agriculture

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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 »

Massive Farm Bill Passes After 3-Year Fight

Foods stamps cut, but by far less than Republicans wanted

(Newser) - Congress has given its final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers. Ending years of political battles, the Senate today sent the measure to President Obama for his signature with a 68-32 vote. The bill provides a financial cushion for... 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 »

The Chinese Takeover of Smithfield Stinks—Literally

More pigs will produce more poop, basically

(Newser) - If regulators approve the sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company, the US will soon be producing more pigs to feed China's growing appetite for all things porcine. And more pigs will produce more poop. Smithfield—America's (and the world's) largest producer of pork—already produced... More »

Rising From the Farm Bill's Ashes: Hemp

Amendment to legalize it for research purposes passed, and it will be raised again

(Newser) - It's looking more and more likely that US farmers will be getting back into the hemp-growing business. The latest hopeful sign for advocates came when the House passed an amendment that would make it legal for universities to grow hemp for research purposes—an important step if farmers ever... More »

There's a Quiet Potato War Going On

Grocers allege growers are colluding to illegally inflate prices

(Newser) - Who knew there was a quiet potato war going on? On one side: grocers. On the other: potato growers. An unwitting victim: you, assuming you purchase the fruits of the latter from the former. As the AP reports, the Associated Wholesale Grocers has filed a lawsuit charging that potato growers... More »

Agriculture's Rising Force: Female Farmers

Women now account for 30% of US farmers

(Newser) - One of the biggest changes in agriculture isn't so much about what type of seeds are being planted as who is planting them: women. Grist expands on a USDA study showing that the number of farms run by women has nearly tripled in the last three decades. Add in... More »

America's Hot New Crop Is ... Chickpeas?

That's because hummus sales are booming, says Wall Street Journal

(Newser) - Look out, US snackers, here comes the hummus. So says the Wall Street Journal , which declares that the relatively healthy Mediterranean dip made from chickpeas is "conquering America." The numbers are hard to dispute: Sales were up 11% last year to $530 million, and that's up 25%... More »

USDA: Time for 'Sea Change' in Fighting Pests

Officials release list of top 15 threats

(Newser) - Pests are causing billions of dollars of agricultural damage—the Asian citrus psyllid alone has cost Florida growers $4.5 billion—and it's time for a "sea change" in how we deal with them. Today, the USDA is releasing its list of the top 15 pest threats, USA ... More »

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