Trending: Biostimulants gaining ground

Related imageConsumers have stepped up their demand for food produced more sustainably, with fewer “hard” chemicals and more compounds from nature. Biostimulants are helping increasing numbers of growers answer that call. “Growers are embracing these products rapidly as they search for ‘greener’ options to produce their crops,” says Rad Page, Chief Commercial Officer for PlantResponse. “They’re also demanding that these products have solid science behind them and produce a consistent return on their investment. We think these expectations are driving the increased investment and innovation in this market segment.” The global biostimulant market is currently valued at approximately $2 billion, reports Dr. John Bailey, National Row Crops Product Manager with Timac Agro USA. “Europe has the largest share at around 45%, North America and Asia have approximately 20% each, and Latin America comes in at around 15%.” Many in the industry believe there is a lack of understanding of what these products do.  Continue reading

Wisconsin’s ‘Healthy Grown’ potato program advances growers’ use of bio-intensive IPM

Image result for Wisconsin Healthy Grown Potato ProgramWisconsin’s “Healthy Grown” potato program has been thriving in advancing innovative, ecologically sound production systems and currently, around 8000 acres of fresh market potatoes are grown under stringent environmental protocols. “Healthy Grown” works to advance growers’ use of biointensive IPM, reduce reliance on high-risk pesticides, and to enhance ecosystem conservation efforts through the high-bar, sustainable potato and vegetable standards. In a series of videos published on YouTube, the process and background of the development of “Healthy Grown” are described, as well as improvements for the program. Contact Deana Knuteson (dknuteson@wisc.edu) for more details. Go here to watch the three short videos on YouTube

Focus on Soil: World renowned soil ecologist explains the life-giving link between carbon and healthy topsoil

Image result for soilTo the pressing worldwide challenge of restoring soil carbon and rebuilding topsoil, the Australian soil ecologist Dr. Christine Jones offers an accessible, revolutionary perspective for improving landscape health and farm productivity. For several decades, Jones has helped innovative farmers and ranchers implement regenerative agricultural systems that provide remarkable benefits for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, water management, and productivity.  During an interview by Tracy Frisch of Acres U.S.A Magazine, Jones said that people have for long confused the weathering of rock, which is a very, very slow process, with the building of topsoil, which is altogether different. Most of the ingredients for new topsoil come from the atmosphere — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. “The issue we’re facing is that too much of the carbon that was once in a solid phase in the soil has become a gas. That could be dangerous for the human species. Climate change is just one aspect. Food security, the nutrient density of food and the water-holding capacity of the soil are also very potent reasons for keeping carbon in a solid phase in the soil.” More

Soil your undies: ‘Healthy soil will eat your underwear if you plant it’

Related imageHow healthy is your soil? If you want to know all you have to do is bury your underwear, says Canada’s Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) soil management specialist Adam Hayes. Last summer, Hayes helped members of a crop improvement association bury underwear in their fields to determine the amount of biological activity in their soils. They buried cotton briefs six to eight inches deep in the soil in late May and then dug them up in early August. In this interview, recorded this week at the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association annual meeting in London, Hayes explains that healthy soils teeming with bacteria, fungi and earthworms will eat and devour your cotton briefs, but they suffer much less damage in soils with lower levels of biological activity. Hayes encourages farmers to bury underwear in their fields to assess soil health. He recommends farmers watch the Soil Your Undies Cotton Test video produced by the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario for tips on how to run the experiment on their farm. Related: What Underwear Can or Cannot Tell You About Soil Health

How do you make potato farming more efficient? A Canadian project aims to find out

Related imageA research project at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada aimed at making potato farming more efficient, has received funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The project is one part of an initiative involving the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, Cavendish Farms, growers, Agriculture Canada and the province focused on improving yields, profitability and sustainability. Aitazaz Farooque, the lead researcher and assistant professor at the UPEI school of engineering, said he is working on technology that would tell farmers which areas to put fertilizers and pesticides in their fields, reducing the costs and environmental impact of farming. “The idea here is to develop the sustainable technology so that we can apply crop inputs, which is fertilizers, pesticides, lime application, based on the need, not everywhere,” Farooque said. More

