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Rescooped by GNG from Grain du Coteau : News ( corn maize ethanol DDG soybean soymeal wheat livestock beef pigs canadian dollar)
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Ag Secretary Calls for Infrastructure Improvement During Visit to Port of Houston

Ag Secretary Calls for Infrastructure Improvement During Visit to Port of Houston | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

HOUSTON, Jan. 23, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Renewed investment is needed in ports and other transportation infrastructure to help boost trade, United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday at the Port of Houston.

In a speech at the Louis Dreyfus Commodities Grain Elevator, which is located along the Houston Ship Channel and is used by shippers to export large volumes of grain to other countries, Vilsack highlighted the benefits of increasing exports and the need for improving the nation's infrastructure.

"All of these ships and all of this equipment mean jobs," Vilsack said.

Vilsack toured the export facility before his speech.

He highlighted the importance of agricultural trade for the economy of Texas and the nation. The past six years have been the strongest in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $771 billion since 2009.

Roger Guenther, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority, welcomed the Secretary to the Port of Houston.

"Agriculture products were the primary cargo when the channel was officially opened in 1914 - it is part of our heritage and remains an important cargo for the Port of Houston Authority," Guenther said.

Joining Vilsack and Guenther was Steve Campbell, Executive Vice President, head of Grains Platform, North America, for Louis Dreyfus Commodities, who also gave brief remarks at Thursday's event.

About the Port of Houston Authority 

For nearly 100 years, the Port of Houston Authority has owned or operated the public cargo-handling facilities of the Port of Houston – the nation's largest port for foreign waterborne tonnage. The port is an economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the nation. It supports the creation of more than one million statewide jobs and more than 2.1 million nationwide jobs, and the generation of economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation. For more information, visit the Port Authority website at: www.portofhouston.com 

- See more at: http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2015/01/24/699692/10116867/en/Ag-Secretary-Calls-for-Infrastructure-Improvement-During-Visit-to-Port-of-Houston.html#sthash.WMsxzgks.dpuf


Via Stéphane Bisaillon
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Another great example of the importance of logistics and infrastructure that support agricultural trade.

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Genetically Modified Organisms and Innovation Policy are Key Weapons in Fight against Hunger - Giannakas (2014) - Cornhusker Econ

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the food system and the assignment of intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plant genetic resources are among the most notable features of the increasingly industrialized agri-food marketing system of numerous, developed and developing, countries around the world. IPRs have provided innovating firms with incentives to aggressively pursue improvements of crop characteristics... and the agronomic benefits of the GM products have resulted in their embrace by a significant number of agricultural producers around the world... more than half... of those being planted in developing countries... Seventeen million farmers in 28 countries grew GM soybeans... in 2012...


Intriguingly, in the midst of this so-called gene revolution, about 1 billion people worldwide are facing malnutrition and hunger, with the majority of these people living in water-constrained regions of Africa and Asia. With GMOs and IPRs being at the epicenter of innovation activity in the agri-food system, the question that naturally arises is: can GMOs and IPRs help reduce hunger in a water-constrained world? Understanding that hunger can be reduced through access to increased quantities of nutritious food offered at affordable prices, research... has been focusing on the effects of different GM technologies and IPRs’ policies on quantities produced, the quality of production, the prices of food products, and the number of people with access to food in hunger-stricken less developed countries (LDCs)...


Research has identified the potential for significant benefits from the development and adoption of appropriate GM technologies for all participants in the agri-food marketing system. In particular, previous research has shown that properly designed GM technologies... can facilitate production, increase yields, reduce production costs, and enhance the nutritional value of food products. Key input traits of the GMOs needed in the fight against hunger are drought resistance and/or water use efficiency of plants, as water has been a key constraining factor in many hunger-stricken countries...


Important determinants of the effectiveness of these GM technologies in combating hunger are (i) the public attitudes towards GMOs; (ii) the magnitude and distribution of benefits of the GM technology; (iii) the regulatory and labeling regimes governing GMOs; (iv) the structure of the agri-food marketing system; (v) the market power of the innovating companies; and (vi) the strength and enforcement of IPRs in LDCs. Regarding the level of IPRs’ enforcement, it has been shown to affect the welfare of the interest groups involved (i.e., producers, consumers, and innovators), and have important ramifications for the pricing and adoption of the new technology. The weaker is the enforcement of IPRs in a country, the lower the price of the new technology, the greater its adoption by producers, and the greater the number of consumers that have access to this technology.


While GM technologies and certain IPRs’ policies can result in increased quantities of nutritious food in hunger-stricken LDCs, there are some major challenges in the quest to utilize such technologies in the fight against hunger. These challenges include: (i) the limited availability of suitable GM crops/technologies; (ii) the limited capacity for research and development (R&D) in most LDCs; (iii) the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in shaping public attitudes towards GMOs; (iv) the trade relationships of LDCs with countries hostile to GMOs; and (v) the inefficiency of the regulatory system in most LDCs. The role of government agencies (like USAID) and Universities, innovating firms, the World Bank, major foundations, philanthropists and NGOs in overcoming these challenges is critical.

