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Permalink Guide Helps Farmers Plan U-Pick Operations

The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has published a guide for farmers considering starting a U-Pick operation. The 16-page PDF publication Planning a U-Pick Operation on Your California Farm can be downloaded free. The guide is part of a larger project, funded by Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), called "Growing California Agritourism Communities." The publication begins by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of U-Pick, encourages farmers to assess whether they and their operations are suited to U-Pick, and offers advice on everything from farm layout to budgeting, pricing, and risk management.

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Permalink Maine Farms Struggle to Find Workers

Small and mid-size farms in Maine are struggling to find enough workers, reports the Portland Press Herald. Some farmers have low-quality crops because they couldn't find workers to weed; other farmers had to leave crops unharvested in the field. Low unemployment, hard work, and immigration and migrant labor challenges have all contributed to the situation. Meanwhile, even MOFGA's farmer apprenticeship program is attracting less interest than in the past. Some farmers would rather pay employees hourly than invest time in the instruction of a short-term apprentice. Farmers desperate for help are exploring many different labor options.

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Permalink North Dakota Industrial Hemp Grower Shares Lessons at Field Day

North Dakota farmer Clarence Laub shared his experiences growing industrial hemp for the past three years at a recent field day, reports Farm & Ranch Guide. Laub is growing a variety developed for grain production, with thin, tough stalks topped to a manageable height. Laub shared pointers on planting, handling, storing, and marketing hemp. During the field day, Laub noted the formation of a National Hemp Association, which will help farmers succeed with growing and marketing the crop.

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Permalink South Dakota Agritourism Work Group Collecting Input

South Dakota State University Extension and partners have formed a South Dakota Agritourism Work Group to explore opportunities to encourage, promote, and support agritourism across the state. Both agriculture and tourism are major revenue generators in the state and combining the two could provide more opportunities. The Work Group's first item of business is to collect agriculture producers' ideas, which they are doing in person at events and by inviting producers to share ideas by e-mail or phone.

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Permalink Insect Activity Expected to Rise with Temperatures

Research led by the University of Washington predicts that insect activity in temperate, crop-growing regions will rise along with temperatures. The study, published in Science, found that for each degree Celsius that global mean surface temperatures rise, crop losses for rice, corn, and wheat will increase by 10% to 25%. Experiments show that increases in temperature boost both insect metabolism and reproductive rates. This study's model predicted that a two-degree Celsius rise in global mean surface temperatures would result in median losses in yield of 31% for corn, 19% for rice, and 46% percent for wheat. The research team notes that although modifications could be made in what and where crops are grown and how insects are managed, these efforts would have costs of their own.

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Permalink ERS Estimates FSMA Compliance Costs Higher for Small Farms

USDA Economic Research Service has released a new publication on Estimated Costs for Fruit and Vegetable Producers To Comply With the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Rule. The study found that farm-level costs to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule will vary from 0.3% of annual produce sales for the largest farms to 6.8% for the smallest. Compliance costs also vary by crop. The entire report is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Market-Farming Fact Sheets Available in Hmong and Spanish

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has released versions of several of its fact sheets on organic market farming in Hmong and Spanish. The fact sheets are available free online from the MOSES website. Six titles are offered in Hmong and five in Spanish.

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Permalink Apply Now for ATTRA Farm Management Course in Ozarks

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is accepting applications from farmers who would like to participate in the "Taking Your Farm to the Next Level" training course. This six-part course will equip farmers and ranchers with the business and financial management skills necessary to operate successful and sustainable farm businesses for the long-term. Participants will set meaningful goals for their farm businesses and will receive the informational tools, resources, and support to make progress towards those goals. The training series will take place in person for a cohort of 30 farmers and ranchers in the Ozarks region. Participants will commit to attending all six training sessions over the course of six months. The number of participants will be limited. Applications are due October 5, 2018.

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Permalink USDA Partners on Providing Rural Housing for People Recovering from Opioid Misuse

USDA logoUSDA has formalized an innovative agreement in which a nonprofit organization in Kentucky will purchase homes from the Department and convert them to transitional housing for people recovering from opioid misuse. This agreement is the first in an initiative that enables the Department to sell vacant, foreclosed homes at a discount to provide housing, treatment, job training, and other key services for people in drug treatment and recovery. USDA says this partnership with Isaiah House could become a national model for collaboration with rural partners to address this crisis at the local level.

