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Home  > Breaking News

Breaking News

Permalink Research Explores Heat and Steam for Controlling Greenhouse Weeds

The Horticultural Research Institute reports on Morning Ag Clips that USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists in Wooster, Ohio, are exploring using steam or hot water to kill weed seeds in greenhouse propagation systems. These methods would be faster than soil solarization, be safer than herbicide use, and would allow the reuse of plastic propagation trays and containers. Researchers are testing to find critical temperature and exposure time needed for killing weed seeds with hot water or steam. Ongoing research found that creeping woodsorrel required exposure to 90°C for at least five minutes for 100% control, while bittercress was completely controlled with 90°C water at just one minute's exposure.

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Permalink Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council Seeks Nominations

The Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council has four openings for individuals interested in shaping the future of organic farming and food in Wisconsin. Representatives are sought from each of the following groups: farm, business, consumer, and at-large. Members serve three-year terms, and the council meets quarterly. The Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council's purpose is to give guidance to the governor, DATCP, the Wisconsin Legislature and other state or federal agencies about actions that could further Wisconsin's organic agriculture industry. Nominations will be accepted until May 1, 2017.

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Permalink Local Food Fact Sheet Series Supports Minnesota Farmer Sales

The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Minnesota Farmers' Market Association have released a new Local Food Fact Sheet Series to support sales of food by farmers and others in local food systems. There are six fact sheets in the series: four of them cover options for sale of products and regulations that apply to each option for red meat, poultry, eggs, and produce. A fifth fact sheet, Aggregation of Farmers' Produce, deals with sale of produce from multiple farms. The sixth, Approved Water Supply for Rural Food Businesses, provides information about options for food businesses that are not on a municipal water supply. The fact sheet series is primarily for farmers and sellers of local food, providing a comprehensive look at ways that locally grown foods can be sold, including sales to individual consumers.

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Permalink National Cover Crop Research Initiative Launched

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation have launched a $6.6 million national cover crop research initiative that will promote soil health through the development and adoption of new cover crops across the United States. The initiative will bring together many collaborators, including representatives from the seed industry, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), three land grant universities, and an existing Legume Cover Crop Breeding Team, comprising another six land grant universities, ARS sites, and a producer network. The focus of the initiative will be to identify cover crop species with the greatest potential to improve soil health and evaluate such species over a broad geography within three groups: small grains (wheat, rye, oat, and triticale), annual legumes (hairy vetch, winter peas, and clovers), and brassicas (turnips, radishes, kale, and mustards). Researchers will also seek to identify and introduce key traits that can improve crop performance and soil enhancement. Field trials will be conducted at five strategic sites: Maryland for the Northeast, North Carolina for the Southeast, Oklahoma for the Southern Plains, Nebraska for the Northern Plains, and Missouri for the Midwest. Short-term goals of the research are to identify the best cover crop species and varieties currently available through evaluation and screening, promote them to farmers and ranchers, and increase effective options within the marketplace.

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Permalink Texas Study Shows Multi-Paddock Grazing Reduces Runoff, Enhances Water Retention

A Texas A&M AgriLife Research study published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment journal evaluated the influence of continuous and multi-paddock grazing practices on runoff, sediment, and nutrient losses at both the ranch and watershed scales. "We found grazing management practices do have a significant influence on ecosystem services provided by rangelands," Dr. Srinivasulu Ale said. "Not only did the multi-paddock grazing practice provide several hydrological benefits such as increased soil infiltration, increased water conservation and decreased surface runoff, but also environmental benefits such as water quality improvement." Watershed-scale adoption of multi-paddock grazing reduced runoff and nutrient loads by about one-third, and increased annual subsurface flow by 48%. Meanwhile, reduced streamflow during high-flow conditions reduced the chances of downstream flooding.

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Permalink Barbed Wire Undamaged by Grass Fires, Study Shows

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering producers with fence damaged by grass fires some good news: although wood posts and stays may need to be replaced, barbed wire can probably be reused. Repairing, rather than replacing, fire-damaged fence can save producers $7,500 per mile. Oklahoma State University research showed that ductility, zinc coating, and tensile strength were unimpaired even on wire that had been subject to as many as six grass fires in 13 years. The wire may have a discolored appearance, but corrosion resistance and service life were not impaired.

