USDA Helps Farmers Diversify Weed Control Efforts

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USDA_logo_svgAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several steps that the USDA is taking to address the increase of herbicide resistant weeds in U.S. agricultural systems.

“Weed control in major crops is almost entirely accomplished with herbicides today,” said Vilsack. “USDA, working in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, must continue to identify ways to encourage producers to adopt diverse tactics for weed management in addition to herbicide control. The actions we are taking today are part of this effort.”

USDA is announcing several of the steps it is taking to help farmers manage their herbicide resistant weed problems in a more holistic and sustainable way:

– USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer financial assistance under its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for herbicide resistant weed control practices that utilize Integrated Pest Management plans and practices.
– Later this year NRCS will be soliciting proposals under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program for innovative conservation systems that address herbicide resistant weeds.
– USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will actively promote use of best management practices (BMPs) in design protocols for regulated authorized releases of genetically engineered (GE) crops and will include recommendations for BMPs with the authorization of field trials of HR crops.
– USDA is partnering with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and is providing funds to develop education and outreach materials for various stakeholders on managing herbicide–resistant weeds. The Secretary has directed Dr. Sheryl Kunickis, Director of the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, as the point person leading this effort with the USDA.

With EPA’s announcement today on the registration of new uses for herbicide mixtures containing the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate (in the Enlist® formulation) in conjunction with new genetically engineered crop varieties, farmers are being offered one more new tool to better manage emerging populations of herbicide-resistant weeds in corn and soybeans crops. In its decision for 2,4-D use on genetically modified corn and soybean, EPA has outlined new requirements for registrants as part of a product stewardship program.

Find the complete release here.

Ag Group, USDA, Weed control Jamie JohansenUSDA Helps Farmers Diversify Weed Control Efforts

Food Dialogue on GMOs

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Mike Pearson Market to MarketWhat do you know about GMOs? Most people not much with the exception that many have been led to believe they are bad. In a recent Jimmy Kimmel Live, Jimmy Kimmel, he took to the streets to ask people what a GMO was and not one person knew, even thought most believed they were bad. In case you don’t know, its a “genetically modified organism” or in the words of 2014 Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, it means genetically engineered.

Because GMO’s are such a misunderstood technology and a hot topic the U.S. Ranchers & Farmers Alliance (USFRA) hosted a Food Dialogue event in conjunction with CAST and the World Food Prize. “GMOs and the Consumer Mindset: Does Perception and Marketing Outweigh Science?” was moderated by Mike Pearson, host of Market to Market on Iowa Public Television. Panelists included Julie Kenney, farmer and CommonGround volunteer; David Sutherland, activist, blogger and founder of VeganGMO; Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California-Davis, department of Animal Science; and Jay Byrne, president v-Fluence Interactive.

The dialogue focused on two main topics: what consumers believe about GMOs and how to get the facts into the conversation and more specifically how to get scientists, like Van Eenannaam, more involved in the conversation.

One issue that all the panelists noted was that in the debate, the “experts” have no expertise. They are anti-GMO advocates from various walks of life who have self-proclaimed themselves experts but don’t understand the data or more specifically refuse to acknowledge the data. And what is unnerving, explained Byrne, is that people who are reading about GMOs are taking the word of these experts including high profile media such as Dr. Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show.

Speaking of media, all the panelists agreed that the media were in part to blame for the mis-information being proGMO Food Dialogues Des Moinespagated about GMOs. They don’t do their research and they don’t understand science. Sutherland noted that the story of GMOs being fine “is not sexy” and thus is ignored.

Kenney added that when speaking to “mom bloggers” when they come to the farm they had the view that GMOs were bad but after seeing firsthand how food was made, many of them became “conflicted” as to which message was the truth.

Sutherland, Byrne and Kenney all stressed that in their roles, the people they are speaking with have no science-based facts and stressed the need for more scientists to speak out. However, Van Eenennaam said that its hard to scientists to speak out when they are attacked and many have difficulty discussing their research in ways consumers can understand.