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Permalink UC Berkeley Study Says Improving Soil Quality Pulls Carbon from Atmosphere

Researchers at UC Berkeley found that low-tech, well-established agricultural practices such as planting cover crops, optimizing grazing, and sowing legumes on rangelands could reduce global temperatures 0.26 degrees Celsius – nearly half a degree Fahrenheit – by 2100 if instituted globally. Study senior author Whendee Silver, a professor at UC Berkeley, comments, "We found that there are a wide range of practices deployable on a large scale that could have a detectable worldwide impact. A big take-home message is that we know how to do this, it is achievable." The study also showed that by using biochar as well, these practices could offset warming potentially as much as 0.46 degrees Celsius. The caveat, Silver said, is that this "is only achievable if you couple sequestration with aggressive emissions reduction."

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Permalink Resource Webpage Focuses on Rural e-Connectivity

USDA logoRecognizing the importance of reliable and affordable high-speed Internet e-Connectivity to rural communities, USDA has launched a new webpage highlighting resources to help rural communities bridge the broadband e-Connectivity infrastructure gap. The website provides information on existing and new USDA programs that offer funding for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. The new website includes a feedback form for the general public and interested stakeholders to provide input on the design and requirements a new pilot program to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.

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Permalink Precipitation Key in Organic Weed Control

Research by scientists from USDA's Agricultural Research Service, published in Weed Science, found that weather conditions can have a significant impact on the competitiveness of organic crops. The team analyzed 18 years of weather data for a Maryland project farm. They found that rainfall during a crop's early reproductive growth or late vegetative cycle can make the crop much more competitive and able to shade out weeds. Cultural management techniques were less effective at boosting crop competitiveness, but still important tools for seasons when precipitation doesn't fall when needed.

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Permalink Survey Highlights Success of Women in Agritourism

A North Carolina State University Extension project has released Success of Women in Agritourism, a factsheet summarizing key results from a survey of 180 women in agriculture across the state. The survey helped highlight factors challenging and facilitating women’s success in this enterprise. This study provides a holistic understanding of women's success in agritourim and suggests approaches to improve the chances of women's success in agritourism. The project also produced a video series that documents successful female farmers in agritourism.

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Permalink Organic Grain Crop Enterprise Budgets Available for Michigan

Michigan State University Extension is offering organic grain crop enterprise budgets online in Microsoft Excel. Enterprise budgets are available for corn, soybeans, oats, winter wheat, and barley. These budgets can help with budgeting and planning for farms considering a new crop, and can help verify a farm's historical data for future planning. Enterprise budgets can also be used for benchmarking individual production costs. The enterprise budgets are based on production assumptions that are detailed in the files, so that particular practices can be added or removed to make the tools more useful.

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Permalink Variable Rate Irrigation Improves Efficiency

In a quest to improve the sustainability of fresh water use in agriculture while optimizing crop production, University of Georgia researchers have been working with Variable Rate Irrigation, reports The Red & Black. The team maps crop fields to determine how much water each part of the field needs. Drones with thermal imaging combine with soil moisture sensors to provide data that helps the team develop a prescription for each part of the field. Variable Rate Irrigation can be used on a center pivot or on a lateral-move irrigation system to deliver just the right amount of water in each section of the field. The system will be field-tested in a commercial setting next year.

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Permalink Mesh Screen Improves Efficiency of Spray Administration

Researchers at MIT have found that using a mesh screen to disperse spray droplets helps them adhere to their targets more effectively. Larger droplets are less likely to be blown off-target, but smaller droplets batter leaves less and stick to them better when the drops make contact. Using a stainless-steel mesh screen to break up droplets just before they reach the plant captures the benefits of both methods, according to this research. With current spray methods of applying pesticide and fertilizer, as much as 95% of the product misses or bounces off the intended target. This improved spraying method could result in dramatic reductions in pesticide and fertilizer use in agriculture.

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Permalink Kaolin Clay Tested for Primocane Blackberry Pest Control

Researchers at the University of Arkansas are beginning the final year of research in a three-year project funded by Southern SARE to explore kaolin clay as a pest control for primocane blackberries. Unlike conventional blackberries, the primocane varieties can produce two crops in a single year, extending the fruiting season from a few short weeks to a harvest that continues until frost. The fall harvest, however, exposes the fruit to a new range of pests. Researchers believe that spraying kaolin clay could help repel pests and prevent sunburn of the fruit. This research project is collecting data on the effectiveness of the kaolin in repelling pests during in-field testing and will assess the cost-effectiveness of the control method.