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Permalink Organic Seed Sessions from Organicology Available Online

In collaboration with the Organic Seed Alliance, eOrganic recorded three sessions on organic seeds at the Organicology Conference in Portland, Oregon on February 3, 2017. "Got Seed?" demonstrates the importance of organic seed to the success of the broader organic food trade, emphasizing the role that organic processing and retail businesses can play in ensuring farmers have the organic seed they need to meet market demand. "Getting the Most Out of On-Farm Variety Trials" helps farmers gather useful information through the fundamentals of field trial design and data collection without increasing labor and resource inputs. "In Celebration of Seeds" tells the stories of a handful of passionate seed stewards who have dedicated their lives to explanding biodiversity, protecting human rights to save seed, and preserving, as well as creating, new cultural traditions around seed.

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Permalink NRCS Pilot Offers Free Conservation Planning in Six North Arkansas Counties

Landowners in Baxter, Fulton, Izard, Marion, Searcy, and Stone counties of Arkansas can request a free conservation plan through a pilot program offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The project, designed to combine the farming or ranching skills of the operator with the science-based knowledge of an NRCS conservation planner, runs through April 3, 2017. A conservation plan includes producer/landowner determined objectives and goals; an aerial photo or diagram of the farm; a soil map and soil description of the property; resource inventory data which can include forage or crop production potential, or potential livestock carrying capacity; a list of treatment options; the location and schedule for applying conservation practices; and a plan of operation and maintenance of conservation systems.

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Permalink Hawaii Tropical Fruit Pilot Crop Insurance Program Listening Sessions Scheduled

USDA logoUSDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) is currently evaluating the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Pilot Crop Insurance Program. This evaluation is to determine whether the pilot crop insurance program for banana, papaya, and coffee fruits should be converted to permanent program, modified and continued as pilot, or terminated. RMA will be holding a listening session conference call for growers, insurance company staff, agents, and other interested parties. The purpose of this listening session is to receive feedback on how the pilot crop insurance program has performed and how it can be improved. The conference call number is 888-844-9904 and Access Code 8604877. The listening session for each crop will be held on the following dates: Banana--April 5, 2017; Papaya--April 12, 2017; Coffee--April 19, 2017. All calls are from 9am to 10am HST.

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Permalink USDA Announces Aid for Midwest Farmers and Ranchers Affected by Fire

USDA logoUSDA has announced the availability of more than $6 million in funding to implement practices that will help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners affected by wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The funding, made available by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will assist local producers as they begin to restore scorched grazing land, rebuild fencing, protect damaged watersheds, and implement various conservation measures to mitigate losses. To be considered for financial assistance through EQIP, producers must submit a complete program application, establish farm records, and provide other documentation to support eligibility.

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Permalink Study Suggests Antibiotics Could Play a Role in Disappearing Honeybees

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests that antibiotics could play a role in honeybee deaths, as researchers found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment as a group of untreated bees. The antibiotics cleared out beneficial gut bacteria in the bees, allowing harmful pathogens to take hold. Large-scale beekeepers typically apply antibiotics to their hives several times a year to prevent foulbrood. The research was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

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Permalink Research Explores How Plants Use Limited Phosphate Efficiently

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have published their work that explored how a particular protein is related to the development of soil microbe communities that can help the plant be more efficient in its uptake of phosphate. Plants experiencing phosphate stress turn off certain immune functions, which in turn helps the soil microbes that deliver phosphate to the plant survive. This research raises the possibility of probiotic, microbe treatments for plants to increase their efficient use of phosphate. The work is particularly important in view of the limited global supply of phosphate that is available to plants.

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Permalink Report Offers Recommendations for Supporting Farmers Transitioning to Organic

A joint report released by Oregon Tilth and Oregon State University's Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems highlights key recommendations for organizations and agencies that can provide support in crop research, infrastructure, and market development, as well as shaping public policies for transition to organic production. Breaking New Ground: Farmer Perspectives on Organic Transition is based on surveys with more than 1,800 farmers who participated in USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative between 2010 and 2015, with a focus on transition. The report exhibits responses from four categories of farmers, echoing long-standing concerns about costs, recordkeeping, on-farm production challenges, infrastructure and access to profitable markets. The report recommends that organizations and agencies adopt a values-based approach to appeal to a wider audience of farmers, provide individualized support, develop more effective weed and pest management strategies, and learn more about the relationship between yield and successful transition.