Yet despite these challenges, Byrne said that this debate will run its course and if the facts continue to be presented by respected people, such as the work Kenney is doing with CommonGround and the work Van Eenennaam is doing on behalf of the scientific community, GMOs will ultimately become accepted and no longer a front line issue.

Ag Group, Food, GMO, USFRA Jamie JohansenFood Dialogue on GMOs

Rice as a Cover Crop in the Everglades

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

ctic-14-riceRice has become an environmentally sensible cover crop option for sugarcane growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

During the 2014 CTIC Conservation in Action tour last week, we heard about this from the agriculture program leader for the University of Florida Palm Beach County Extension Service, who is aptly named Ron Rice.

“It’s much more than a cover crop, it’s a cover crop that really fits in with the whole philosophy of phosphorus reduction and best management practices that all the growers are implementing,” said Rice.

Dr. Rice says that rice provides two important benefits. First, it serves as a habitat for bird populations. In addition, the rice fields act like mini storm water treatment areas. “Water and phosphorus concentrations that are coming in as irrigation, that phosphorus gets taken up in the rice plant and then the water leaving the rice fields is lower in phosphorus than the irrigation water than brought it in,” he explained.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Ron Rice, University of Florida


2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Audio, Conservation, Cover Crops, CTIC Cindy ZimmermanRice as a Cover Crop in the Everglades

Almond Board Announces Bee Management Practices

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.09.38 AMAs part of an ongoing commitment to honey bee health, the Almond Board of California released a comprehensive, set of Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California’s almond industry.

Developed with a wide array of input from sources including the almond community, beekeepers, researchers, California and U.S. regulators, and chemical registrants, the BMPs represent the Board’s most extensive educational documents to date to ensure that almond orchards are and remain a safe and healthy place for honey bees. The documents lay out simple, practical steps that almond growers can take together with beekeepers and other pollination stakeholders to protect and promote bee health on their land and in the surrounding community.

The release builds on decades of work by the almond industry. Since 1995, the Almond Board of California has invested almost $1.6 million – more than any other crop – on research related to honey bee health, on subjects including Varroa mite and other honey bee pest and disease management, nutrition and honey bee forage, impact of pesticides, and technical assistance for beekeepers. Almond orchards are often honey bees first source of natural pollen after the winter, and honey bee hives routinely leave the almond orchard stronger than they arrived.

“Nobody is a bigger fan of honey bees than almond growers. Without bees, there would be no almonds. And without almonds, bees would lose a vital source of nutritious natural pollen,” said Richard Waycott, CEO of the Almond Board of California. “These Best Management Practices are another significant milestone in our decades-long commitment to protect bee health and preserve that mutually beneficial relationship.”

“With these Best Management Practices, the Almond Board is responding strongly on honey bee health and, in particular, pesticide use and considerations during bloom,” said Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Emeritus. “Their recommendations actually go far beyond the almond orchard, providing important insights for all crops when it comes to promoting honey bee health.”

Ag Group, Bees Jamie JohansenAlmond Board Announces Bee Management Practices

Bayer Showcases Food Chain Partnership at PMA Convention

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

bayerBayer CropScience showcased its latest global Food Chain Partnership projects at the PMA Fresh Summit Convention & Expo this past week. The annual conference brings together decision makers at every level of the produce supply chain, including growers, importers and exporters, processors and retailers.

“To continue to meet the needs of our growers, we must first understand the needs of the food value chain and those consumers at the very end of it,” said Silke Friebe, head of global Food Chain Management at Bayer CropScience. “Having this understanding allows us to provide growers with the tools to meet those needs, from planting to harvest and storage.”

“Bayer CropScience is focused on providing growers with new technology and expertise in seeds and crop protection,” said Rob Schrick, strategic business management lead for horticulture at Bayer CropScience. “That’s why we’re putting more than a billion dollars a year into research and continually providing new products that improve the health, quality and yield of crops.”

