Category Archives: bees

3 Picks: GoSun Oven, Migratory Beekeeping, Kroger Saves

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) GoSun stove reinvents solar cooking: By Lloyd Alter. “The GoSun stove cooks your food in an evacuated tube, retaining almost 90% of the heat energy concentrated on it and reaching 550 degrees F in minutes. It is absolutely brilliant for a number of reasons, and is going to change the way we think about solar cooking…” This is a Kickstarter Project.

2) The Mind-Boggling Math of Migratory Beekeeping: By Ferris Jabr. “Some researchers, beekeepers and journalists have argued that migratory beekeeping is one of the primary reasons that so many bees die each winter as well as an explanation for colony collapse disorder (CCD)—the sudden and mysterious disappearance of an entire hive’s residents, save for the queen and a few stragglers. Bringing so many bees together all at once in Central Valley and other flowering sites guarantees that they will spread viruses, mites and fungi to one another as they collide midair and crawl over each other in the hives. Forcing bees to gather pollen and nectar from vast swaths of a single crop deprives them of the far more diverse and nourishing diet provided by wild habitats. The migration also continually boomerangs honeybees between times of plenty and borderline starvation.”

3) Companies Unplug From the Electric Grid, Delivering a Jolt to Utilities: By Rebecca Smith and Cassandra Sweet. “On a hill overlooking the Susquehanna River, two big wind turbines crank out electricity for Kroger Co.’s Turkey Hill Dairy in rural Lancaster County, Pa., allowing it to save 25% on its power bill for the past two years. Across the country, at a big food-distribution center Kroger also owns in Compton, Calif., a tank system installed this year uses bacteria to convert 150 tons a day of damaged produce, bread and other organic waste into a biogas that is burned on site to produce 20% of the electricity the facility uses. These two projects, plus the electric output of solar panels at four Kroger grocery stores, and some energy-conservation efforts are saving the Cincinnati-based grocery chain $160 million a year on electricity, said Denis George, its energy manager. That is a lot of money that isn’t going into the pockets of utilities….”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

3 Picks: Mob Grazing, Wild Bees, Magical Solution

Photo by Free Photo Fun @Flickr CC

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Mob Grazing as a Tool: By Fae Holin. This is the cover story for the current (online) edition of Hay and Forage Grower magazine. It is an update to the North Dakota farmer’s successful use of multiple cover crops, no-till, and mob grazing which produces healthy soil microbes, soil which retains moisture, and reduces the need for fertilizer while increasing productivity…. “The producers I’ve talked to who I feel are doing it well are the ones saying, ‘I use it as a tool.'” A mob strategy “needs to be very elastic, very responsive to what you are seeing.” (See previous N.D. farmers post on b.p.a.) I was also happy to see this report out of Nebraska about similar studies being done there, funded with state lottery money.

2) How Wild Bees Will Save Our Agricultural System: By Hillary Rosner. This SciAm article will bring you up to speed on the whole bee situation, including the fact that the U.S. Army has become involved because bee health is a national food security issue. We need to focus on habitat for the health of ALL bees, not just one bee, the honeybee…. “M’Gonigle thinks the honeybee crisis could be “a kind of blessing in disguise” because “it forces us to think, ‘What are we going to do to keep our food production going?’ In the long term, it might be that we look back and say, ‘Wow, this was a good thing, a good way of getting us to reprioritize and start thinking about conservation of native species.’” As I watch a mix of honeybees and their wild cousins dart among purple flowers in one of Kremen’s hedgerows, it is easy to see what he means. Our entire modern-day agricultural system has grown up with honeybees, so we have never had to really consider the fact that relying on a single pollinator is probably not sustainable.”