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Permalink Materials for Spring NOSB Meeting Published

USDA logoUSDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted meeting materials and an updated agenda for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Spring meeting, to be held in Denver, Colorado, April 19-21, 2017. During the meeting, which is open to the public, the board will address several petitions about changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

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Permalink Adirondack Fibershed Launches

The Adirondack Fibershed has been launched as an affiliate of the original Fibershed concept in northern California, a non-profit organization. The motto is "local fiber, local dye, local labor" and the goal is to bring the same awareness many have about the benefits of local and sustainable food to fiber, textiles, and clothing. The evolution of the Fibershed will depend on what resources, skills, and interests are discovered in the Adirondacks and what collaborations take shape. Producers of fiber, yarn, cloth, and garments will have access to an Adirondack Fibershed logo to show that their goods are grown and produced in the Adirondacks. To sign up for the group's e-mail listserve, visit

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Permalink Report Highlights Opportunities to Support Organic Transition

A new report from EWG, Growing Organic: Expanding Opportunities for U.S. Farmers by Supporting Organic Transition, shows how Congress could reform existing programs to help growers transition away from farming that relies on chemical pesticides and expand the acreage dedicated to organic agriculture. Double-digit growth nearly every year makes the organic sector one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry, but the gap between supply and demand means many American organic food companies have to rely on foreign suppliers. EWG's report details how Congress can play a role in better positioning American farmers to meet the demand for organics by increasing the number of organic farms and the amount of organic acreage. EWG recommends reforming CSP, EQIP, and CRP to better support organic transition.

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Permalink National Biodiesel Day Observed March 18

Rudolf Diesel's birthday, March 18, is observed as National Biodiesel Day. The National Biodiesel Board points out in Biodiesel Magazine that 64,000 U.S. jobs are supported by biodiesel. Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification. It is the nation's first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel.

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Permalink Census of Agriculture Set for 2017

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them. It is conducted every five years by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The census will be mailed at the end of this year. Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.

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Permalink Direct-Marketing Factsheet Addresses Mobile Media Marketing

Ohio State University Extension has released a new factsheet for direct marketers. This online resource summarizes what marketers need to do in order to manage their online presence. This information helps both new businesses and experienced ones keep up to date on how they are viewed online, find out what information is out there about your business, and learn how to connect it all with a consistent online presence. The factsheet has several tips and tools of the trade to manage your online presence.

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Permalink Wild Relatives of Sunflowers Help Breeders Improve Crop

Sunflowers are providing an example of how wild relatives of crop plants can help improve those crops, according to the American Society of Agronomy. Sunflower ranks fifth among crops important for global food security in the use of traits from wild relatives, say researchers. Wild relatives have helped plant breeders develop sunflowers resistant to diseases such as powdery mildew and sunflower rust, as well as varieties that can grow in adverse conditions. This highlights the importance of maintaining the genetic diversity found in these wild relatives, and of developing and sharing detailed information about their genetic diversity.

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Permalink Researchers Explore Which Farmers Would Adopt Multifunctional Perennial Cropping Systems

A group of researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to know which farmers are most likely to adopt multifunctional perennial cropping systems (MPCs)—trees, shrubs, or grasses that simultaneously benefit the environment and generate high-value products that can be harvested for a profit. The team surveyed farmers in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Illinois about whether they would use MPCs on marginal land. The team classified survey respondents in six categories, with the "educated networkers" and "young innovators" most likely to adopt MPCs. Thus, the outreach efforts that target these groups are likely to deliver the greatest results. On the other end of the spectrum, survey respondents classified as "money motivated" and "hands-off" were least likely to adopt the new cropping systems. However, the researchers suggested that even these low-likelihood adopters might be swayed by outreach tailored to their interests. The researchers also identified barriers that could keep farmers from adopting MPCs. The farmers indicated that it was important to have an existing market in place for MPC products, and that long-term land tenancy was a prerequisite for investing in crops that are slow to generate a return on investment, such as nuts.

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Permalink Wisconsin Farm to School Success Stories Featured

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at University of Wisconsin - Madison has published two new two-page Farm to School Success Stories. Sheboygan Falls: Farm to High School relates how the school has focused on preserving the substantial bounty of its garden for use year-round in the cafeteria. The school's hoop house also supplies fresh produce year-round. Students are involved in developing recipes and selling their produce at a farmstand. Plymouth High School Food Science and Agriculture Center describes how the school was able to open a 5,100 square foot Food Science and Agriculture Center that includes a greenhouse and indoor classroom space. Students also raise food for the cafeteria, ranging from produce to pork.