 

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/agecon_cornhusker/704

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Terrific article about the role of GMOs in fighting world hunger.

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Who owns agriculture data and knowledge?

Who owns agriculture data and knowledge? | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

Agronomically, most of us are “land grant” educated. Land grant universities were established with the Morrill Act in 1860s and served to make higher education affordable to the masses, including a lot of farm kids. By design, they had an agriculture focus – both in research and education. Even if we did not attend our state’s Land Grant or follow their sports teams, they are the foundation for most of the industry’s agronomic knowledge.

Historically, most of what has happened in “precision ag” applications could be characterized as “measuring variability within fields, using knowledge from Land Grants to write equations to variably apply crop inputs.”

Entering our 17th crop year, Premier Crop and our customers have been working to create new agronomic knowledge with grower’s geo-referenced agronomic data. It’s messy work. Real world agronomy and the data captured is what I call “the collision of uncontrolled variables”.

Recently there have been headlines about agreements between the industry and farm groups on data ownership and privacy. That’s positive. But it’s really not surprising that a company would agree that you own your data and that it will be returned or removed from their servers. Or that you will be allowed to direct whom it gets shared with or sent to.

Do you ever wonder why a company would even want your agronomic data? Often I think the question that should be asked but isn’t, is this: who owns the knowledge created from your data? Is it the data scientist? The company that combines your data with other growers’? The company that is in the business of mining your data with their proprietary algorithms?

I believe what most growers want at the end of the day is agronomic and economic knowledge on how to farm better and more efficiently. Is the data really what needs protecting or is it more so the knowledge created from the data?

There are many different business models being created in data management, no one more right than the next, they are just different. One model is: share your data with us and we’ll use it to tell you how to use our products better. Another model that has been used extensively in the consumer market is the “freemium”, a pricing strategy where a basic service is provided for free to build a user base and lead customers to a premium for-charge service.

Other models will be combinations. Share your data with us, we’ll aggregate it with other grower’s data, develop and calibrate our predictive models, create new knowledge that we own and then we will sell it back to you and other growers.

Another approach is slightly different. Share your data with us, we’ll partner with you and other growers (for a fee) to create agronomic knowledge that you collectively own. That knowledge is shared only with other growers that are part of the database that contributes to the knowledge creation.

The data is only as good as the knowledge you gain from it. Moving forward, how will you view the discussions around data and knowledge ownership?

Got data?

  • Our column has discussed many of the ways data is important, the type of knowledge gained, as well as the decisions to be made, but how have you put it to work for you?
  • What have been some of the positives you have done on your operation that made this year better than the last?
  • Think about which business model you are paired with. Is the knowledge you gained from signing away your data in the past worth it? 

Via Stéphane Bisaillon
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The importance of agricultural data and the knowledge that can be created from it.

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VIDEO: The next generation of farmers

VIDEO: The next generation of farmers | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

Emily Best of New Morning Farm, Chris Jones of Hampton Creek and rancher Trent McKnight of AgriCorps talk with the Post’s Alison Snyder about the challenges and opportunities for young people in agriculture. var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(["_setAccount",... http://linepitch.com/2014/12/06/video-the-next-generation-of-farmers/


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Terrific conversation about the need to feed the world!

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Biomass Demand to Triple by 2030

Biomass Demand to Triple by 2030 | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

Biofuel mandates and growth in the biochemicals industry are expected to triple demand for biomass by 2030, placing pressure on available feedstocks, according to a report by Lux Research.


The report, “Finding Feedstocks for the Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals of Today and 2030,” said today biofuels and biochemicals need more than a billion metric tons of biomass material each year to replace about three percent of total petroleum products. The report predicts that figure will skyrocket to 3.7 billion mt of biomass needed annually by 2030.


Biofuels mandates, which require large masses of sugars, cellulosic biomass and waste feedstocks, will cause several regions will encounter major stress on available biomass, the report said. For instance, the EPA is proposing a 62 percent increase in the amount of cellulosic biofuels that refiners must blend into their gasoline and diesel, despite a federal court’s decision last week to strike down its 2012 standard for the fuel.


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Special Webinar Series of NAPB in partnership with PBCC and PBG starts April 29th

Special Webinar Series of NAPB in partnership with PBCC and PBG starts April 29th | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
Register for upcoming webinars and view past recordings. The Plant Breeding and Genomics Webinar Series describes and demonstrates widely...

Via Plant Breeding and Genomics News
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Previous webinars are accessible for classroom use.

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gobsmackedmumble's comment, July 1, 2015 6:37 AM
Its incredibly good :)
phoebecoaming's comment, August 19, 1:20 AM
good
ringacrux's comment, August 27, 1:11 AM

Interesting...!!
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Genetic Engineering Will Drive Food Security - Chilton (2014) - CSA

Genetic Engineering Will Drive Food Security - Chilton (2014) - CSA | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, my research team worked out how a plant bacterium can be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells. This helped open the door to new crop varieties with innovative traits... In 2013, I was one of three scientists honored as World Food Prize Laureates for our contributions to this technology... agricultural biotechnologists were chosen to win the 2013 prize, as it speaks to the importance of this new technology in addressing the food needs of future generations.

