Farmers are increasingly sick of high-tech tractors that are expensive to buy and usually impossible to fix yourself due to their integrated digital technology. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, "Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days." To be sure, the farmers buying these old machines aren't luddites. In fact, they often customize and retrofit them with contemporary tech like GPS for automatic steering. From the Star Tribune:
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“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” (BigIron owner Mark) Stock said.
There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.
“That goes against the pride of ownership, plus your lifetime of skills you’ve built up being able to fix things,” (Machinery Pete founder Greg) Peterson said...
The cheaper repairs for an older tractor mean their life cycle can be extended. A new motor or transmission may cost $10,000 to $15,000, and then a tractor could be good for another 10 or 15 years.
Folland has two Versatile 875s manufactured in the early 1980s in Winnipeg and bought a John Deere 4440 last year with 9,000 hours on it, expecting to get another 5,000 hours out of it before he has to make a major repair.
One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions.
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In the Federal Register, EPA said “critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data” that show chlorpyrifos causes neurological harm to young children.
Real wasabi, Wasabia japonica, is apparently one of the most expensive vegetables to grow. That green stuff you're eating? Ground horseradish, Chinese mustard, and, you guessed it, green food coloring. Yum.
According to The Atlantic, "Worldwide, experts believe that this imposter combination masquerades as wasabi about 99% of the time."
Above, meet Shigeo Iida, 75, whose family has grown real wasabi for eight generations.
image: HK 北角 North Point 和田 Wada Japanese Restaurant 放題 Buffet dinner 山葵 green Wasabi Mar-2013 Read the rest
For years, college students have unofficially majored in weed. Now universities are beginning to offer cannabis studies programs because, y'know, marijuana is where the money is these days. From the Associated Press:
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"We're providing a fast track to get into the industry," said Brandon Canfield, a chemistry professor at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Two years ago, he proposed a new major in medicinal plant chemistry after attending a conference where cannabis industry representatives spoke of an urgent need for analytical chemists for product quality assessment and assurance.
The four-year degree, which is the closest thing to a marijuana major at an accredited U.S. university, has drawn nearly 300 students from 48 states, Canfield said. Students won't be growing marijuana, which was recently legalized by Michigan voters for recreational use. But Canfield said students will learn to measure and extract medicinal compounds from plants such as St. John's Wort and ginseng and transfer that knowledge to marijuana.
Agricultural schools are also getting in on the action. A similar program is being launched at Minot State University in North Dakota this spring. The college said students will learn lab skills applicable to medical marijuana, hops, botanical supplements and food science industries.
"All of our graduates are going to be qualified to be analysts in a lab setting," Canfield said, noting that experience could lead to a position paying $70,000 right out of school. Those wishing to start their own businesses can choose an entrepreneurial track that adds courses in accounting, legal issues and marketing...
On Monday, we reported that for the first time, a plant seed had germinated on the moon, an early experiment to test whether food could someday be grown on the moon to feed residents of a lunar base. The cotton sprout was inside a canister on China's Chang’e 4 lander that touched down on the far side of the moon earlier this month. Now, word that the first lunar plant has died. The little seedling froze to death during the lunar night. From GBTimes:
Liu Hanlong, head of the experiment at Chongqing University, said at a Chongqing government press conference on Tuesday that the temperature inside the 1-litre-capacity canister had reached -52 degrees Celsius and the experiment had ended.
According to Liu, the experiment did not carry a battery and could not continue environmental control during the lunar nighttime. The lack of battery was possibly due to mass constraints for the mission and the lander's own power demands...
"Although it is a biological payload for popularising science, it laid a foundation and technological support for our next step, that is, to build a lunar base for living," (Chongqing University professor and designer of the experiment) Xie (Genxin) said.
• China launching lunar spacecraft to test growing plants on the dark side of the Moon
• First images from China's probe that just landed on the dark side of the moon
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Some communities across California are suing to ban cannabis operations in their vicinity because they claim the smell from the crops is nauseating. I mean, they don't call it skunk for nothing. From the New York Times
As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint...
“It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house,” said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. “It doesn’t dissipate,” Ms. Guthrie said. “It’s beyond anything you would imagine.”
When cannabis odors are at their peak, she and her husband, Robert, sometimes wear respirators, the kind one might put on to handle dangerous chemicals. During Labor Day weekend, relatives came to stay at the house, but cut short their visit because they couldn’t stand the smell...
“Just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you want to live next to a pig farm,” said Lynda Hopkins, a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, whose office has been inundated with complaints about the smell...
image: Wikipedia/Cannabis Training University
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved the growing of a new kind of cotton plant that's been genetically modified to be edible. The toxic chemical gossypol in the plant usually makes the cotton dangerous for humans to eat. Texas A&M biotechnologist Keerti Rathore and colleagues genetically stopped the production of gossypol in the cottonseed while not interfering with it elsewhere in the plant where it acts as a natural insecticide. From Reuters:
“To me, personally, it tastes somewhat like chickpea and it could easily be used to make a tasty hummus,” Rathore said of gossypol-free cottonseed.