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Permalink California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment Reports Agriculture Findings

California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment, released by California Natural Resources Agency, contains technical reports on nine different topics, one of which is agriculture. The three reports included in the Agriculture section present findings related to using farmland to sequester carbon, as well as implications of climate change adaptation for agriculture. The reports are available online in PDF, and include the following titles: Assessment of California Crop and Livestock Potential Adaptation to Climate Change, Increasing Soil Organic Carbon to Mitigate Greenhouse Gases and Increase Climate Resiliency for California, and Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential of Composting and Soil Amendments on California's Rangelands.

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Permalink Cover Crop Grazing a Win-Win Arrangement

When Missouri farmer Tim Forkner wanted to find a way to offset the cost of planting cover crops, he decided to diversify into grazing, reports Missouri Farmer Today. Forkner began grazing stockers for a local cattleman in 2014. The operation soon evolved into purchasing and grazing his own stockers, as well as grazing cow-calf pairs under contract. Forkner rotates herds weekly from late November until early spring. He's pleased with the fertility and trampled organic matter that the cattle add to his soil, helping his fields become more resilient and drought-resistant. He uses a variety of cover crops, including ryegrass and triticale. This year, he's using a seven-species mix to add diversity. Calves grazed on the covers out-perform their peers on winter hay, according to the pairs' owner.

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Permalink Chipotle Cultivate Foundation Launches Food-System Innovation Accelerator

Chipotle Cultivate Foundation will sponsor the first Chipotle Aluminaries Project, a seven-month-long accelerator program designed to help growth-stage ventures with a shared vision to cultivate a better world take their businesses to the next level. The Chipotle Aluminaries Project is seeking applicants (both for-profit and nonprofit) in the areas of alternative farming and growing systems, farming and agriculture technology, food waste and recovery, and plant and alternative products. After reviewing submissions and talking with candidates, Uncharted, the nonprofit partner selected to host and run this accelerator, will select up to eight ventures to join the first cohort. Those ventures will receive support and mentorship from hand-selected industry leaders, and they will participate in a five day, in-person boot camp with direct coaching to build their plan for scale. Applications will be accepted beginning September 12, 2018.

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Permalink Iowa State University Project to Predict, Prevent Opioid Epidemic Spread

A five-year project led by Iowa State University has received a grant from USDA to develop real-time,big-data tools to identify rural areas and micropolitan areas most at risk in the opioid epidemic and to identify prevention strategies. Researchers will work directly with those affected by opioids to collect data and identify what has and hasn't worked in fighting the epidemic. Researchers say they expect to find differences in rural areas driven by farming, forestry, and mining, and want to develop appropriate strategies based on those economic factors. The aim is to develop tools that communities can use to identify the risk and take action before it becomes a larger problem. Researchers will test their tools in 12 communities as part of the five-year project.

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Permalink University of Idaho Acquires Organic Agriculture Center

The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has acquired a 48-acre orchard in Sandpoint through a donation. According to the University, it will be known as the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center and be the first in the U of I system to focus on organic farming and organic-certified production systems. The Center will offer educational programs in organic and sustainable agriculture production. Public programs are expected to focus on biological control, pollinators, soil health, native plant landscaping, horticulture, organic food processing and marketing, food safety, and nutrition. Plans call for the center to offer hands-on student internships, as well. The orchard grows 68 varieties of apples, most of them heirloom varieties, and also cherries, plums, pears, and berries. Products from the orchard are marketed locally.

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Permalink New Publication Covers Cool-Season Organic Vegetable Crop Rotations

A new bulletin from University of Georgia Extension, Organic Cool-season Vegetable Crop Rotations for the Southeast, brings the results of a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) grant-funded study to producers. Researchers found that cool-season vegetable crops could offer a profitable niche for mid-scale growers, when combined in rotation with warm-season cover crops. The publication discusses the advantages of cool-season crop production and offers guidance for the proper cash crop/cover crop rotation mix, building soil quality, and fertility management. The 13-page publication is available free online in PDF.