 

I have seen this technology develop from its early infancy to the fruition of the crops we see in the field today. It has been an amazingly rewarding journey to see what started out as a fundamental scientific and curiosity-driven study evolve into such wide application in the field. It is clear from the statistics, which show the many millions of acres of biotech-modified crops being harvested around the world, that the technology has taken off with remarkable speed...

 

The only sustainable approach to food security in 2050 and beyond is to unlock the potential of plants through innovation. Growers are rapidly adopting combined-trait crops for insect control, water optimization, yield improvement, oil and protein quality, and improved bioprocessing. Ultimately, these technologies help reduce chemical applications and provide simpler, more environmentally friendly farming practices (e.g., no till). Agricultural biotechnology will be a key driver of sustainable food production in the future...

 

In a real sense, the process that we use for genetically engineering a plant is a natural one. We learned how Agrobacterium manages to put genes into plant cells, and then we copied that process. We borrowed from a natural process... we can now do by choice what nature only does by chance.

 

With genetic engineering, we have a wide choice of genes... and we can precisely choose the genetic regions where we want to insert them, without any unintended consequences. In traditional cross-breeding, extra genes that you don’t want also find their way into the plant. It is impossible to avoid. As I see it, a genetically engineered plant is a much more defined and precise product...

 

What should be done by governing bodies, international organizations, funding agencies, and the scientific community to help feed the world in 2050? The single most important contribution that others can make is to provide accurate information about the food security challenge we are facing and the solutions that can meet the challenge. For too long, there has been misunderstanding and misinformation about modern agriculture technologies, especially GMOs. This has led to a state of public confusion and unnecessary concern over what this process is and how safe it is. I find this very unfortunate because it did not need to happen.


We have spent far too much time trying to correct false impressions rather than focusing on all the benefits that these technologies can provide. Let us focus on their potential for the future. The world will become a hungry place in one more generation. We will need this wonderful technology to improve the seeds of the future.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/csa2014-59-11-8

 


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GM crops 1996-2012: a review of agronomic, environmental and socio-economic impacts - Mannion & Morse (2013) - U Surrey

GM crops 1996-2012: a review of agronomic, environmental and socio-economic impacts - Mannion & Morse (2013) - U Surrey | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

The genetically-modified (GM) varieties of major economic crops, specifically soybean, maize, rape (canola) and cotton, were first grown commercially in 1996. In 2012 they were grown on 170 million hectares, representing a six per cent increase on 2011 though there was only a small increase in the number of countries involved from 29 to 30. Notably there remains an absence of participants in Europe where proponents continue to voice concerns about possible adverse impacts on human and environmental health as well as the dominance of a few international companies which market the seed. 

This paper examines the agronomic and environmental impacts of GM crops since 1996 as reported in the published literature. A similar approach is taken to examining the socioeconomic impact of GM crops e.g. wealth generation, health aspects and employment. Overall, the impact of GM crops has been positive in both the developed and developing worlds. 

Agronomically, yields per unit area have increased due to enhanced pest and weed control with added benefits in the case of insect control for non-GM crops grown nearby due to the so-called ‘halo’ effect. In terms of energy investment, GM crops are ‘greener’ than non-GM crops because reduced insecticide applications lowers energy input i.e. the carbon footprint. Ecologically, non-target and beneficial organisms have benefitted from reduced pesticide use, surface and ground water contamination is less significant and fewer accidents occur to cause health issues in farm workers. 

The most important adverse characteristic of GM crops is the capacity of insect pests and weeds to develop resistance to GM induced insect resistance in crops or to herbicides used in conjunction with GM induced pesticide resistant crops. Such resistance is not confined to GM crops as resistance in target insects and weeds is evident in non-GM contexts; it does, however, indicate that current GM approaches are relatively transitory in the battle against crop pests and that their viability will depend on good management. 

In relation to socio-economic impacts, GM crops have increased income for large- and small-scale commercial and subsistent farmers with associated downstream impacts through investments. Increased gross margins are due to higher revenues and reduced costs in relation to pest management. Issues such as debt problems caused by seed purchase occur but are no more extensive than for conventional crops; the question of crop monopolies by multinational companies remains though it must be acknowledged that such companies have invested cash billions in development and that they have little to gain by pricing farmers out of the market. 

Health benefits have also been achieved, especially through a reduction in pesticide use. Additional potential benefits of GM crops are discussed including possibilities for the improvement of human health by augmenting specific nutrients i.e. biofortification. One example is Golden rice which increases the availability of vitamin A which, through dietary deficiency, causes blindness in millions of people in Asia. 

In addition, this paper takes an unconventional stance by reviewing the socio-economic impacts of GM varieties in the context of impacts that have arisen from other agricultural technologies. It is proposed that the benefits and problems associated with GM are by no means unique and indeed are similar to those that have long been claimed for other much older technologies. The most significant benefits are increased financial rewards and health benefits. Increased gross margins are due to higher revenues and reduced costs in relation to pest management. A range of problems have been associated with GM crops, including debt and increased dependency on multinationals, but these can also be associated with other agricultural technologies. 

