agriculture

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Gulf of Mexico's Dead Zone Is Now Bigger Than Ever

Heavy rains in Midwest increased agricultural runoff this year

(Newser) - In 2014, the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico was found to have shrunk to the size of Connecticut. To the ire of environmentalists, it has since ballooned to its largest size since mapping began in 1985, says NOAA . Covering 8,776 square miles—that's the size... More »

Farmer Faces $2.8M Fine for Plowing Field

John Duarte is accused of disturbing California wetlands

(Newser) - California farmer John Duarte could be facing a $2.8 million fine—and may be ordered to pay millions more in wetlands mitigation—for an offense he describes thusly: "Planting wheat in a wheat field," something he says had been done many times previously. Duarte has been fighting... More »

After Attempt to Save Bees, a Superweed Thrives Instead

Pigweed inadvertently spread in seed mix, could take years to eradicate

(Newser) - A herbicide-resistant weed strong enough to damage farm equipment has been spread on acres of conservation land in states like Ohio, Texas, Indiana, and Illinois under government programs, reports Illinois Farmer Today . Palmer amaranth, or pigweed—which the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes is "one of the most prolific and... More »

'War on Gardens' Flares in Mo. Town

New ordinance restricts front yard gardens; guy says it's targeting only him

(Newser) - Score one for lovers of the lawn in Sugar Creek, Mo. The city has passed new restrictions on front-yard vegetable gardens, KSHB reports. One man, Nathan Athans, says he's the sole target of the new rules that prohibit growing food within 30 feet of the street. "We are... More »

A Tiny Fly Is Wreaking Havoc on Florida's Fruit

85 square miles quarantined over Oriental fruit fly

(Newser) - A $1.6 billion agriculture industry in Florida's Miami-Dade County is essentially at a standstill thanks to a swarm of hungry insects. About 159 Oriental fruit flies have been caught in the area in the last few weeks and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam tells the Miami Herald it's... More »

Bad News, Pistachio Lovers: Nuts Are 'Blanking'

This year's California crop will probably be way down

(Newser) - If you're a fan of noshing on pistachios, news out of California might be more than a little depressing. It's harvest time, and early reports suggest that this year's crop might be down as much as 70%, reports Western Farm Press . The main problem seems to be... More »

Ancient Global Cooling Could Explain Tibet Mystery

Temperatures may have led to a civilization's downfall

(Newser) - Civilization at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau fell apart—or at least changed very suddenly—4,000 years ago, and now, researchers believe they can explain why. In fact, it has to do with climate change, though not the way we currently think of it, Science 2.0 notes.... More »

Parchment Itself Holds Clues to Past

Researchers investigate DNA of writing surface

(Newser) - Plenty of historical knowledge comes from writings on parchment—but now, researchers are learning about the past using the parchment itself. DNA analysis of the writing surface is revealing genetic information about the animals used to make it, and how their genomes differ from similar animals today, according to research... More »

Scientists Pinpoint Worst Drought in 1K Years

Dust Bowl of 1934 was 30% more intense than the runner-up drought of 1580

(Newser) - If you've lately found yourself wondering when the worst drought North America has suffered occurred, here's your answer: 1934. At least, as far as the last millennium goes. In a new NASA study, scientists say that a combination of atmospheric conditions (a high pressure ridge off the West... More »

USDA Finds Mystery 'Franken-Wheat' Crop

'Rogue' wheat discovered beside old Monsanto testing field

(Newser) - A tremor is rippling through the US wheat industry as officials say they are investigating another crop of "rogue" genetically modified wheat—this one in Montana. The US Agriculture Department announced the find Friday at the same time it declared an earlier so-called "franken-wheat" scare in Oregon an... More »

Farmers Have Bad News for Beer Drinkers

Malt-barley shortage will send prices up

(Newser) - There's been way too much water falling on America's chief malt-barley-producing states, which is bad news for people who like to drink something a little stronger. Wet weather in Idaho, North Dakota, and Montana has caused a lot of barley to germinate early, meaning it won't be... More »

New Drinking Water Source: Cow Poop?

Technology turns manure into water that's fit for livestock

(Newser) - A new technology could make a world of difference to struggling farmers low on water but rich in cow poop, scientists say. A Michigan State University team has created a system that extracts drinkable water—at least fit for livestock to drink—from manure, creating roughly 50 gallons of water... More »

Pig Virus Mysteriously Returns to Indiana Farm

More herd loss and soaring pork prices expected

(Newser) - Bad news for America’s hog belt: Reuters has reported confirmation of a second outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus , or PEDv, at an unnamed Indiana farm, dashing previous hopes that afflicted pigs develop immunity and are safe from being re-infected for at least a few years. This confirmed outbreak... More »

Pests Evolve to Eat Corn Designed to Kill Them

Corn rootworm is once again making a dent in farmers' crops

(Newser) - A hungry pest known as the western corn rootworm is gradually developing a resistance to genetically modified crops engineered to kill it, reports Nature . Entomologists say they're discovering more and more of the beetles that show no ill effects after chowing down on fields of Bt corn—so named... More »

Mystery Pest Eating Its Way Through $1B Texas Crop

'Sugarcane aphid' attacking state's sorghum

(Newser) - No one is quite sure what the bug is, but for now, entomologists are calling it the sugarcane aphid—but instead of sugarcane, the tiny pest is chomping its way through the $1 billion Texas sorghum crop, the Houston Chronicle finds. The bug was first spotted just a year ago,... More »

Bring on the GMO Wheat

Plants could better survive growing drought danger: Jayson Lusk and Henry Miller

(Newser) - In the US, we're growing genetically modified versions of two of our top crops: Some 90% of the soybeans and corn we grow is engineered to fight off pests or herbicides. But we don't grow genetically modified wheat, and it's time to start, write Jayson Lusk and... More »

Your Pee Could Be Fertilizer of the Future

Team collects 3K gallons of nutrient-rich stuff

(Newser) - Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are among plants' key needs—and your urine contains all of them. That's why Vermont's Rich Earth Institute is studying the use of human urine as fertilizer, Modern Farmer reports. There's already plenty of evidence that it works. Yahoo cites one study, earlier... More »

We Don't Need a Farm Bill Anymore

Charles Lane: It's an out-of-date and expensive 'monstrosity'

(Newser) - In what is being hailed by many as a sign of progress in DC, House and Senate negotiators are finally poised to pass a farm bill next month. But at the Washington Post , Charles Lane has a fundamental question: Why does the US even need a farm bill? The answer,... More »

Chinese Spy Stole Iowa Corn Seeds: Feds

FBI tracked alleged corporate spy through corn fields

(Newser) - Corporate espionage ... in an Iowa cornfield? Federal agents caught an alleged Chinese spy last week trying to smuggle highly valuable "inbred" cord seeds out of the country, prosecutors say. Mo Hailong is accused of stealing the seeds from fields in Illinois and Iowa and trying to evade FBI agents... More »

Co-Op Gives Farm Workers Shot at Field of Own Dreams

Field hands get opportunity to start own businesses

(Newser) - Being an itinerant farm worker might be one of the most grueling ways to make a living in the country. But what if these workers could take their experience and turn it into a farm of their own? NPR profiles a cooperative in California's Salinas Valley that offers that... More »

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