Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Ag Hot Five No. 3


The best gardeners in my area are "passionate" about this asparagus variety and can't seem to get enough of it into the ground fast enough. It is tasty, sweet, nutty, plump, and extra-tender, lacking strings like regular asparagus. Because it is so tender and sweet, and the uncooked purple color is so attractive, it is used fresh in salads or eaten raw as a snack. This variety is a prolific producer and can be harvested for eight weeks. Note that it loses its purple color and turns green if cooked. This variety was discovered in a small village near the southern Alps, and then perfected over nine years, according to Miller Nurseries. You might want to add it to your own garden this spring — if you are lucky enough to find some, that is.


The USDA's March 30th Prospective Plantings report has created quite a stir with its estimates for this coming season. The cure for high prices is high prices, although that phrase was thought up before the ICE (internal combustion engine) was instructed to eat corn.
Corn growers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2012, up 4 percent from last year and 9 percent higher than in 2010. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.
Analysts are very concerned about dry soil conditions in the corn belt, the driest since 1975 in NW Iowa.

Changes in acreage from 2011 According to the
2012 Prospective Plantings USDA Report:

Corn Planted Acreage Up 4% [Up 9% from 2010]
Soybean Acreage Down 1% [Down 5% from 2010]
All Wheat Acreage Up 3%
All Cotton Acreage Down 11%
Sorghum Up 9%
Oats Up 15%
Barley Up 30%
Winter Wheat Up 3%
Durum Wheat Up 62%
Other Wheat Down 3%
Rice Down 5%
Hay Up 3% [From a record low last year]
Peanuts Up 25%
Sunflower Up 17%
Canola Up 45%
Flaxseed Up 62% [Down 31% from 2010]
Sugarbeets Up 1%
Tobacco Down 2%
Sweet Potatoes Down 1%
Dry Beans Up 38% [Down 13% from 2010]
Lentils Up 21%
Dry edible peas Up 71% [Down 18% from 2010]
Austrian winter peas Up 17%



Did you know that the Mother Earth News website lists land for sale? You can search by using a variety of criteria including price, size, and location. For fun, I selected this property pictured above, because it is an area that I am familiar with and quite fond of. It is in the Loess Hills region of Iowa, just East of the Missouri River. For sale is 48 acres with a lake and cornfield in Woodbury County. The price is $242,000. A spring fed pond is 20 feet deep and 15 acres in size, adjacent to the Little Sioux River. This is sold as a hunting property but it just might make a great small farm. Ironically, what historically has been shunned as marginal farmland in this nation, some might consider most desirable today because that land is still in its most natural state.

(To do your own property search, click here.)


This photo is from the Minnesota Extension Service of a hog barn with foaming manure, after an explosion. Its roof blew off and settled back down.

Scientists in the Midwest are trying to determine what is causing the dangerous recent phenomena of an explosive foam created by manure pits of hog confinement operations. This foam, which was first seen four-five years ago, is rapid-growing with a mucous-like texture and it traps large amounts of methane gas beneath it. The foam can reach a thickness of four feet. So far, it has been found in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. A half-dozen barns have exploded as a result of this new foam, killing thousands of hogs, injuring workers, and causing millions of dollars in damages. In a Minnesota study of 200 operations, it found that one out of four had the new dangerous foam. One explanation is that a new filamentous bacteria has developed in recent years from a change in the hog pit's environment. Scientists are looking at what has changed in the past several years and possible causes include the hog dietary change which now includes DDGS's, or a new bacteria resulting from antibiotics found in the DDGS or hog feed. Pundits are having a field day with this story, as you might guess, and saying that Mother Nature has issued a verdict on factory farming after She read the now famous "Boss Hog" story out of Rolling Stone magazine. A recent Discover magazine article put it this way, "we can’t entirely blame a microbe for the problem, after all, it wasn’t they who devised the policy that seems to be giving us tons of excess DDGS and explosive, methane-filled foam."

(To see a short Youtube video of the foam click here.)

Iowa State Report: Deep Pit Swine Facility Flash Fires and Explosions: Sources, Occurrences, Factors, and Management


Celebrity Chef Ted Allen Cooks His Favorite Pretentious Foodie Bullshit Meal