Overall, GM crops have proved to be a positive addition to the many technologies which comprise modern agriculture.

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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An unbiased look at the pros and cons of GMOs.

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UNITED STATES: Five Reasons to Feature Soy-Fed Fish on Your Menu

UNITED STATES: Five Reasons to Feature Soy-Fed Fish on Your Menu | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

As part of the organization’s efforts to increase use of U.S. soy in aquaculture, USSEC is distributing this press release to key international media.

 

 

St. Louis, Missouri — Popular global cuisines with seafood-rich recipes, plus the growing world consumption of fish, have placed increased demands on our seafood supply. In fact, only half of the current global demand can be met by fish and seafood from the world’s oceans, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration crediting aquaculture as being the world’s fastest-growing form of food production.  In turn, the sustainability of global aquaculture relies on efficient, renewable sources of fish feed ingredients. That’s why soy-fed farmed fish meets today’s needs.

 

When you specify soy-fed farmed fish for your foodservice kitchen, you’re offering a nutritious, sustainable menu choice. Farmed fish have a hatch-to-harvest controlled diet, so aquaculture products are free of mercury content and other environmental contaminants such as PCBs. But that’s just one advantage offered by soy-fed farmed fish.

 

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) provides foodservice operators with health and nutrition information, the latest research, and other information related to soy-fed farmed fish. Meanwhile, here are five advantages that soy-fed farmed fish can bring to your menu.

 

1. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Meet the Demand for High-Quality Ingredients. Demand for fish and seafood is expected to jump nearly 50 percent by the year 2050, thanks to more health-conscious consumers and a growing population. In fact, by 2030, an additional 41 million tons of fish per year will be needed to maintain current seafood consumption levels.  Your customers expect quality, and soy-fed farmed fish can help you meet those expectations.

 

2. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Appeal to Health-Consciousness Consumers. As the numerous health benefits of incorporating fish into a regular diet become better known, consumers are driving up the demand for quality seafood. Today, farmed fish account for a significant portion of all fish consumed worldwide, and aquaculture continues to grow more environmentally friendly with the adoption of new industry standards.  Soy-based feeds are rich in proteins and nutrients, including Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, soy eases the pressure on wild fisheries by replacing up to half the fishmeal in feeds for many marine farmed species, and all of the fishmeal in many freshwater species.

 

3. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Reflect Environmental Awareness. Soybeans themselves are an environmentally beneficial crop because they fix nitrates in the soil.  When it comes to aquaculture sustainability, soybean meal and soy oil can replace from half to nearly all of the fishmeal and fish oil in foods for many species. To learn more about the ways soy helps make aquaculture more sustainable, visit www.soyaqua.org.

 

4. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Provide Year-Round Availability: Farm-raised seafood currently accounts for more than 40 percent of fish and shellfish consumption globally. Despite a growing demand for seafood, the amount of wild fish capture has remained flat since the 1980s. Increasing the availability of soy-fed farm-raised fish conserves natural resources while meeting consumer needs.

 

5. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Offer Affordability: U.S. soybeans increase the world’s supply of affordable farm-raised fish. This helps the affordability of aquaculture products.

 

To learn more about the advantages of soy-fed farmed fish, visit http://www.soyaqua.org.

 

GNG's insight:

Sustainability of global aquaculture relies on soybeans.

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Roy D Palmer's curator insight, June 9, 2013 8:37 PM

A good read and makes some excellent points

GNG's curator insight, December 4, 2014 3:43 PM

Benefits of eating soy-fed fish.

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Food Production Must Grow to Satisfy World's Appetite

Food Production Must Grow to Satisfy World's Appetite | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

By now, just about everyone knows the scenario: more than 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, all ready to eat. With dwindling natural resources, changing climate and an already stressed environment, will the world's farmers and ranchers be able to feed them? Can agriculture boost food production by 70% over the next 40 years to satisfy the world's appetite?

It's the most significant challenge of our time. Achieving it won't be easy. Lester Brown, in his book "Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Security," said ag producers, in addition to wrestling with the usual challenges, face three distinctly new problems.

"One, aquifers are being depleted and irrigation wells are starting to go dry in 18 countries that together contain half the world's people. Two, in some of the more agriculturally advanced countries, rice and wheat yield per acre, which have been rising steadily for several decades, are beginning to plateau. And three, the earth's temperature is rising, threatening to disrupt world agriculture in scary ways," Brown writes.

"Food is the weak link in our modern civilization -- just as it was for the Sumerians, Mayans and many other civilizations that have come and gone," he continued. "They could not separate their fate from that of their food supply. Nor can we."

Undoubtedly, the world will look to the U.S. to help stock the global food pantry.

"I don't think you can dream too big for American agriculture," Richard Crowder, Virginia Tech ag economist, told thousands gathered at the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention, as he received the organization's distinguished service award earlier this year. "Your role in past changes will be minor compared to what you'll need to do (to feed the world)," said Crowder, the former U.S. chief agricultural trade negotiator.

