 1 million hungry and desperate Syrians because of spiraling violence across the country and a lack of fuel. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said nearly 2.5 million people – most of them internally displaced by the fighting – needed emergency food aid, but WFP is only able to reach 1.5 million as the situation on the ground worsens.

This is an update on the current and anticipated trends in global rice consumption from IRRI.

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been deemed an “unacceptable danger” to bees by the European Food Safety Authority. [Note that this is an ongoing story. I covered it here a year ago.]

Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), together with experts from across Europe, concluded that for imidacloprid “only uses on crops not attractive to honeybees were considered acceptable” because of exposure through nectar and pollen. Such crops include oil seed rape, corn and sunflowers.

An onshore salmon farm will be built in Scotland which is to produce 3,000 tonnes of salmon per year. According to the article, “artificially reared salmon is the nation’s largest food export”.

This Circle of Blue article covers water pollution in China, and the part that agriculture and policy have played.

This is quite interesting about watershed protection and investment around the world, and it begins with New York City’s success. Protecting watersheds helps to provide safe drinking water at low prices.

Previous studies have shown that pollution, the building of dams, agricultural runoff, conversion of wetlands, and waterworks engineering have severely affected global river systems. The wealthier the country, the bigger the threat to river systems, primarily because of expensive waterworks engineering.

This week, Alan Guebert writes about the shrinking funding of land grant universities.

So we have precision agriculture, now what? The challenge, and it’s a big one — is data management.

This systems approach to farming made possible by precision farming adoption is a skill that farmers no longer can discount, especially considering that a number of economic factors are forcing producers to expand or increase production to stay profitable. “Both statewide and nationwide, farmers are trying to get bigger in order to cover input costs,” says Brandon Dillard, an Alabama Extension regional agent in southeast Alabama. “This technology provides them with the ability to get bigger without a lot more people and equipment.” …in this highly charged global farming economy, producers have no alternative, Mask says. He cites Brazil and other emerging agricultural powerhouses as the reason why precision farming adoption on a wide scale will be inevitable. “Unless we learn to use every input in the most efficient way possible, we will no longer be equipped to provide products at the least cost. It’s really that simple.”

Here is more on weed control by using high tech methods, including spot flame removal.

This is a hopeful farming method story out of Manila, where drought-tolerant native rice is being grown and combined with vegetables, legumes, peanuts and other crops, which also act as mulch for the rice.

Royal quinoa, grown in Bolivia, is bringing high prices due to demand. The downside is that many locals have abandoned eating it due to the high price. (The UN has named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” due to the crop’s resilience and super nutrition.)

A 1993 Nasa technical paper says: “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.” Quinoa is the only plant food that contains all 10 essential amino acids for the human diet. Its protein content (between 14%-18%) surpasses that of wheat, rice, maize and oats, and can be a substitute to animal protein. Its calorific value is greater than that of eggs and milk and comparable only to that of meat. It is a source of vitamin E, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and contains more minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus than other grains.

Federal funding is available to help small rural communities make community planning improvements through landscape architecture design.

More information is emerging in this Colorado large organic farm failure story. Grant Family Farms had the largest number of CSA members in the nation, but suffered of gross mismanagement, and is filing for bankruptcy for the third time, this time owing $10 million. An attempted rescue by twenty local Transition Boulder members now find themselves the largest creditor, having loaned the operation $1.5 million.

Canadian environmental writer Vaclav Smil has a new book out, “Harvesting the Biosphere”.

BONUS: Will graphene change our world?

Written and compiled by K. McDonald.

2 thoughts on “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Hurt Bees. Plus, More Agriculture News This Week.

  1. RBM

    RE: African Cows

    Of the several links I followed it still wasn’t clear how the cows felt about smelling like a waterbuck ….

    RE: Graphene

    You DO get around, Ma’am. I’ve read a bit here and there about it and sounds to good to be true. So, I’m wondering what is the EROEI status ?

    Thanks K.

    1. K. McDonald Post author

      Ha. Luckily, I have a son who thinks he knows everything and when I asked him about graphene, he said that carbon nanotubes are more dangerous than asbestos. (Don’t know if that is directly related to graphene, or not.) Somebody else needs to pursue this one.

      You do have a point about how the cows feel about their stench.


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