3) Wave goodbye to global warming, GM and pesticides: This article out of Ireland was sent to me by a valued reader. One should never fall for magical solutions … or, first sentences like this one. I’m including this for entertainment purposes only…. “A GROUNDBREAKING new Irish technology which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough is set to change the face of modern farming forever. The technology – radio wave energised water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 per cent…”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

The Editors of Scientific American Take a Stance Against GMO Food Labeling

The September issue of Scientific American is all about food. I’m a subscriber, but unfortunately my issue hasn’t arrived, yet. With article titles like Processed Food: A 2-Million-Year History, Return of the Natives: How Wild Bees Will Save Our Agricultural System, The Truth about Genetically Modified Food, Science Reveals Why Calorie Counts Are All Wrong, and Invasive Species Menu of a World-Class Chef (about eating bugs), needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading my hard copy.

It is a significant development in the world of GMO awareness and journalism, that the Sci-Am editors have written “Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea – Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea”, telling us that 20-some states now have the issue on ballots. Below, I’ve chosen some excerpts.

Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health [see “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food”]. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques—which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another—genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not. (The GMO-fearing can seek out “100 Percent Organic” products, indicating that a food contains no genetically modified ingredients, among other requirements.) … Americans who oppose genetically modified foods would celebrate a similar exclusion. Everyone else would pay a price. Because conventional crops often require morewater and pesticides than GMOs do, the former are usually more expensive. Consequently, we would all have to pay a premium on non-GMO foods—and for a questionable return. … Antagonism toward GMO foods also strengthens the stigma against a technology that has delivered enormous benefits to people in developing countries and promises far more.

Buying GMO free food is easy enough to do already without requiring the industry to label it GMO-Free. Just buy organically labeled food, buy from your favorite local organic farmer, or grow your own.

This Sci-Am article is one more nail in the coffin of those who are anti-GMO activists. In one of the Sci-Am articles, plant molecular biologist Robert Goldberg expresses despair at the fact that the arguments against GM haven’t changed in forty years.

GM activists are anti-science. They are anti- the rest of us. They are the anti-, anti-, anti- crowd in general. Often, they do not understand what they oppose. Genetic modification is the issue that separates the food production illusory idealists from those of us grounded in the real world of economics and science and most important of all, from the actual producer’s level.

One can support the science of GM and still want to see biodiversity, bee health, and farm methods which preserve our soil and keep our water clean.Those are separate issues. Those issues often rely upon policy choices or special interests, but please don’t blame GM science for that.

Some of the formerly religious on this issue are turning around, are starting to get it. We all know the Mark Lynas story, still less than a year old. I was quite surprised to see the prominent environmental site, Grist, recently hire Nathanael Johnson to ease the Grist readers into opening their minds about the debate, and he’s doing a nice job. But disappointingly, just this week I saw NYTs food writer, Mark Bittman, embrace the ongoing anti-, anti- of Tom Phillpot who writes anti- for Mother Jones. Not to be left behind by Grist, Philpott says that he’ll make an exception for using GMOs for oranges (only), following the widely read NYTs piece, “A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA” related to citrus greening, a disease wiping out our U.S. orange crops. And, Michael Pollan continues to reinforce the anti-science thinking of these two influential writers (Philpott and Bittman) via Twitter.

Well, guess what? Citrus greening isn’t the only disease or pest threatening crops that feed humans. New threats surface constantly and they are quietly dealt with by our scientists, too often unappreciated and taken for granted by the vast majority of us.

Let’s face it. Most of us are spoiled rotten when it comes to getting food, as compared to any other age in human history. Most of us are no longer hands on when it comes to growing food. We just drive to the store, make our selection from the infinite choices we find there, come home and prepare it, or eat what others prepare for us. And we like it that way. Yet, somehow we feel entitled to go after the real-world producers who do the sweaty work and take on the countless risks involved that are required to actually grow our food.

Oppose this technology and there is blood on your hands. Science without GM lacks the potential to feed as many people, and feed them as nutritiously. We need to look no further than the very unfortunate Philippines story from two weeks ago, when activists destroyed the GM rice trials of Golden Rice, a rice modified to produce Vitamin A to prevent blindness and death of children in vulnerable populations.