Pat Campbell, a dairy producer from Spring Hill, Tenn., puts it succinctly: "As we become more urbanized and industrialized, it puts increased pressure on farmers because the world is going to demand more food. We'll produce it. We have to."

MORE MOUTHS TO FEED

The numbers, however, look daunting.

"The world greets 219,000 new people every day. That's the equivalent of one Britain every year. If we assume most of this new population is from Asia and consuming 1,200 calories a day, then 1 acre feeds 15 people, at 18,350 calories an acre. That means we'll need the equivalent of 14,600 new acres every day," said Louis Elwell, chief executive officer of Bio Soil Enhancers.

Cultivating vast new masses of land isn't likely. Instead, agriculture needs a "greener revolution," to increase productivity in a sustainable way, Liam Condon, chief executive officer of Bayer CropScience, told the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, Germany, in January.

"We need to recognize we are reaching the ecological limits that our planet can bear. We must cultivate new ideas and answers to freeze our environmental footprint and farm better the land we have available," he said.

Larkin Martin grows corn, soybean, cotton and wheat in Courtland, Ala. She thinks technology must provide new answers for sustainable practices and the looming food cliff. "We have to make sure we are using our technology at its best for the capacity the soil has. If we are to produce more on the same footprint, we've got to do something different in genetics or crop-protection techniques. Either that or we have to enlarge our footprint. It's basic physics," she said.


Via Stéphane Bisaillon
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Great insights about agriculture's role in feeding the world!

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Ag Logistics: Growing Pains - Inbound Logistics

Ag Logistics: Growing Pains - Inbound Logistics | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
The success of U.S. agriculture depends on a functional transportation and logistics network that combines efficiencies and economies across all modes.

Via Mercor
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Terrific article about the importance of logistics and transportation in agriculture!

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Work-Based Learning Opportunities for High School Students | NRCCTE

Work-Based Learning Opportunities for High School Students | NRCCTE | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
Work-based learning in the US: Building academic, technical, and employability skills #softskills #careerteched http://t.co/3hp6sbDj80

Via Christopher Tully
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What work-based learning opportunities can we find to help students prepare for careers in agriculture?

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Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers – Helping teachers make better classrooms, one mouse-click at a time.

Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers – Helping teachers make better classrooms, one mouse-click at a time. | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
Hundreds of tools, resources, and ideas for using technology in the classroom. Great for teachers, technology specialists, administrators, home-school parents, and anyone involved in K-12 education!

Via Tom D'Amico (@TDOttawa)
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Great resources for using technology in your classroom!

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Dale Borgeson's curator insight, November 16, 2014 11:28 PM

A good way for you to learn more about technology in the classroom is to read a blog like this one. 

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Your Production and Markets Have Caused Major Changes in Rail Shipments for Grain

What happens to your corn or soybeans when it leaves your possession?  If you are delivering to a feed lot or a processor, it is quite evident what will happen to it.  But if it flows through an elevator and into a covered hopper car, the destination could be a long ways away and there may be a lot of other grain hauled with it.  Increases in corn and soybean production, the development of ethanol plants, and China’s hunger for soybeans have all become significant dynamics in the changes the rail industry has made to transport US grain.

 

In the railroad ledger books:

·Grain comprises 7.9 percent by tons of all commodities hauled by rail.

·Grain represents 94 percent by tons of all farm commodities.

·Grain transportation earned 8.4 percent of total rail revenue in 2009.

·Railroads hauled 33 percent of all grain transported in the United States in 2007.

But those statics are changing over time according to USDA economists who say since 1994 railroads have moved from hauling single carloads to grain to shuttle-sized shipments which are 75 or more railcars. That is the primary option for movement of corn, soybeans, and sorghum. However, the use of shuttle trains has not been the primary mode of transportation for wheat.  Additionally, the distance traveled by rail cars full of grain has increased for corn and soybeans, the US Surface Transportation Board reported, “In 1994, lengths of haul for corn and soybeans were principally between 20 and 500 miles. In 2009, however, the predominant length of haul for these two crops had become greater than 1,500 miles.”  In terms of a percentage increase from 1994 to 2009, the length of haul for corn increased 71%, for soybeans the length of haul increased 123%, but only 33% for wheat.

 

However, in the case of wheat the Surface Transportation Board reports, “In 1994, the average length of haul for wheat and sorghum was between 501 and 1,000 miles, representing 40 percent and 34 percent of total movements, respectively. By 2009, hauls of this length had increased to 51 percent and 54 percent of total movements.” 

 

The length of haul for grain and the size of shipments are functions of the changing production of corn, primarily, along with the relatively new development of ethanol plants, and the global demand for various types of grain produced in the US.  The USDA economists report, “As prices have changed to reflect  new supply and demand equilibriums, the size and distance of grain shipments has been affected as well.”  They report that in 1994, 58% of corn was used for feed and residual, but that dropped to 39% in 2009.  And in 1994, only 6% of corn was used for ethanol, a number that grew to 35% in 2009.  Additionally, the development of distillers dried grains has displaced some use of corn in feed and in exports.  However, export volume has fallen as corn production has increased, making it unnecessary to increase trainloads from the Cornbelt to Gulf and Pacific Northwest ports.

