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Breaking News

Permalink Livestock Growers Test Natural Fly Controls

South Dakota cattle and sheep producers collaborated with funding from North Central SARE to test various natural methods of fly control, reports Successful Farming. Producer Linda Simmons found that management practices such as rotational grazing and preserving dung beetles helped control flies, as did flexible-cloth and walk-through fly traps. Simmons had a walk-through trap built and used it six times the first year, based on the number of flies on cows. Last year, fly populations were so much lower that she used the trap only twice. Simmons also noted that controlling fly populations helped prevent the spread of pinkeye.

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Permalink Florida Research Finds Flowering Plants Benefit Strawberries

Working under a Southern SARE grant, researchers at the University of Florida tested whether wildflower plantings adjacent to strawberry fields would attract beneficial insects and help control pest insects. This research found that thrips were reduced and minute pirate bugs were increased in the strawberry row next to the flowering plants. The number and diversity of natural enemies and pollinators was also increased by the addition of flowering plants. However, the beneficial effects were only observed in the strawberry row closest to the flowering plantings. Additional research will explore how flowering plants affect strawberry crop yield and quality, and how positive effects can be dispersed throughout the crop field.

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Permalink Video Emphasizes Recovery Period in Grazing Cycle

A seven-minute video with Dave Pratt, of Ranch Management Consultants, explains how moving stock through a grazing rotation prematurely results in a cumulative shortening of recovery periods for forage that ends up reducing carrying capacity. Pratt explains that producers who give in to "Impatient Cow Syndrome" lose potential forage with each early paddock move. When one early move triggers additional early moves, recovery time decreases significantly.

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Permalink Probiotic Helps Mitigate Methane and Prevent Nitrite Poisoning in Cattle

Researchers from Texas A&M and USDA have developed a probiotic treatment that not only protects cattle from nitrite poisoning but can also mitigate methane emissions from ruminants. The new probiotic is on its way to commercialization. According to a Texas A&M release, the bacteria-based probiotic is expected to increase feed efficiency, decrease the carriage of pathogens, and reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock. The research initially sought to find a hypernitrate- and hypernitrite-metabolizing bacteria to be fed as a probiotic to decrease risk of poisoning in animals eating high-nitrate feed from forage grown in drought conditions. Researchers found a bacterium that commonly occurs in the rumen and used strain selection to make it faster-acting. They then noted the additional benefits that the probiotic conferred in terms of decreasing methane.

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Permalink Grassland Productivity Forecast Debuts for Northern Great Plains

USDA logoA collaboration between USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), Colorado State University, and the University of Arizona has developed Grass-Cast, an innovative new Grassland Productivity Forecast. Grass-Cast uses more than 30 years of historical data about weather and vegetation growth—combined with seasonal precipitation forecasts—to predict if rangelands in individual counties in the Northern Great Plains are likely to produce above-normal, near-normal, or below-normal amounts of vegetation for grazing. Grass-Cast forecasts are updated every two weeks to incorporate newly observed weather data and emerging trends in grazing conditions. The first Grass-Cast was released in May 2018.

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Permalink Seed-Saving Training Offered for Agriculture Professionals

Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) is introducing Seed School Teacher Training for Agricultural Professionals in the Mountain West and Western SARE Region. Cooperative extension agents, National Resources Conservation Service staff, and others whose work directly supports farmers are eligible to apply for a training scheduled for October 21-26, 2018, in Denver, Colorado. Participants in this course will receive training based on RMSA's acclaimed Seed School curriculum with a special emphasis on incorporating seed saving techniques into small- to medium-scale farming operations. Ag professionals will learn how to teach seed saving methods to the farmers they serve, enabling them to boost farm profitability, improve soil health, and enhance regional food security. By sharing this knowledge with local producers, course participants will help create successful models of on-farm seed saving that benefit both their local economies and environments. Registration fees are fully covered by grant funding from the USDA's Western SARE program. Spaces are limited and applications are available online.

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Permalink Organic Industry Survey Shows Steady Growth

The Organic Trade Association's 2018 Organic Industry Survey shows that organic sales in the United States totaled a new record of $49.4 billion in 2017, up 6.4% from the previous year. The organic food market rose to $45.2 billion in sales, also an increase of 6.4%. Although organic-market growth was slower than in the previous year, it was still well ahead of food-market growth in general. The survey also found that organic now accounts for 5.5% of the food sold in retail channels in the United States. Fruits and vegetables continued to be the largest organic food category, recording $16.5 billion in sales in 2017. Organic dairy and eggs represent the second-largest organic category, although this category experienced slow growth in 2017. The organic beverage category climbed into third place.

