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Breaking News

Permalink Kale Could Help People Overcome Micronutrient Malnutrition

Clemson University researchers have found that kale may help billions of people worldwide overcome micronutrient malnutrition. People could eat kale to help supply their bodies with the micronutrients potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, as well as prebiotic carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Researchers found that one 100-gram serving of kale provides 10% of the recommended daily allowance for several micronutrients. The kale types used in this study included curly varieties Darkibor, Dwarf Green Curled Afro, Pentlang Brig, Red Russian, Redbor, Reflex, Ripbor, Scarlet, Star and Stripes, Starbor, Vates, Winterbor, Blue Ridge, Blue Knight and Maribor. Portuguese varieties studied were Beira and Dauro. Dinosaur Black Magic varieties in the study were Bonanza, Italian Kale and Lacinato. The ornamental variety studied was Fizz, and Mustard varieties studied were Frizzy Joe and Frizzy Lizzy. The Clemson study was funded by a specialty crop block grant from the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

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Permalink NOSB Approves Hydroponics and Aquaponics for Organic Production

At its fall meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8-7 against a proposal to prohibit hydroponic and aquaponic production in organic agriculture, reports The Packer. Additionally, NOSB voted 14-1 that aeroponics would not be allowed as an organic production practice. The report says that both hydroponic and aquaponic production systems remain eligible for organic certification while USDA considers the NOSB decision.

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Permalink Climate Trends Highlighted in New Report

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced the release of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's (USGCRP) Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), which serves as Volume I of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). The report found that global and U.S. temperatures continue to rise and that variability in temperature and precipitation is increasing. An executive summary and the full report are available online at

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Permalink Princeton Research Helps Inform Vertical Farming

Princeton University's Vertical Farming Project is growing food crops indoors on stacked shelves to generate accessible and up-to-date research for the industry. Princeton's model vertical farm is used to identify the optimal conditions for growing food indoors, and that data is then shared with the public. Researchers experiment with various crops, techniques, technologies, and nutrient solutions, with a focus on getting the best harvest with the least amount of resource consumption. They're also testing unusual crops such as edible flowers and wheat. One student researcher is evaluating the environmental impacts of growing kale and lettuce in a vertical farm versus a conventional farm. Another student is examining the costs associated with running a small vertical farm and the feasibility of scaling them up to the community level.

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Permalink North Dakota Farmers Union Opens Sixth Restaurant

North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU), in partnership with Agraria LLC members and the Farmers Restaurant Group, has opened a sixth restaurant. This one is the first outside the Washington Beltway, and is located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. NDFU President Mark Watne said the concept of a farmer-owned restaurant started at NDFU with the idea that farmers could secure a greater share of the U.S. food dollar by taking advantage of opportunities at the top of the production food chain rather than the bottom. "The thought was to get closer to the consumer and then own the whole food chain system," he said. "Not only are we putting more money into the hands of family farmers and ranchers, we're strengthening people's understanding of why family farm agriculture is so important to our country." The group plans to open a seventh restaurant early next year in Virginia.

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Permalink Farmer Training Program for Veterans Accepting Applications

The Take Root Program offered by Angelic Organics Learning Center is accepting applications from military veterans through December 1, 2017. Take Root is a program that connects veterans to paid employment and training on established farms in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and the Chicagoland area. Selected trainees will work with Angelic Organics Learning Center staff to create an individualized education plan to better understand training needs and aid in pairing trainees with an appropriate trainer farm. Trainer farms will determine their trainee's hourly rate of pay, a wage which will be similar to that of other farm employees. In addition to being treated as regular employees, trainees will receive additional training or mentoring from trainer farmers throughout the season. Applicants should demonstrate a strong motivation to learn the business of sustainable farming.

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Permalink Case Study Explores Economics of Irrigation for Northeast Field Crops

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Intervale Community Farm (ICF) in Burlington, Vermont, joined forces to explore whether field-crop irrigation makes sense as a farm strategy for the Northeast. Although Northeast summers are typically wet with a trend toward more rainfall, this rainfall is increasingly arriving in extreme rainfall events with hot and dry periods between. Analyzing data from 2006 to 2016 showed that in all but one year at ICF, the benefits of avoided crop loss were greater than the costs of irrigation. For other farms within the Northeast, the net benefits of irrigation will depend upon their particular cost inputs and other local conditions. The full case study and a two-page summary are available online.