 

Corn

The USDA reports, “The  quantity of corn exports decreased only 9 percent, from 61.0 million tons in 1994 to 55.4 million tons in 2009. The use of corn to produce ethanol does not necessarily reduce the amount of corn available for exports because exports depend on price and production in other countries. The percentage of corn moved by shuttle-size shipments increased from 19 percent of rail corn tonnage in 1994 to 55 percent in 2009. Corn shipments     of 1 to 5 railcars decreased from 15 percent of the rail tonnage in 1994 to 7 percent of the total in 2009. Corn shipments of 6 to 49 railcars decreased from 41 percent of the rail tonnage to 19 percent and corn shipments of 50 to 74 railcars decreased from 26 percent to 19 percent of the rail tonnage.   The distance corn was shipped has increased 71 percent since 1994 (table 1). Corn shipments between 20 and 500 miles, which are most susceptible to truck competition, decreased from 49 percent of the rail shipments (27.3 million tons) in 1994 to 22 percent (16.0  million tons) in 2009, a tonnage decrease of 41 percent.                   

 

 

Soybeans

“From marketing year 1994 to MY 2009, U.S. soybean production increased 34 percent in response to high world demand for meat, milk, and eggs, which use soybean meal as a high-protein livestock feed. Soybean tonnages exported have increased 79 percent, from 25.2 million tons in marketing year 1994 to 45.0 million tons in marketing year 2009.  The percentage of soybeans moved by shuttle-size shipments has increased from 10 percent of total rail tonnage in 1994 to 63 percent in 2009. Soybean shipments of 1 to 5  railcars decreased  from 16 percent of total rail tonnage in 1994 to only 3 percent of the total in 2009. Soybean shipments of 6 to 49 railcars decreased from 44 percent of the total tonnage in 1994 to 19 percent in 2009. Soybean shipments of 50 to 74 railcars decreased from 30 percent of total rail tonnage in 1994 to 15 percent in 2009.  The distance soybeans are shipped has increased 123 percent (table 1), partially in response to a 79-percent increase in export tonnages since 1994. Soybean rail tonnages hauled more than 1,500 miles increased from 7 percent of total rail soybean tonnage (1 million tons) in 1994 to 45 percent (13 million tons) in 2009, a tonnage increase of 1,190 percent.

 

Wheat

“Wheat usage has not changed markedly since 1994. Exports and food are still the primary uses of wheat, comprising 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively, of 2009 wheat use.  Exports have averaged 48 percent of U.S. wheat production from 1994 to 2009, but are variable, ranging from 40 percent to 62 percent of production because of changes in world markets and world production.  Smaller size shipments of wheat are still an important part of wheat markets. Although the percentage of wheat moved by shuttle-size shipments increased from 9 percent of the rail wheat tonnage in 1994 to 36 percent in 2009, shipment sizes of 6 to 49 railcars hauled 47 percent of the tonnage in 2009.  Wheat shipments of 1 to 5 railcars decreased from 20 percent of the total tonnage in 1994 to 12 percent of the total in 2009. Wheat shipments of 50 to 74 railcars decreased from 19 percent of the total rail tonnage in 1994 to only 5 percent in 2009.  The distance wheat was shipped has increased 33 percent since 1994. Wheat shipments between 20 and 500 miles decreased from 32 percent of the total in 1994 (15.1 million tons) to only 19 percent of the total in 2009 (8.3 million tons), a tonnage decrease of 45 percent.  Most wheat is transported 501 to 1,000 miles, which increased from 40 percent of the total in 1994 (18.5 million tons) to 51 percent of the total in 2009 (22.7 million tons), a tonnage increase of 23 percent.”

 

Summary:

Despite the overall push towards  larger and longer hauls by the railroads to maximize efficiency,        the shuttle market has not developed identically for each grain because of differences in exports, production, and usage.   Wheat has been the most consistent of the five grains     over the period of study, showing very little change in exports, production, or usage. Increased production of corn and soybeans due to increases in corn-based ethanol and soybean exports have led to shuttle-sized shipments.


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Future of ag is focused on growth

Future of ag is focused on growth | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

“Ag is a huge growth industry,” Carroll said. “I always start with the basic premise production has to double. That’s the long-term reality.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. Carroll said this calls for “a continuing ramp-up in efficiency.”

The quest for efficiency leads Carroll to his next main trend in ag, something he calls “hyper-science.”

“Certainly, acceleration of science, with pesticides, plant genomics, precision ag,” Carroll said. “There’s certain key trends that are common to all industries: Science is evolving faster. The next generation of kids who’ve grown up with computers think and act faster.”


