Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Agriculture, Farming, and Food Reading Picks for this Week

Ribes oxyacanthoides. Canadian Gooseberry. c1886.

This Tuesday news thread is a weekly feature here at Big Picture Agriculture.
  1. A new study in Global Food Security found that livestock place less burden on the human food supply than previously reported. Even stronger, certain production systems contribute directly to global food security because they produce more highly valuable nutrients for humans, such as proteins, than they consume. | Phys.org
  2. The Netherlands has become an agricultural giant by showing what the future of farming could look like. | National Geographic
  3. The great nutrient collapse - The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention. | Politico
  4. Comment: This article was getting a lot of attention this week and one reader sent it to me, so I'll comment. The author lamented a lack of available data, but she didn't tap the information from plant breeders and greenhouse operators. For example, wheat researchers constantly monitor and study the amount of protein in the various wheat varieties. They know that more added Nitrogen to the soil increases the protein content of the wheat grain, and they also know that higher protein content in winter wheat is associated with the lower yield varieties. They know that a steady decrease in the quality of the soil wheat is grown in here in the U.S. is causing a protein decline, but is any of it related to CO2 amounts in the atmosphere? This would be hard to study since Nature doesn’t provide controlled conditions. As for the goldenrod example used in the article, though interesting, before getting too excited about it, I'd like to know variables like which goldenrod species were used for the protein content comparison, and from which growing region, since there are around 120 species of goldenrod. One could assume that goldenrod samples from the mid-1800s were taken from rich prairie soil ecosystems. Did the goldenrod protein comparison come from an equivalent ecosystem? One would need to include soil microbial health controls for any credible studies on CO2 plant nutrient levels, plus seed variety, water availability, temperatures and other weather conditions, poisons used, presence/absence of pollution, cover crops, and, added nutrients, both artificial (NPK) and natural (manure or compost). Hopefully further research on this subject can be done in controlled greenhouse environments, but the effort required will be considerable. To see some of the complexities involved in studying this in a greenhouse, see this article. In the end, one might argue that time spent by plant breeders, and soil scientists to improve nutrient content of crops would be better spent, since the atmospheric CO2 is beyond the control of the farmer-producer anyway. But, I agree that we should learn more, if possible about this subject.
  5. Unprecedented levels of nitrogen could pose risks to Earth's environment | Phys.org
  6. The corn chopped for silage now is done so by equipment so advanced that it can harvest a whole year’s worth of cattle feed in only one day. | National Corn Growers Assoc.
  7. Predicting ever higher amounts of corn and soybeans for this season | Reuters / Dairy Herd
  8. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom lead the EU in wheat production, but new member states are leading in growth | USDA Chart
  9. Rural Areas Show Overall Population Decline and Shifting Regional Patterns of Population Change | Amber Waves USDA
  10. Going into its fourth harvest, industrial hemp industry still facing growing pains; Colorado hemp farmers expect to harvest 9,000 acres this year | Denver Post
  11. Questioning Whole Foods "free range" chicken source | The Intercept
  12. Gladstone REIT has 72 farms with over 61,000 acres in 9 different U.S. states | Seeking Alpha
  13. Well-to-do investors plow cash into Canadian farmland | The Globe and Mail
  14. Antibiotic resistance in fish farms is passed on from fish food | The Economist (requires registration, then free reading)
  15. Cargill, an intensely private firm, sheds light on the food chain; The epitome of Big Agriculture tries to predict the future of food | The Economist
  16. A maize boom turns the English countryside green in every sense; The crop’s cultivation has increased nearly tenfold, to feed cows and biogas generators | The Economist
  17. Colorado is focusing on suicide prevention among farmers during these difficult farming times | Denver Post
  18. The 'Ghost Geography' Of Midwest Farmland And A Year In The Life Of A Modern American Family Farm | KUNC
  19. Organic farm stats in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois | Daily Nonpareil
  20. Agriculture holds the key to unlocking Africa’s vast economic potential | The Guardian
  21. Soybean importers fight back - by growing their own | Agrimoney
  22. China plans nationwide use of ethanol gasoline by 2020, state media says | CNBC
  23. Green gold: how China quietly grew into a cannabis superpower - Plantations are flourishing thanks to Chinese-developed hybrid species that have not just survived but thrived in the country’s disparate environments | South China Post
  24. Humane alternative to industrial milk farming in Britain? | DW
  25. Growing the Paw Paw fruit | MPR News
  26. Americans’ consumption of vegetables and legumes has moved closer to recommendations but fall way short in red and orange vegetables | USDA Chart
  27. The Puget Sound Food Hub handles orders, storage and deliveries for nearly 50 local, smaller producers. | Seattle Times
  28. Wild ginseng harvest season to begin in Virginia | AP
  29. Local sausage company expands into King Soopers | Boulder Biz West
  30. The Hidden Memories of Plants | Atlas Obscura
  31. BONUS: What happened. | Storm Lake Times
  32. Quote: "We could write a book about What Happened, but it would not be long enough. Just a sentence would do: Hillary Clinton lost the election because she ignored Iowa and Wisconsin. Period. End of book." (There's a great paragraph later in the piece about the condition of rural Iowa that you really need to read.)

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