A grass-roots movement for healthy soil spreads among American farmers

In American farm country, a grass-roots movement is spreading, a movement to keep more roots in the soil. (Not just grass roots, of course; roots of all kinds.) Its goal: Promoting healthy soil that’s full of life. NPR’s Dan Charles met three different farmers recently who are part of this movement in one way or another. Each of them took him to a field, dug up some dirt, and showed it off like a kind of hidden treasure. “You can see how beautiful that soil [is],” said Deb Gangwish, in Shelton, Neb. “I’m not a soil scientist, but I love soil!” “You can pick it up and it smells like dirt,” Bryce Irlbeck told Charles, as they stood in a field near Manning, Iowa. “You can go on a lot of arms in Iowa and the dirt doesn’t smell like dirt anymore.” And in Pleasant Dale, Neb., Del Ficke was practically ecstatic. “Look at this! And the smell! It smells beautiful! It’s alive!” For years, talk of “healthy soil” was mostly limited to organic farmers and others on the fringes of mainstream American agriculture. No more. Full report

AHDB Guidance to help farmers with new rules for water

Image result for water farmerFrom 2 April 2018 all farmers in England will need to meet new government rules to protect water quality. The farming rules for water build upon the good practice already in operation and relate to managing fertilisers, manures and soils. AHDB has a wealth of relevant information to help farmers, including guidance on soil testing and nutrient management planning in the Nutrient Management Guide (RB209)managing field drainage and on soil management. The new rules are broken down into eight parts, five about managing fertilisers and manures and three on managing soils.  Continue reading

New biofumigant crop mix: Turning up the heat on potato cyst nematode

Image result for biofumigant mustardA new summer-sown biofumigant plant mix that offers improved suppression of potato cyst nematode, compared with autumn-sown, overwintered varieties, is being launched this season by Agrovista in the UK. Summer Vindaloo is a mix of the hottest mustard varieties and very hot rocket, which grows quickly and develops powerful biofumigation activity within three months of sowing, says Shropshire-based agronomist Andrew Wade. The mix will appeal, especially on trickier land, to growers who prefer or need to complete their deep cultivations before winter sets in, he says. “It can be incorporated in October and deliver at least as powerful a punch as the more traditional over-wintered mixes,” he explains. Summer Vindaloo has been developed as a result of an extensive trials network and PhD research pioneered by Agrovista Agronomist Luke Hardy. Another new study in Agrovista’s Shropshire trials is investigating trap cropping, using plants that produce a similar exudate to potato roots, fooling the PCN into hatching. More

Unmanned: Drones and robots working together to target weeds

Image result for unmanned aerial vehicle potatoIt sounds like a futuristic farming scene, but researchers in central Europe are working on developing an autonomous farming system where drones and robots work together to control weeds. The Flourish Project in Europe is an effort to create an autonomous, robotic system that foresee collaboration between unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and multi-purpose unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). The system utilizes UAV surveillance capabilities to generate a map of the field, capture image data, and identify areas with a high probability of pest concerns, like weeds. Once the UAV has completed its task, or detects its battery status as low, it docks on a UGV, where it can then transfer its data. The UGV prototype, called BoniRob, is the “platform vehicle” for its flying counterpart. It utilizes the data delivered from the UAV to determine the best route to take, and changes its driving speed dependant on identified hot spots. The hope is that the collaboration between UAV and UGV will enable farm managers to increase yields while lowering pesticide use. Read full article and watch video

GREATsoils Webinar: Intended to help growers make changes to soil management practices and improve growing systems

Related imageAHDB Horticulture funded GREATsoils project in the UK has found that growers are becoming increasingly interested in soil health and how it affects the success of their business. The information that will be provided in this webinar will help growers to make changes to their soil management practices and improve growing systems. The project has used grower field trials, field labs, case studies and workshops to assess current soil testing tools and what they mean for growers in the field. This webinar will take place tomorrow, 27 March. It will cover what’s been learned thus far, and will increase your knowledge of the potential business and agronomic benefits of paying greater attention to soil. The webinar is aimed at growers and crop consultants and other advisors working in horticulture, though other agricultural advisors will also find it useful. Go here to register and for further information