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Growing use of drones poised to transform agriculture

Growing use of drones poised to transform agriculture | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents producers and users of drones and other robotic equipment, predicts that 80% of the commercial market for drones will eventually be for agricultural uses. Once the Federal Aviation Administration establishes guidelines for commercial use, the drone industry said it expects more than 100,000 jobs to be created and nearly half a billion in tax revenue to be generated collectively by 2025, much of it from agriculture. Iowa, the country's largest corn and second-biggest soybean grower, could see 1,200 more jobs and an economic impact topping $950 million in the next decade.

. . . . 

Brent Johnson, a corn and soybean farmer in Calhoun County in central Iowa, purchased a drone in 2013 for $30,000 that is already paying dividends on his 900-acre farm. He's used the aircraft, which covers about 80 acres an hour, to study how yields on his property are affected by changes in topography. And last growing season he identified some areas where his corn stands were not strong enough, information he's going to consider in future plantings when he decides whether to replant or avoid the acreage all together. This year he's going to scout early for any problems and use the data he collects to help determine when to sell his crops.

 

"I'm always looking for an advantage, looking for how I can do things better," said Johnson, who also owns a precision agriculture company.


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UNITED STATES: Five Reasons to Feature Soy-Fed Fish on Your Menu

UNITED STATES: Five Reasons to Feature Soy-Fed Fish on Your Menu | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

As part of the organization’s efforts to increase use of U.S. soy in aquaculture, USSEC is distributing this press release to key international media.

 

 

St. Louis, Missouri — Popular global cuisines with seafood-rich recipes, plus the growing world consumption of fish, have placed increased demands on our seafood supply. In fact, only half of the current global demand can be met by fish and seafood from the world’s oceans, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration crediting aquaculture as being the world’s fastest-growing form of food production.  In turn, the sustainability of global aquaculture relies on efficient, renewable sources of fish feed ingredients. That’s why soy-fed farmed fish meets today’s needs.

 

When you specify soy-fed farmed fish for your foodservice kitchen, you’re offering a nutritious, sustainable menu choice. Farmed fish have a hatch-to-harvest controlled diet, so aquaculture products are free of mercury content and other environmental contaminants such as PCBs. But that’s just one advantage offered by soy-fed farmed fish.

 

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) provides foodservice operators with health and nutrition information, the latest research, and other information related to soy-fed farmed fish. Meanwhile, here are five advantages that soy-fed farmed fish can bring to your menu.

 

1. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Meet the Demand for High-Quality Ingredients. Demand for fish and seafood is expected to jump nearly 50 percent by the year 2050, thanks to more health-conscious consumers and a growing population. In fact, by 2030, an additional 41 million tons of fish per year will be needed to maintain current seafood consumption levels.  Your customers expect quality, and soy-fed farmed fish can help you meet those expectations.

 

2. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Appeal to Health-Consciousness Consumers. As the numerous health benefits of incorporating fish into a regular diet become better known, consumers are driving up the demand for quality seafood. Today, farmed fish account for a significant portion of all fish consumed worldwide, and aquaculture continues to grow more environmentally friendly with the adoption of new industry standards.  Soy-based feeds are rich in proteins and nutrients, including Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, soy eases the pressure on wild fisheries by replacing up to half the fishmeal in feeds for many marine farmed species, and all of the fishmeal in many freshwater species.

 

3. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Reflect Environmental Awareness. Soybeans themselves are an environmentally beneficial crop because they fix nitrates in the soil.  When it comes to aquaculture sustainability, soybean meal and soy oil can replace from half to nearly all of the fishmeal and fish oil in foods for many species. To learn more about the ways soy helps make aquaculture more sustainable, visit www.soyaqua.org.

 

4. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Provide Year-Round Availability: Farm-raised seafood currently accounts for more than 40 percent of fish and shellfish consumption globally. Despite a growing demand for seafood, the amount of wild fish capture has remained flat since the 1980s. Increasing the availability of soy-fed farm-raised fish conserves natural resources while meeting consumer needs.

 

5. Soy-Fed Farmed Fish Offer Affordability: U.S. soybeans increase the world’s supply of affordable farm-raised fish. This helps the affordability of aquaculture products.

 

To learn more about the advantages of soy-fed farmed fish, visit http://www.soyaqua.org.

 

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Benefits of eating soy-fed fish.

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Roy D Palmer's curator insight, June 9, 2013 8:37 PM

A good read and makes some excellent points

GNG's curator insight, October 30, 2014 11:26 AM

Sustainability of global aquaculture relies on soybeans.

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Fear and food security - Coffman (2014) - Food Energy Sec

Fear and food security - Coffman (2014) - Food Energy Sec | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

The current debate about the adoption of biotech crops is reminiscent of similar concerns expressed about the modern wheat varieties that were introduced to Asia in the 1960s during what is now called the “Green Revolution.” Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, led the Green Revolution... People were suspicious of the new varieties because they were shorter in stature and seemed “unnatural.” But the new, improved varieties resulted in dramatically higher yields and saved the South Asia region from famine. For more than 40 years, South Asia has relied on these new varieties and modern agricultural technology to sustain its people, doubling wheat production and moving from wheat importers to wheat exporters. 