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Permalink Documentary on NRCS and Soil Conservation Pioneer Hugh Hammond Bennett Released

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has released a new documentary on Hugh Hammond Bennett and the history of NRCS. The 21-minute video looks at the origins of soil conservation in the United States, from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression to the establishment of a permanent agency to help the Nation recover. NRCS calls it "an inspiring reminder of why private lands conservation is so important, now and into the future."

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Permalink Presentation Proposals Requested for 2018 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference

The 2018 ERME National Conference in Milwaukee in April will bring together public and private sector educators, crop insurance agents, lenders, and other agricultural professionals to share ongoing and emerging successful risk management education efforts that target agricultural producers and their families. Conference participants will learn about what is working to help producers effectively manage the financial, production, marketing, legal and human risks associated with their agribusinesses. Concurrent Session and Poster presentation proposals are being solicited which highlight successful risk management education programming and its impacts. Presentations should be geared toward educators (rather than producers) and should demonstrate impacts as a result of the educational efforts. Proposals should be submitted online by January 9, 2018.

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Permalink Cover Crops Also Benefit Migrating Birds

There's yet another reason for farmers to plant cover crops, says University of Illinois research. In addition to reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff, increasing organic matter in the soil, and improving water quality, cover crops also provide important habitat for migrating birds. Although they can't replace natural habitat, fields with cover crops offer significant food and shelter benefits to migrating bird species, and this research showed that fields with cover crops always had more birds than fields without cover. The research was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

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Permalink Study Accounts for Individual Animals' Environmental-Performance Differences

A team from the University of Bristol and Rothamsted Research has developed an assessment method that records the environmental impact of each animal separately before calculating the overall burden of a farm. The scientists say the method better accounts for the disproportionally large amounts of methane produced by poorly performing animals. Although this measurement method is likely to show higher carbon-footprint estimates for ruminant animal agriculture, the researchers point out that it can also identify individual animals with reduced impact. This could make it easier to select for whole herds of animals with less impact over time, which, the scientists point out, meshes with their goal of optimizing "the positive contribution grazing livestock can bring to us as part of a well-designed food supply chain."

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Permalink Energy Audits Help Farmers Cut Expenses

Purdue University Extension conducts energy audits for farmers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Michigan. The audits, which cost from $125 to $350, often cut farmers' energy costs by 20 to 40% by evaluating various parts of the farm operations, including lighting, heating, irrigation systems and grain-drying equipment. Audits can also address the specific needs of dairy farm operations, livestock confinement systems, greenhouse growing facilities, and aquaculture systems. The cost of an audit, and the cost of energy-efficient upgrades, can often be offset by grants offered through the USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) or utility incentives, Purdue staff point out.

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Permalink Regions Suitable for Rainfed Agriculture to Change, Predicts USGS Study

A study from the U.S. Geological Survey predicts that future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland. Increases in the area suitable for rainfed agriculture are projected in North America, western Asia, eastern Asia, and South America. Findings for the temperate regions examined by this study indicate that many areas currently too cold for agriculture, particularly across Asia and North America, will likely become suitable for growing crops. In contrast, suitable areas are projected to decline in European dryland areas. Some areas that are currently heavily cultivated, including regions of the United States such as the southern Great Plains, are likely to become less suitable for agriculture in the future. In particular, areas that frequently experience extreme air temperatures above 93 degrees Fahrenheit will become less suitable for rainfed agriculture, even if sufficient moisture is available.

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Permalink NCR-SARE Requests Nominations for Administrative Council Members

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking nominations for several seats on its Administrative Council: an at-large representative of an agriculture college or university, a non-profit organization representative with demonstrable expertise on sustainable agriculture; and a representative of agribusiness. The Administrative Council sets program priorities and makes granting decisions for the region. Council members must live and work in one of the 12 North Central Region states. The term for each of these SARE Administrative Council slots is three years, with the first meeting for new Council members being July 10-12, 2018. Nominations are due by December 5, 2017.

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Permalink Abstracts Sought for Presentation at Organic Farming Research Conference

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and Rutgers University, invites the submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2018 Organic Farming Research Conference, taking place on January 26, 2018, at Rutgers University immediately preceding the NOFA-NJ Annual Winter Conference. The symposium will feature talks from researchers, farmer and rancher researchers, students, and other agriculture specialists on topics related to organic farming and food systems, as well as from other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards. The intent of the symposium is to provide current information to farmers, ranchers, extension staff, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in organic agriculture. The deadline for submissions is November 3, 2017.