Far more toxic than glyphosate: Copper sulfate, used by organic and conventional farmers, cruises to European reauthorization

Image result for potato sprayerRecently, the European Union decided to reauthorize the fungicide copper sulfate, a popular pesticide among organic farmers that has a more toxic rap sheet than glyphosate. Copper sulfate is a widely used pesticide in organic farming but which also is used in some conventional applications, although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) considered toxicity risks for farmers, birds, mammals and soil organisms, and the chemical’s overall environmental impact. This decision extended permission for the use of copper sulfate in the EU, against bacteria and fungus. Copper sulfate is used a great deal in organic farming, especially with potatoes, grapes, tomatoes and apples. In comparison, glyphosate — one of the world’s most popular herbicides — is focused on weed control and is not used in organic farming. Instead, it has attracted the attention of anti-GMO activists and members of the EU because it works hand-in-hand with genetically modified crops bred to resist it. More

Biostimulants: ‘Feeding a plant additional amino acid acts like a vitamin drink’

Related imageThere’s no denying that crop protection is becoming an increasing concern for arable growers. From glyphosate to neonicotinoids many crucial controls have come up against scrutiny lately, leaving farmers in the dark about what may or may not be available in the years to come – on top of the increasing threat of chemical resistance. As a result, there’s been growing interest in alternative products like biostimulants which offer the potential to increase yields and boost crop health – reducing the reliance on chemistry that could indeed become limited in supply. However, with restricted knowledge about how they work, a lack of proven evidence and dubious suppliers, the efficacy of biostimulants has remained largely unproven. As great believers in the benefits of biostimulants, Interagro has developed an amino acid-based biostimulant – Bridgeway – which has proven to boost yields and increase quality in a range of arable and horticultural crops. More in Crop Protection Magazine. Also read this article

Certified seed: Measure seeks to prevent potato diseases in Michigan

Michigan farmers with more than an acre of seed potatoes would face new requirements under a bill passed by the Michigan Senate and House: to plant only certified seed potatoes. The intent is to reduce the possible spread of diseases that could have a major economic impact on the state’s agricultural industry, supporters say. Michigan ranks ninth among the states in potato production with 47,000 acres planted, according to the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. The crop contributes $178 million annually to the state’s economy. Rep. Roger Victory, R- Hudsonville, the main sponsor of the bill, said Michigan is one of the only potato-producing states that doesn’t currently have a certified potato seed law. Chris Long, a potato specialist at Michigan State University, said the bill is a good thing and would better regulate seed that is at a higher risk to the potato industry and prevent it from ever being planted. More

Bayer, Ginkgo Bioworks biologicals venture aims to reduce chemical fertilizer use by farmers

Joyn BioThe joint venture (JV) between Bayer Crop Science and Boston startup Ginkgo Bioworks has a name: Joyn BioBayer and Ginkgo, a startup genetically engineering microbes for the flavor, fragrance, and food industries with $429 million in funding, announced the partnership in September 2017. The partners, along with hedge fund Viking Global Investors, are collectively investing $100 million in the venture, making it the second largest deal from an ag biotechnology startup in 2017. The new company will manufacture microbial products using synthetic biology, to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers that farmers need to apply to crops. CEO Mike Miille says that Bayer’s know-how combined with Ginkgo’s manufacturing capabilities will allow the company to produce biologicals at 50- to 100-times the strength of products currently available on the market. “We can create microbes that are going to have unprecedented levels of performance relative to the natural approach that folks have been going about for ten years.” More

McDonald’s becomes first restaurant company to set science based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Image result for mcdonaldsMcDonald’s announces it will partner with franchisees and suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year in a new strategy to address global climate change. Additionally, McDonald’s commits to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across its supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels. This combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Through these actions, McDonald’s expects to prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030. This is the equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years. The target will enable McDonald’s to grow as a business without growing its emissions. More