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Permalink Dairy Sustainability Award Winners Announced

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has announced its seventh annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses, and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals, and the planet. The program selected three winners for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability: E-Z Acres (Homer, New York), Reinford Farms (Mifflintown, Pennsylvania), and Royal Dairy (Royal City, Washington). These farms were highlighted for their efforts to preserve water quality, reduce waste, and vermicompost manure, respectively. Awards are also given for a processor/manufacturer, for outstanding supply chain collaboration, and for outstanding community impact.

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Permalink Nominations Invited for Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is inviting nominations for the 2018 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. This annual award recognizes researchers, teachers, and farmers who have contributed significantly to the environmental and economic stability of the Iowa farming community. The Spencer Award honors the beliefs, innovations and stewardship of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years. It serves as a lasting memorial to the Spencers, who believed that it is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a better and healtheir place for the next generation. Nominations for this year's award must be submitted by June 16, 2018.

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Permalink Research Explores Legumes' Role in Sustainable Agriculture

An international team of researchers has been exploring the role that legumes can play in sustainable agriculture. Australia's Swinburne University professor Mark Adams says that growing more legumes in place of cereal grains will use less nitrogen fertilizer and water. In fact, legumes can contribute nitrogen to soil. Adams points out that substituting legumes for cereal grains in feed and food would mean less energy consumption by agriculture, and less greenhouse-gas production. "Creating fertilizer, applying it to fields, growing grain, and feeding it to cattle involves releasing greenhouse gases every step along the way," says Adams. "By growing legumes and then letting the cattle loose in the paddock some of those steps and their associated greenhouse gases are removed, but with the same end result: fertilized fields and steak for dinner."

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Permalink Grower Reflects on Efficiencies of Wholesale

In a feature in Organic Broadcaster, Wisconsin farmer Ariel Pressman discusses why he moved from Community Supported Agriculture and farmers markets to supplying the wholesale market with his vegetables. Wholesale markets allow him to grow fewer crops and to become very familiar with those crops. Increasing the scale on which he grows crops has also made investments in equipment economically feasible, resulting in time and labor savings. Pressman also explains some of the considerations and challenges of wholesale markets.

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Permalink Montana Harvest of the Month Program Expands to Early Care and Education Programs and Healthcare Institutions

The Montana Harvest of the Month (HOM) program showcases Montana grown foods in Montana schools, institutions, and communities. Each month, participating programs focus on promoting one locally grown item (e.g., winter squash) by serving it in at least one meal, snack, or a la carte item and displaying and distributing HOM materials. Additionally, schools participate by offering taste tests to students and conducting educational activities. Participating sites will receive a free packet of materials (may include posters, table tents, recipe cards, and cafeteria, classroom, and home handouts) as well as guides, additional resources, and training. Pilot-program sites have increased local food purchasing, built strong teams to support their program, and provided meaningful education to people that helps them make healthier choices. Montana Early Care and Education Programs and Healthcare Institutions across the state can now register for the Montana Harvest of the Month program which launches August 2018. HOM will also continue with school-based programming.

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Permalink Study Reveals Job-Creation Role of Native Predators

Researchers at Michigan State University conducted a study that measured the job-creation value of ecosystem services provided by American kestrels. This small avian predator helps fruit growers in Michigan by dining on fruit-eating insects, mammals, and birds. Growers can attract kestrels to their property by constructing nest boxes. This study revealed that for every dollar growers spend on building nest boxes around orchards, $84 to $357 of sweet cherries are saved from fruit-eating birds. Furthermore, models predict that increased sweet cherry production attributed to reduced bird damage could generate 46 to 50 jobs. Even though building nest boxes doesn't guarantee that they'll be occupied, it's a relatively low-cost investment for fruit growers.

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Permalink Soil Health Institute Requests Applications for Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project

The Soil Health Institute invites applications to participate in a coordinated, continental-scale evaluation of soil health measurements and their relationships with yield, economics, and ecosystem services. Applications are sought from individuals and organizations engaged in long-term (minimum 10-year) agricultural field experiments in the United States, Canada, or Mexico. Applications not selected for sampling in the North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation project may still be included in a publicly accessible, online GIS directory of long-term agricultural research experiments and sites being established to advance collaborations and opportunities for the agricultural community. Individuals and organizations conducting such research on governmental, university, and private-sector sites are all encouraged to apply. Experiments selected for inclusion in the directory will then be considered for participation in a North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project. Applications are due by May 31, 2018.