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Permalink Session Proposals Sought for Community Food Systems Conference

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is seeking proposals for workshop sessions at its Community Food Systems Conference, to be held December 5-7, 2017, in Boston. This conference will explore the intersection of food security, social justice, and sustainable agriculture. Proposals for 90-minute workshops or 5-minute lightning talks will be accepted until April 3, 2017. Information on specific presentation topics of particular interest is available online.

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Permalink Southern SARE On-Farm Research Grants Announced

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) has announced the award of ten On-Farm Research Grants for 2017, totaling $149,417. On-Farm Research Grants are specifically for Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, university researchers, and non-governmental organizations that conduct on-farm research with one or more farmer/rancher collaborators. Projects funded this year relate to pest control, disease management, and cover crops. A list of the funded projects is available online.

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Permalink Guide to Pesticide Contamination of Produce Published

The annual EWG Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ analyzes the results of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of pesticide residues on conventional produce. It identifies the dozen most-contaminated types of produce as strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. By contrast, the list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues includes sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit. The publication is available online.

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Permalink Montana Farm Family Adopts Soil Health Innovations

The Dusenberry family began using cover crops and no-till planting on their land near Helena, Montana, in 2013, reports the Belgrade News. They began experimenting with cover crops on three different plots, totaling 64 acres. Over time, they found that the soil was more able to absorb and hold moisture, and cash crop yields improved. In addition, calves that grazed the cover crops put on more weight and weeds were reduced. The Dusenberrys added a CO-2 injector that captures tractor exhaust in 2014, and they began mob grazing in 2015. The farmers say they have been able to stop using fertilizer and, because they have fewer weeds, they are spraying fewer chemicals. "More and more, we’re using nature as the driving force instead of chemical inputs," says Tim Dusenberry.

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Permalink Organic Grower Summit Planned for December

The Organic Produce Network (OPN) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) are teaming up to host the first-ever Organic Grower Summit (OGS) in Monterey, California on December 13-14, 2017. The OGS will bring together the entire organic production chain as well as service and supply partners at one informative event. Organic growers, producers, and handlers from fresh produce, dairy, meat, and grain sectors will have the opportunity to network with and learn from suppliers, service providers, packaging and technology companies, equipment manufacturers, and other companies critical to their success.

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Permalink Status of Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin Reported

Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2017 Status Report has been released by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The 44-page publication compiles data from the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) showing Wisconsin had 1,334 organic farms in 2015. Wisconsin remains the second state in the nation in total number of organic farms, second only to California. The report notes that this puts the state in a good position to participate in the growing market for organic food, both in the United States and across the globe. However, the report finds that organic processing is a bottleneck for growth in this industry, particularly for small-and mid-scale farms and businesses. While organic dairy processing in the state is generally well established, processing in other sectors, including grain, livestock and vegetables, hasn't kept pace with production.

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Permalink Research Brief Evaluates Options for Weed Control in Hazelnut Plantings

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has released an 8-page research brief titled "Options for Weed Control in Hazelnut Plantings." Researchers with the University of Minnesota's Forever Green initiative tested four common methods of weed control in hazelnut plantings to see which was the most effective, in a study that was conducted from 2013 to 2015. The researchers tested four common methods of weed control: cultivation (hoeing), landscape fabric, wood chip mulch, and the pre-emergent herbicide oryzalin (SurflanTM). At a tilled site, there were no statistically significant differences in hazelnut growth between any of the weed control methods and mowing. At a site where hazlenuts were planted in sod, the only treatment that resulted in statistically significant greater hazelnut plant growth than the control was wood chip mulch plus glyphosate.

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Permalink Vermont Jr Chef Competition Highlights Local Food for Tenth Year

On March 18, middle and high school teams from around Vermont will compete in the tenth Jr Iron Chef VT, sponsored by Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day) a partnership project of NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms. As one of the first youth culinary competitions in the country, Jr Iron Chef VT has challenged and inspired more than 3,000 Vermont youth to learn about and source local ingredients, develop recipes that highlight Vermont ingredients, and cook whole, local foods from scratch. Teams have just 90 minutes to prepare on-site their kid-tested, seasonal fare. The judge's panel includes 20 food enthusiasts including farmers, teachers, chefs, students, food writers, legislators, and other stakeholders in the Farm to School movement. Winning teams will have the opportunity to prepare their recipes for legislators at the Vermont Statehouse, and their dishes will be featured on school lunch menus around the state.

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