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Permalink Researchers Identify Corn that Produces Its Own Nitrogen

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of California, Davis, and Mars Inc., have identified varieties of tropical corn from Oaxaca, Mexico, that can fix their own nitrogen, thereby reducing the need for supplemental fertilization. The research was published in PLOS Biology. The traditionally grown corn from the Sierra Mixe region secretes a mucus gel from aerial roots. Bacteria in the gel convert atmospheric nitrogen to a plant-usable form, supplying 30% to 80% of the plant's nitrogen needs. Researchers will be working to see if the trait can be bred into commercial cultivars of corn, to reduce need for artificial nitrogen fertilizers. This could save farmers money, prevent water pollution, and lower the amount of energy used in agriculture.

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Permalink Food Hub Aids Economic Development

The city of Fallon, Nevada, has turned to its natural assets to promote economic development, reports Western Rural Development Center’s Rural Connections. It capitalized on its natural surroundings to become a rural tourism destination, and also developed a thriving food hub that aggregates local farm produce. The food hub not only promotes local and regional farmers, but also employs almost 6% of the county's residents. The article says Fallon's approach could be a model for other struggling rural communities.

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Permalink Southern University Offering Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certification

Southern University Agricultural Research Extension in Baker, Louisiana, is offering a Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certification Program during August and September. The program is an intensive 12-session course with evening classes and field-study farm tours. In this program, partici­pants will become familiar with techniques and strategies necessary to grow fresh fruits, vegeta­bles, and animals in an urban environment sustainably. Participants learn to work within ordinances and guidelines of city government and galvanize others within the community around agricultural policy. Participants also learn to recycle available resources and discarded items to promote healthier lifestyles and communities.

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Permalink National Sustainability Summit Calls for Proposals

The inaugural National Sustainability Summit (NSS)—formerly the Extension Sustainability Summit—and biennial National Extension Energy Summit (NEES) will be held April 16-19, 2019, in Tampa, Florida, hosted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension and the Southern Rural Development Center in partnership with USDA-NIFA. Sustainability and energy Extension professionals, researchers, graduate students, formal and informal educators, practitioners, and community partners are invited and encouraged to submit proposals to participate. Conference sessions will be organized around six foundational pillars of sustainability—Energy, Climate/Air, Land/Soils, Food Systems, Water, and Community Capacity—and will emphasize nexus issues across these core themes and collaborative approaches to programming. Submissions may focus on current or emerging research, case studies, design applications, tools and techniques, educational programs, and/or lessons learned. Proposals must be submitted by October 1, 2018.

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Permalink Interseeding Study Looks at Cover Crops for Weed, Pest Control

No-Till on the Plains is conducting a study on how cover crops interseeded with grain sorghum help to manage weed and insect pressure, reports High Plains Journal. Four farmers in Kansas are participating in the SARE-funded study and reporting initial results, comparing fields treated with usual herbicide and insecticide programs to fields that used only an interseeded cover crop as a control. Gypsum, Kansas, farmer Justin Knopf was surprised to find that the cover crop doesn't seem to have competed with the sorghum crop for water, because the sorghum is growing at least as well as in his control plot. Meanwhile, the cover crops are attracting beneficial insects and improving soil health. Based on the results so far, Knopf wants to use interseeding again next year.

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Permalink Pheromone Insights Could Help with Stink Bug Control

Virginia Tech researchers have discovered insights into the way stink bugs communicate with pheromones that can be used to develop alternative pest controls. The researchers say that with their new knowledge of pheromones, trap crops can be used to lure stink bug pests away from cash crops, saving farmers money and sparing the environment from insecticide use. The harlequin bugs that the researchers worked with have pheromonal communication similar to that of other stink bugs, including the brown marmorated stink bug. The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Permalink Microalgae Evaluated as Sustainable Aquaculture Feed

A study led by Dartmouth College and published in PLOS One evaluated defatted microalgal biomass (left over after extracting oil) as a replacement for unsustainably sourced fish meal in aquaculture diets. Specifically, this study considered nutrient digestibility of the co-product of the marine microalga Nannochloropsis oculata in the diets of Nile tilapia. Researchers found that replacing 33% of the fishmeal in the tilapia's diet with N. oculata co-product yielded fish growth, feed conversion, and survival similar to the reference diet. However, they found that nutrient digestibility needs to be improved to achieve higher replacement levels.

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