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Permalink Kubota's 'Geared to Give' Program Awards Tractors to Farmer Veterans

Kubota Tractor Corporation has announced four new farmer veteran tractor recipients in its 2017 "Geared to Give" program in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). During a special ceremony, four recipients were presented with keys to new Kubota L-Series compact tractors in recognition of their years of U.S. military service and for their continued dedication to the country by pursuing futures in food and farming. Matt (Charles) Fitzwater, U.S. Army veteran, served through three deployments and is the owner of Rainbow Harvest Farm, a 10-acre pick-your-own and direct to consumer berry operation in Kentucky. Randy Ramberger is a U.S. Army veteran and owner of five acres in Indiana called Ramberger Family Farms. Joel Heinzeroth, recent retiree and 20-year U.S. Army veteran, is owner of 440 acres that make up Heinzeroth Cattle Company in Oklahoma. Cherri Marin is 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran who is owner of Sunshine and Reins farm in Oregon. Farmer veterans can apply to the FVC Fellowship Fund in order to be considered for donated Kubota equipment through the "Geared to Give" program.

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Permalink Organic Valley Announces Plans for Renewable Power by 2019

Farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley has announced a first-of-its-kind community partnership that will enable it to become the largest food company in the world to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. Organic Valley is collaborating with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group and OneEnergy Renewables to create the new community solar partnership. Together, the partners will initiate over 12 megawatts (MW) of solar installations in Wisconsin. The electricity created by this partnership will not only enable Organic Valley to cover 100% of its electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2019, but also increase overall solar energy use in Wisconsin by 15%. The community solar partnership will adopt pollinator-friendly solar standards.

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Permalink North Dakota Seeks Participants for Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) is seeking participants for the 2018 industrial hemp pilot program for agricultural or academic research. The NDDA encourages all interested parties (growers, processors, etc.) to submit a project proposal application to be considered for the 2018 cropping season. Participants planted 70 acres of hemp in 2016 and more than 3,000 acres in 2017. Proposals must be submitted by December 29, 2017.

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Permalink SARE Introduces New Organic Production Resource

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has announced a new online resource to assist organic producers. The Organic Production topic room offers access to a wide range of free materials developed by SARE, SARE grant recipients, and experts in the field. The resources address pest management, whole systems, seeds, fertility management, certification, and more. According to SARE, the Organic Production topic room offers both transitioning and experienced organic producers valuable insights into using organic production to improve profitability while meeting a wide range of conservation and productivity goals.

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Permalink Satellite Images Help Produce Irrigation Maps

A project led by Michigan State University used Google Earth Engine to make maps that quantified irrigation use each year for 18 years in the Republican River Basin. In this region that overlies portions of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, and replenishes the High Plains Aquifer, researchers found that irrigation roughly doubled between 2002 and 2016. The use of Google Earth Engine to compute a large number of satellite images is a model that could help researchers track irrigation use in agriculture on a regional basis. This could help make more informed water-management decisions in the future.

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Permalink Cornell Research Shows Glyphosate Damages Soil-Friendly Bacteria

Cornell University research has revealed that glyphosate has negative consequences for the bacteria Pseudomonas putida , used as a biocontrol for fungus on corn or other crops. The glyphosate stunted the bacteria, preventing it from controlling fungus effectively. "[F]armers need to know which beneficial soil biocontrol they're using can be susceptible. If they're using a strain that is susceptible and conflicting with their herbicide application, then it is a problem," said Ludmilla Aristilde, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering.

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Permalink Crop Budgeting Tool Encouraging More Organic Grain Production

The U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration, a special project of the Organic Trade Association's Grain, Pulse and Oilseed Council, has developed crop budgeting templates to help farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana plan future organic crop production and understand the economic impacts of their agronomic practices. The new crop budgeting tool provides a resource to help farmers improve their current organic operation or to make the choice to go organic. The templates present conventional, transition-to-organic, and organic scenarios side by side to aid conventional producers in evaluating the financial merit of switching to organic. The primary differences between these scenarios are field operations, like the cost of weed control, higher costs for applied inputs, and organic and transitional crop prices. Although developed specifically for organic farmers in North and South Dakota and in Montana, the calculating tools provide the flexibility to choose from a suite of typical organic transition and organic cropping rotations, allowing fine-tuning of field operations and enabling the user to adjust expected future crop prices. The calculator tools are available for download on the Organic Trade Association's website and on partner university websites.