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Permalink California Organic Products Advisory Committee Looking to Fill Vacancies

The California State Organic Program's advisory board, the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC), has announced it is looking to fill nine vacancies on the 30-person committee. COPAC advises the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the SOP on organic issues, and provides guidance on enforcement, education, outreach, and technical assistance for organic producers. The current vacancies include the following: one Technical Representative, two Producer Alternates, two Processor Alternates, one Environmental Representative Alternate, two Technical Representative Alternates, and one Consumer Representative Alternate. Appointments for advisory committee positions will normally be for three years from the date of appointment.

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Permalink Biologicals Aid Strawberry Producers

Strawberry growers who no longer have methyl bromide as an option for pest control are looking for alternatives. A University of California Cooperative Extension Strawberry Field Day in May highlighted results of research on biological and synthetic amendments to improve strawberry plant health, berry quality, and yield. Preliminary results of the study are available online. "A challenge was that many people did not have complete faith in biologicals a few years ago," said UC Cooperative Extension advisor Surendra Dara. "By conducting multiple studies year after year, we are able to generate critical data that is useful for the farmers as well as companies that produce biologicals. By using different application strategies and rates, and a combination of techniques--as appropriate for their situations--farmers can engage in sustainable strawberry production."

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Permalink Texas Research Grows Cotton with Less Water

Research led by Texas Tech University and Texas A&M AgriLife showed how to grow cotton using less water, reports the American Society for Agronomy. The results of this study showed that less water early in the growing season makes plants smaller but has little effect on cotton yield, and doesn’t affect fiber quality. This runs counter to conventional wisdom that producers should irrigate early and often to bank water in the soil. However, this study found that in the middle of the season, irrigation rate had a big impact on yield. Late in the season, reduced irrigation caused a decrease in fiber quality. Researchers are continuing their work to find the best irrigation method for cotton that uses the least water.

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Permalink Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series Scheduled

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), Central State University Extension, the Clintonville Farmers' Market, and the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance have announced the 2018 Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series. This annual series features 25 tours of organic and ecological farms and businesses in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana from June through November. This year's series also includes a farm-to-table dinner and five educational workshops on land assessment, bionutrient-rich food, farm planning, and scaling up production and marketing. Many of the events are free. A PDF brochure on events in the series is available online.

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Permalink Publication Helps Producers Manage Climate Risk

SARE's newest publication, Cultivating Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches, provides producers with an overview of strategies to manage the climate risk their operations face. The free publication, available online or in print, describes the changing regional weather patterns throughout the United States and the risks that these changes present to crop and livestock production. The 28-page publication also outlines how to evaluate the climate risk your operation faces and how to identify practices that can reduce those risks and improve resilience.

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Permalink Controlled Environment Agriculture Growing, Says CoBank

A new report from CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division says that rising demand for locally grown food and technological advances are driving growth in controlled environment agriculture. Although the controlled environment agriculture industry has a steep learning curve and high costs, the CoBank report predicts continued growth in the sector for at least the next five years, with expansion in the number of crops produced. Analysts warn, however, that those entering this industry should be aware of high operating costs, fluctuations in the market, and increasing competition.

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Permalink Pumpkin Cultivar Evaluations Published

Collaborative pumpkin cultivar evaluation trials have been conducted by North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee for over a decade. North Carolina State University has published 2017 North Carolina and Tennessee Pumpkin Cultivar Evaluations, a report on specialty varieties. This trial evaluated varieties for yield, though the report also rates shape, color, suturing, vine habit, handle characteristics, fruit size measurements, and powdery mildew symptoms, and includes a photo of each variety. The report is available for free download.

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Permalink Shepherd University to Provide Agricultural Entrepreneur Opportunities for Veterans

Shepherd University has entered into a $600,000, five-year cost-sharing agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide opportunities for veterans to become agricultural entrepreneurs throughout West Virginia. The funding will be used to develop conservation systems on the university-owned, 154-acre Tabler farm and assist with the development of a new program aimed at training veteran and civilian students to be farmers. The funding will help cover the cost of installing seasonal high tunnel greenhouses that will extend the growing season, purchasing equipment such as tillers and other implements, and setting up water and electricity. It will also help pay for public outreach and cover the salary for Haroun Hallack, a local organic farmer who will serve as part-time farm manager instructing and overseeing student projects. Shepherd's Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences is partnering with the College of Business to offer both production and business classes. The production component will focus on the practical aspects of small-scale farming. The business component will cover topics such as marketing, accounting, and developing business plans. Shepherd plans to offer the first courses associated with this program this summer.