During Fresh Summit, representatives from Bayer CropScience discussed the Food Chain Partnership’s impact on the produce market, as well as the wide range of solutions available to fruit and vegetable growers.

Bayer CropScience, Food Cindy ZimmermanBayer Showcases Food Chain Partnership at PMA Convention

Propane Supplies Much Better than Last Winter

John Davis Leave a Comment

propane-logo1Last winter’s propane shortages that hit farmers and rural residents hard for their business and home heating needs should not be repeated this winter. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is citing U.S. Energy Information Administration information that expects a warmer winter and a propane stocks up 17 percent from a year ago in the Gulf Coast and Midwest, along with a 12 percent increase in production from 2013.

“These are positive signs,” said Roy Willis, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council, “but our industry is working hard to ensure our customers are prepared. Propane retailers across the country remain focused on safety and encouraging customers to consider early fills, automatic refills, and payment programs now before cold weather hits.”

PERC launched a $5.5 million consumer safety and preparedness campaign in early September directing residential heating customers and agribusiness operators, among others, to propanecomfort.com. On the site, propane customers can take a quiz to determine if they are prepared for winter and review energy efficiency tips. Visitors can also sign up for news updates from PERC.

“Preliminary numbers for the campaign show that nearly 20,000 customers have already taken advantage of our online resources and we expect to see continued engagement as we get closer to winter,” said Willis.

PERC will TV ads through Thanksgiving in 30 states most affected by deliverability challenges and temporary price increases last winter.

propane John DavisPropane Supplies Much Better than Last Winter

The Nose Knows: Bugs’ Sense of Smell Turned Against Them

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noseknows1Odors that certain bugs can sense and are attracted to are being used to control the pests. This article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the blend of odors that attracts spotted wing drosophila flies (SWD) has been developed into a new lure product for improved monitoring and control of these tree-fruit and berry pests.

The blend is a combination of four different chemicals found in the aromas of both wine and vinegar. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist Peter Landolt and research associate Dong Cha, along with their Oregon Department of Agriculture colleagues, isolated the chemicals and evaluated them extensively in laboratory and field trials.

Based on those findings, Trece, Inc., in Adair, Oklahoma, commercially formulated the compounds into a novel blend and controlled-release lure, which is marketed under the trademark “PHERO-CON SWD,” along with a related trap.

According to Landolt, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Wapato, Washington, farmers and pest managers need improved methods of attracting, monitoring and managing the flies to prevent potential losses of cherries, berries, grapes and other fruit crops. The lure’s availability should provide growers with better information to use in making pest-management decisions, such as where, when or whether to spray.

SWD flies can be awfully tough on a fruit crop, as the female SWD flies deposit their eggs beneath the surface of host fruit, where subsequent larval feeding causes it to soften, bruise and wrinkle. While lures with wine and vinegar isn’t a new way to try to control the pests, this is the first time there’s been a top-down examination of which chemical constituents in the liquids’ aromas attract specifically these flies.

Fruit, USDA John DavisThe Nose Knows: Bugs’ Sense of Smell Turned Against Them

TekWear Selected for Ag Accelerator Program

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 4.50.43 PMTekWear, LLC is one of 11 ag technology start-up companies selected to participate in the premier three-month VilCap USA: Agriculture 2014 entrepreneurial development program in Louisville, Ky. The program supports early-stage ventures that increase agricultural resource efficiency and helps find business solutions to challenges facing farmers, ranchers, and rural, low-wealth populations.

Bruce Rasa, CEO and founder of TekWear, LLC, says being selected for VilCap USA: Agriculture 2014 is a tremendous opportunity to be exposed to and learn from the best business minds, investors, and industry experts in the country. Rasa and three core staff members will be participating in the three-month program, the 28th such program launched by Village Capital worldwide.