GM technology is advancing rapidly and can help solve food growing challenges such as weather resilience, improved nutrition, yields, pest and disease resilience.

Good environmentalists should support genetic modification. And why should the rest of us pay higher food prices because activists oppose this important science and want GM labeling?

ALSO SEE: Biotech Crop Adoption Around the World and a Statement about GM Activism, and Synthetic Biology – What Does it Mean for Agriculture?

Hot 5: Global Water Demand Chart. Cartoon Corner. Farmland Prices. DDGS is a Poor Product. Honey Uses.

1. Global Water Demand by 2050.

Right now there is a lot in the news about future water shortages because of the World Water Week meeting being held in Stockholm August 26-31, 2012.

The OECD graph above shows how and where water needs will increase by 55 percent between 2000 and 2050 for irrigation, energy, and factories.

IPS reports from the meeting, saying that the U.S. intelligence community is portraying a grim scenario of ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and mass killings as the world faces water scarcity over the next few decades.

In addition, the Environmental Working Group reminds us that energy extraction in fracking and other future methods require water and much of that water becomes contaminated.

By 2030, it is expected that about half of the world’s population will live in water stressed areas. Countries such as India could face significant interior strife due to inadequate water resources.

Since agriculture is the largest and most inefficient consumer of water, people will be looking towards solutions from the sector both in efficiency and in dietary changes, such as reducing meat consumption.

2. Cartoon Corner with Bob Dinneen.

Note that the above are direct quotes of Bob Dinneen, the President of the Renewable Fuels Association, from a video discussion on Platts Energy titled “The Ethanol Debate” from August 19, 2012.

Links to the videos (Part I and Part II) are here:

3. Chicago Federal Reserve Bank’s Second Quarter Farmland Price Report.

From the August 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Farmland price report:
  • The year-over-year gain in agricultural land values was 15 percent in the second quarter of 2012 for the Seventh Federal Reserve District.
  • 94 percent of agricultural loans seen by survey respondents have no significant repayment problems.
  • Iowa led the price increases with a year-over-year gain of 24 percent.

From the letter’s “Selected Agricultural economic indicators chart:

  • In this district, from two years ago, the July corn price is up 111 percent; wheat is up 85 percent; and hay is up 66 percent. In this district, May corn exports are down 34 percent from two years ago; soybean exports are up 111 percent; and wheat exports are up 50 percent.
  • July sales of tractors over 100 HP or more are up 43 percent over two years ago.

4. DDGS Product: The Real Story.

Photo: So. Dakota Corn Blog

The following paragraph is a rebuttal to Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association, after Bob touted how wonderful DDGS product is (distillers grain product is what’s left-over from the ethanol process) in a Platts Energy video discussion. Michael Formica doesn’t share Dinneen’s enthusiasm for the product…

Talk about misleading. So this is like going to the fair and ordering a hot dog and just getting the bun. Our producers want to get corn. They value the corn for the energy in the corn, for the starch in the corn. The ethanol industry takes 70 percent by volume of the corn and removes it and gives us basically the hulls of the corn. Now, true, it’s valuable as a protein. That doesn’t replace corn, that replaces the soybean. Also, while the cattle industry can use it, its really a substitute for fiber. There’s very limited use for hog farmers. They can use up to 20 percent for a small period of time. The poultry industry can’t use it at all.

—Michael Formica, Chief Environmental Council, National Pork Producers Council from a video discussion on Platts Energy titled “The Ethanol Debate” from August 19, 2012.


Links to the Platts Energy Videos are here:

5. The Story of Honey from the Honeybee to the Table.

Honey is useful in children as a cough suppressant and it also has anti-microbial properties. The pediatrician in this video gives advice on dosages. A chef describes how he uses honey in his cooking. There are 300 varieties of honey produced in the U.S. Check the ingredients on your honey jar and there should only be one ingredient, “honey”.