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Permalink USDA Terminates Organic Checkoff Proposal

USDA logoUSDA has announced the termination of a proposed rule to establish a national research and promotion program for certified organic products. USDA based the termination on lack of consensus within the industry in support for the proposed program and divergent views on how to resolve issues in implementing the proposed program. USDA reports that some of the concerns it took into consideration were the impact of de minimis level exemptions and high-value commodities on the program, how organic promotion would affect other agricultural commodities, the voting methodology that would be used, the financial burden on small entities and the challenges of tracing imported organic products.

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Permalink Farm Service Agency Announces Changes to Tree Assistance Program

USDA logoUSDA Farm Service Agency has released updated signup information for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). This program provides orchardists and nursery tree growers with cost share assistance to replant eligible trees, bushes, and vines following a natural disaster. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made several changes to TAP, including removing the per person and legal entity program year payment limitation ceiling of $125,000. It also increased the acreage cap, and growers are eligible to be partly reimbursed for losses on up to 1,000 acres per program year, double the previous acreage. Eligible producers should file for TAP assistance by the later of these two dates: 90 days of the disaster or when damages from the disaster are noticed; or 60 days after the regulation is published in the Federal Register. Producers with 2017 losses can also file an application or revise an original application because of the changes made through the Act.

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Permalink Syntropic Coffee Farming Promotes Ecosystem Health

A feature posted on Sprudge highlights syntropic coffee farmers in Brazil who are growing coffee as part of a multi-storied agricultural system of agroforestry, rather than as a monoculture. On these farms, the sub-shrub coffee gains nutrients from the soil that are contributed by other plants, including raspberries, manioc, corn, mambaça, numerous flowers, beans, jacarandá, cedar, lemon, palm trees, guava, and other native species. These plants provide a range of ecosystem services and additional income for growers.

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Permalink Risk Management Tools Available for Organic Seed Growers

In order to help organic seed growers manage economic risks, eXtension has posted a compilation of online resources, including tools and presentations from the 2018 Seed Economics Intensive at the Organic Seed Growers Conference. This training aims to help the industry to scale up organic seed production, increase the profits for growers, and build the supply of organic seed nationally through increasing growers' knowledge. The website is making tools and examples available for enterprise budgeting, inventory management, foundation and stock seed planning, and contracting.

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Permalink Legislation Introduced to Allow State-Inspected Meat Sales across State Lines

Senators from South Dakota and Maine have introduced legislation to allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines, reports Tri-State Neighbor. The New Markets for State-inspected Meat and Poultry Act was introduced May 10. Supporters hope the legislation will replace the complicated Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program and open new markets for producers and processors.

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Permalink Beavers Help Reduce Soil Loss and Clean Polluted Water

Research by the University of Exeter with captive beaver in England has demonstrated that beaver can reduce the flow of soil and nutrients from farm fields into waterways. In the study, beavers that built dams to slow the flow of water from farmland managed to trap sediment high in nitrogen and phosphorus. "Were beaver dams to be commonplace in the landscape we would no doubt see these effects delivering multiple benefits across whole ecosystems, as they do elsewhere around the world," said study leader Professor Richard Brazier.

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Permalink Video Highlights Health Benefits of Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing

A new video from the creator of Soil Carbon Cowboys, Peter Byck, tells the story of how Murray Provine converted his farm to Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing under the guidance of Allen Williams. The nine-minute video, This Farm is Medicine shows that Provine improved his own health and the health of his land by rotating stock and stacking diverse enterprises.

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Permalink Vermont Issues Challenge to Turn Excess Phosphorus into Products

Vermont's governor has issued a Phosphorous Innovation Challenge to inspire entrepreneurs to look at ways to capture excess phosphorus from watersheds and turn it into products that can be exported from the state. Possible approaches include the making of compost, fertilizers, and bio-char, said Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore. The state has $250,000 available for grants, said Moore, and expects to award funding to between five and eight projects. The state will be accepting applications for proof of concept and requests for seed money for the next two months. A UVM study showed that Vermont is importing an excess 1,500 tons of phosphorous each year, in the form of fertilizers and animal feed. The state hopes to close that nutrient loop, in an effort to preserve clean water.

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