“Entrepreneurs who participate in this peer-review program receive the top-level business coaching and mentoring needed to take their companies to the next level,” Rasa explains. “Few business-development incubators in the country provide the intensive training and exposure VilCap USA does, or have shown the success this program has had in supporting early-stage agricultural technology ventures.”

TekWear, LLC, a leading developer of apps for wireless wearable devices used in agriculture, joins 10 other young ag venture companies all focused on finding, developing or marketing innovative products, or providing solutions to a wide variety of agricultural and food production challenges. In addition to the business development training, two participating businesses ranked highest by their peers will each receive a $50,000 investment from Village Capital and Radicle Capital. VilCap USA: Agriculture 2014 is part of the SOURCE Initiative, which is a nationwide partnership between Village Capital, The Hitachi Foundation, and Investors’ Circle. The program receives further support from the Blue Sky Network and VentureWell, as well as a powerful network of Kentucky-based mentors and advisors.

Agribusiness, Apps, Company Announcement, technology Jamie JohansenTekWear Selected for Ag Accelerator Program

Antarctica2 Tractor Passes Muster in Iceland

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 4.42.01 PMMassey Ferguson, has announced that the MF 5610 tractor set to journey to the South Pole in six weeks’ time has successfully completed stringent tests in Iceland.

Known as Antarctica2, the adventurous mission to drive a tractor to the Geographical South Pole is the dream of Manon Ossevoort, aka ‘Tractor Girl’, who will pilot the specially-prepared MF 5610 on the 2350km expedition across treacherous snow and ice. In doing so, she and her expert back-up team will echo the achievement of Sir Edmund Hillary who trekked to the South Pole using three Ferguson tractors in 1958.

The Antarctica2 expedition is being organized to highlight the need for sustainable food security through the provision of accessible technologies and innovative services to allow future farmers to meet the world’s growing requirement for food.

Modified by the engineering team at AGCO’s Beauvais tractor plant, the MF 5610 completed its final testing over a two-week period in Iceland. “The tractor performed extremely well in our trials,” says Massey Ferguson Engineering Project Manager, Olivier Hembert. “It will have to endure temperatures down to minus 40 degrees centigrade, altitude of 3400 metres and tackle deep, soft snow. This kind of environment calls for straightforward, dependable engineering for which Massey Ferguson is renowned. Previous tests in Iceland and France were made to check its performance in polar ground conditions and at very low temperatures.”

Throughout the journey, the tractor’s AgCommandTM telematics system will relay performance information back to a 24-hour support team in Beauvais. “The clock is now ticking for this long-planned project to become reality,” adds Olivier. “We are very excited about monitoring our tractor’s progress across the challenging icescape and ensuring its technical and mechanical stamina to accomplish the mission.”

Live-streaming and regular updates via a dedicated website will keep the rest of the world in touch with the adventure’s progress. The tractor and team depart Novo Base in East Antarctica around 24 November and are scheduled to arrive at the South Pole around 15 December.

Ag Group, Tractor Jamie JohansenAntarctica2 Tractor Passes Muster in Iceland

Growing Leaf Crops in the Everglades

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment


2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

ctic-14-orsenigoPaul Orsenigo has been farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) for nearly 30 years, growing sugarcane and rice as well as a wide variety of leafy vegetables. The operation where he grows several types of lettuce, cilantro, parsley, Chinese cabbage, spinach and more was one of our stops this week on the 2014 CTIC Conservation in Action Tour. It was the only stop on the tour where we got a little rain.

Orsenigo says they use lots of best management practices to preserve the rich muck soils of the Everglades area such as cover crops, fallow flooding, and crop rotation. “It’s a very unique part of the world here in the EAA and we’re working hard to preserve and protect and prolong the productive life of it,” he said.

Watch my interview with Paul here:


Conservation, CTIC, Soil, Video Cindy ZimmermanGrowing Leaf Crops in the Everglades