Agriculture News May 16, 2012

UK 1936 Farm Workers Cottages owned by the Hon G. Vesley, Driffield.
Photo from UK Archives.

So… the resident raccoons ate our first crop of Mara des Bois strawberries last night. Bummer.
I’m throwing up some news tonight before I step away from my desk for a few days. There will be more posts coming however, so no reader break for you weary folks.

● A friend who was a fan of the Ernest Callenbach book “Ecotopia” sent the following Huff-Post article to me. When Callenbach died at the age of 83 in April, this writing was found on his computer: Epistle to the Ecotopians. Though I never read the book, judging by this essay, it looks to me like this man had the ability to think very clearly.

… With the movement into cities of the U.S. population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. … As empires decline, their leaders become increasingly incompetent — petulant, ignorant, gifted only with PR skills of posturing and spinning, and prone to the appointment of loyal idiots to important government positions. Comedy thrives; indeed writers are hardly needed to invent outrageous events. … As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi — the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else…

● True confessions here. In our family we’ve always purchased gas without ethanol if it is available. If you feel powerless politically, you can at least vote with your dollar. Oil companies say E15 ethanol damages engines (Des Moines Register) AND Ethanol concerns bring customers to more costly ‘pure’ gas stations (Fox News)

TIAA-CREF is partnering with Canadian and European money managers to form a $2 billion global farmland investing company to capitalize on the growing demand for grains and other agricultural products. (Drovers)

John Deere is well on its way to a year of outstanding performance after reporting an eighth consecutive quarter of record earnings … Company equipment sales are projected to increase by about 15 percent for fiscal 2012 and by about 25 percent for the third quarter compared with the same periods a year ago. (Marketwatch)

The current demographic and cultural changes in Midwestern and Southern communities are among the most important transformational events shaping the future of U.S. agriculture and rural America. Migration has been an important source of labor for the U. S. agricultural sector. Today’s immigrants, primarily Latino/as, began to move to rural towns in growing numbers in the 1990s, alleviating decades of population decline, and contributing to the economic vigor of rural communities. (Choices)

● ENERGY: I find these quotes by de Margerie quite interesting because I have quoted him many times previously warning the world that we are facing peak oil. He appears to have had a turn-around in his view…. Total’s chief executive Christophe de Margerie said new sources of petroleum, such as tight gas and shale oil, meant that the world had ample supplies of petroleum. (Adelaide Now)

Frequent Floods Force Farmers to Rethink Age-Old Practices (Inside Climate News)

How the FDA Fails to Regulate Antibiotics in Ethanol Production (IATP)

Economist Sees Conditions Ripening for New ‘Dust Bowl’ (AGripulse)

India loses faith in GM cotton – Ten years after it was introduced to India, genetically modified cotton is not living up to its promise. It is vulnerable to new diseases and yields are not as great as expected. (Guardian)

From Science Fiction To Fact, Robots Are Coming To A Farm Near You (NPR) includes video of a tractor operating without a driver.

● I personally love to look at photos and a photo such as this one simply makes you stop and think. Large Black and White Photo of a Farmer tilling his field in Afghanistan.


As U.S. honey production dropped 16 percent last year, imports jumped

The U.S. honey crop was hampered by drought conditions in the South and heavy rainfall in many northern States in 2011. As a result, domestic honey production dropped 16 percent in 2011 from 2010 as the number of bee colonies fell 7.5 percent and yield per colony declined 9 percent. In total, domestic production fell by 28.1 million pounds of honey, despite record-high average prices received by honey producers in both 2010 and 2011.

The drop in U.S. production, coupled with high domestic honey prices, increased honey imports to 288.3 million pounds in 2011, twice the amount imported a decade ago in 2001. The top three foreign suppliers of natural honey to the United States—Argentina, Vietnam and India—accounted for two-thirds of total U.S. imported honey in 2011. (source: usda)