After cottonseed oil, which can be used for cooking, is extracted, the remaining high-protein meal from the new cotton plant can find many uses, Rathore said.
It can be turned into flour for use in breads, tortillas and other baked goods and used in protein bars, while whole cottonseed kernels, roasted and salted, can be consumed as a snack or to create a peanut butter type of paste, Rathore added.
(via Daily Grail)
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Over the next century, higher temperatures and an increased number of droughts will hit the global barley supply, pushing beer prices way up. University of East Anglia economist Dabo Guan and his colleagues developed multiple scenarios based on several climate and economic models. Nature:
The researchers then simulated the effect of these droughts and heat waves on barley production by using software to model crop growth and yield on the basis of weather and other variables.
They found that, globally, this extreme weather would reduce barley yield by between 3% and 17%. Some countries fared better than others: tropical areas such as Central and South America were hit badly, but crop yields actually increased in certain temperate areas, including northern China and the United States. Some areas of those countries saw yield increases of up to 90% — but this was not enough to offset the global decrease.
Finally, Guan and his colleagues fed these changes in barley yield into an existing economic model that can account for changes in supply and demand in the global market. This enabled them to look at how reduced barley production would affect pricing and consumption of beer in countries, as well as trade between nations.
In the worst-case scenario, the reduced barley supply worldwide would result in a 16% decrease in global beer consumption in the years of extreme-weather events. Prices would, on average, double...
One goal of the research, Guan says, was to make tangible how "climate change will impact people’s lifestyle... Read the rest
After three years of legal weed, Oregon has grown 1.1 million pounds, approximately three times what residents buy in a year. From The Guardian:
The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.
Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.
For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.
But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product that’s a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.
“The business has been up and down and up and down,” says Don Morse, who closed his Human Collective II dispensary in south-west Portland four months ago. “But in a lot of ways it has just been down and down for dispensaries.”
"How do you move mountains of unwanted weed?" (The Guardian via Next Draft) Read the rest
Ordinary scarecrows cower in fear at the Super Monster Wolf, an animatronic beast invented to protect rice and chestnut crops from wild boar. The Super Monster Wolf has proven its value during trails near Kisarazu City in Japan. When an animal approaches, sensors on the Monster Wolf trigger its creepy eyes and hellish howl. From BBC News:
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The Japan Agricultural Cooperatives say that crop losses have noticeably decreased in areas where the Super Monster Wolf has been present. Beforehand, farmers around Kisarazu were resigned to giving up at least part of their crops to wild boar every year.
Speaking to the Chiba Nippo news website, Chihiko Umezawa of the agricultural cooperative says that the device has an effective radius of about one kilometre, suggesting it is more effective than an electric fence.
Now, the robot wolf is going into mass production, with units costing about 514,000 yen ($4,840; £3,480) each, but there are options for farmers to pay a far cheaper monthly lease on a wolf instead.
California is the United States agricultural juggernaut. Produce from California feeds the world and drives one of the largest economies on the planet. A side-effect of Trump's beloved, family destroying ICE raids is a massive labor shortage.
Fruit rots on the vine. Children lose their parents.
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Their absence threatens segments of the largest state economy, including retailers, restaurants and the Central Valley’s $47 billion agricultural industry, which provides more than half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the country. That broad, 450-mile swath of California yields an eighth of the country’s agricultural output.
The farm industry is already struggling to find workers like Maria’s husband. More than 55 percent of 762 farmers and ranchers surveyed in a California Farm Bureau Federation report from October 2017 said half of their land continues to go unattended because of an ongoing labor shortage directly related to U.S. immigration policy.
Of the state’s more than 2 million farm laborers, 1.5 million are undocumented, according to Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association, a 92-year-old industry group representing farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Although Nassif and the association have supported Trump since the early days of his campaign, he says the raids and decades-old immigration policy for farm workers are harming the industry and state economy.
Lufa Farms is a commercial rooftop greenhouse built in 2010, one of three such gardens that help feed 2% of Montreal. Read the rest
John Deere is notorious for arguing that farmers who buy its tractors actually "license" them because Deere still owns the copyright to the tractors' software; in 2015, the US Copyright Office affirmed that farmers were allowed to jailbreak their tractors to effect repairs and modifications. Read the rest
There's really nothing not to love about vertical farms -- multi-story hydroponic operations, usually sited in dense urban areas -- they borrow their best tech from the space program, they're water-conserving, they don't have runoff, they're energy efficient, and they're super land-efficient, meaning we don't need to turn forests or wetlands into fields. Read the rest
For years, entomologist Brandon Hopkins has argued for the establishment of a germplasm repository for cryopreservation of honey bee semen. Unfortunately, bee semen us very hard to collect and even harder to preserve, but Hopkins found better ways to extract and store their genetic material. Read the rest
Drone Deploy is an analytics and automation package that uses drones to create accurate 3D terrain and architectural models. Read the rest