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Permalink Southern SARE Seeks Administrative Council Nominations

The Administrative Council of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program is seeking nominations of a producer experienced with sustainable agriculture and its impact on the environment and rural communities to replace an outgoing member. Producer nominations from all 13 states in the southern region, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be considered. The nomination deadline is December 22, 2017. The Administrative Council is the governing body of the Southern SARE program, and producer members are directly involved in setting the program goals. Administrative Council members serve a three-year term.

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Permalink European Parliament Votes to Ban Glyphosate by 2022

The European Parliament has approved a resolution that calls for glyphosate phase-out leading to a complete ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by December of 2022, reports Deutsche Welle. Although the resolution is not binding, the majority vote put pressure on the European Commission (EC), which is currently evaluating a renewal of the license for glyphosate. The EC is now seeking a shorter, five-to-seven year renewal of the herbicide's license rather than the originally proposed 10-year renewal, and member countries are set to discuss the renewal proposal. If a majority of the 28 European Union member countries don't approve the license renewal by the end of the year, glyphosate would be banned in the EU in 2018.

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Permalink Specialty Crop Grants Announced in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced that eleven projects in Iowa have been selected to receive grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. A complete list of the projects that each received funding up to $24,000 is available online. They include specialty crop producer training with a focus on food safety, research on hydroponic production of specialty leafy greens, research on season extension strategies, market development for native oak trees, immigrant farmer training, training on using specialty-crop equipment, and production of videos on native Iowa fruit.

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Permalink Weather Changes Lead Farmers to Change Crops

Unusual weather conditions, ranging from droughts to extreme temperatures to high rainfall, are causing some farmers to switch crops, reports PRI. For example, hot and dry conditions led Pennsylvania farmer Matt Herbruck to plant peppers and eggplants instead of water-demanding leafy greens. The changing weather also opens opportunities: growing seasons may be longer and some fruit varieties are now able to be grown further north, due to warming temperatures. Yet the warmer temperatures have also allowed pest insects to expand their ranges and made it difficult to keep dairy animals cool, bringing new challenges for farmers.

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Permalink Connecticut Kelp Farmers Face Permitting Hurdles

The Hartford Courant reports that five new or expanded kelp-farming operations are hoping to start this season in the ocean waters off Connecticut, if permitting hurdles can be cleared in time. The kelp farmers are struggling through a complex permitting process that is in its infancy and can involve federal, state, and local agencies. They hope to put kelp spores in place this fall, before waters cool too much. The kelp is destined for food, fertilizer, and industrial uses. Enthusiasts say the kelp farms combine low startup costs with environmental sustainability in the production of a desirable product that can support economic development.

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Permalink Urban Food-Plant Watering System Wins Ray of Hope Prize

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has announced that NexLoop won the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize for 2017 for their AquaWeb innovation. The international team NexLoop developed the AquaWeb to help urban local food producers collect, filter, store, and distribute atmospheric moisture with a modular, all-in-one water sourcing and management system. AquaWeb harnesses freely available rain and fog and uses passive strategies to distribute this water so that urban farms, including greenhouses, indoor vertical farms, and container farms, can save energy and become more resilient to disturbances. The prize, endowed by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, recognizes a Biomimicry Accelerator participant for design inspired by nature.

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Permalink Study Shows Consumers Confuse Organic and non-GMO Labels

A study led by a University of Florida professor tested the willingness of consumers to pay more for products labeled "organic" and "non-GMO." The test of 1,132 consumers found that they were willing to pay 35 cents more for granola bars labeled “non-GMO Project," but just 9 cents more for granola bars with the USDA organic label, even though the organic product by definition contains no GMOs. In the case of apples, the consumers would pay 40 cents more for those labeled "USDA Organic," but just 35 cents more for those labeled "non-GMO Project." The results led researchers to conclude that consumers don't distinguish well between the two food labels. The study also indicated that consumers were willing to pay more for genetically modified food if the label showing genetic modification was contained in a scanned QR code, indicating that many consumers do not scan QR codes.

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Permalink Soil Survey Data Refreshed and Interpretations Added

The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program, an endeavor of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal agencies, state and local governments, and other cooperators, provides a systematic study of the soils in a given area, including their classification, mapping, and interpretation. The entire Official Web Soil Survey Database (WSS), which is available to access online, is refreshed annually so that updated official data is available in October. This year, four new interpretations are available, including farm and garden composting facility, fragile soil, soil susceptibility to compaction, and a new version of the National Commodity Crop Productivity Index.

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