 

Today, scientists face a tremendous communications challenge concerning the use of agricultural biotechnologies. Dr. Borlaug would be dismayed and disgusted with the current anti-GMO movement and the worldwide cloud of fear and superstition that surrounds the use of biotech crops. He would abhor the antiscience activists and their followers who have no regard for empirical evidence and are denying farmers the right to make choices about the varieties of crops they wish to grow. Most of all, he would not want science to bypass resource-poor smallholder farmers in developing countries for whom modern agricultural technologies can mean the difference between food and famine... 


If he were alive today, Borlaug would tell us that in the next century, the world will be challenged by more mouths to feed, new pathogens, climate change, constrained resources, and nutritionally deficient children who go to bed hungry. He would proudly defend those technologies that we all know can make a difference – from Bt maize to Bt eggplant... Virus-resistant papaya, Golden Rice, Late Blight Resistant potato, drought- and salinity-tolerant maize... and crops that are still in the pipelines... he would tell us it is our moral imperative to speak up and protect the world's right to science-based innovation... If we do otherwise, we risk setting the world back 50 years.


Dr. Borlaug truly despised the “constant pessimism and scare-mongering” that was as common then as it is now... Borlaug told it like it was (and still is), “We need more investments in agriculture and we must stop looking at agriculture as a donkey's profession.” He pleaded with African leaders to embrace modern technology. “The so-called GMOs can play a very vital role in peoples' lives. However, this must be accompanied by political goodwill because technology alone cannot survive without decisive support.” 


Borlaug has been called a practical humanitarian. He realized that what he and his colleagues had achieved was, “a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation.” He understood the challenge of the “population monster,” but he was not discouraged by it. As we are challenged by the social ills of today's world, as we experience the pressure of climate change, let us face the reality that while our science is sound, it sounds suspicious to many of its potential beneficiaries. We can and we must do a better job of communicating...

 

In August... Cornell University launched a new initiative – called the Cornell Alliance for Science – to help address this communication challenge. The Alliance supports a global agricultural communications platform to improve understanding of science-based agricultural technologies. The goal is to help inform decision-makers and consumers alike through an online information portal, and through training programs designed to help empower new communications champions for improving access to agricultural technology... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/fes3.49

 


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Rabobank F20 Summit tackles global farming potential

Rabobank F20 Summit tackles global farming potential | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

DESPITE the enormous challenge of skyrocketing global population growth and declining arable farmland and rural water resources, farmers worldwide – particularly in Australia – could be far more productive food producers. 

Speakers and delegates attending last week’s Rabobank-sponsored F20 Summit in Sydney made it clear agriculture can deliver much more production to meet the global food security challenge, but it’s time global leaders started talking with farmers to find out what’s actually needed. 


Visitors at the Rabobank F20 Summit share their thoughts on food security.



The summit attracted about 660 farmers, farm industry and government delegates from across the world in a strategically staged event designed to draw international leadership attention to food security solutions before last weekend’s G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia. 

The world will require double its current food output within 40 years, but already inadequate production, supply networks and infrastructure mean about 2.5 million children die of hunger or nutrition-related illnesses each year. 



Rabobank executive board member Berry Marttin told the summit the challenge was far more complicated than just finding more food to feed a planet which each month adds the equivalent of the entire population of Hong Kong to its number. 

He said food had to be more nutritious and delivered safely and efficiently, and western world consumers must stop discarding as much as 40 per cent of what they buy at the supermarket. 

While Australia had the largest amount of available farmland per capita (but a third less than 40 years ago), Mr Marttin said the world did not necessarily need vast extra areas of arable land, or even particularly high quality farmland. 




Agricultural productivity in many parts of Western Europe was far higher than the US Midwest, Argentina or the Ukraine where the soils were the best on the planet and the climate generally more conducive to higher yields. 

Africa had some of the world’s best soils, yet very low productivity – largely due to poor farming systems and supply chains. 

The Netherlands, with a land area of just 41,000 square kilometres, was the world’s second biggest agricultural exporter earning 10pc of its gross domestic product from farming. 

In stark contrast Japan, with the same population density and 378,000 square kilometres of land, was the world’s biggest food importer. 

Not only was the Dutch farm economy built on land mostly reclaimed from the sea, but deputy director general of agriculture and food in the Netherlands, Roald Lapperre, said leading Dutch farmers were producing greenhouse yields using 15 times less water than equivalent crops grow in fields in other parts of Europe. 

Tomato plants in modern greenhouses were producing 80 kilograms of fruit without using anywhere near the energy or the pesticides required to grow just four kilograms from field grown plants. 

Remarkably, only 20pc of modern generation energy-neutral greenhouses existed outside Holland. 

“I hope today serves as a call to action for farmers and world leaders. Let’s get to work,” Mr Lapperre said. 

“There’s no reason why we cannot sustainably end hunger by 2050.” 


 


However, the conference also highlighted a host of key concerns shared by farmers and agribusiness players worldwide, notably about the shrinking number of farmers taking on the challenge of producing crops and livestock. 

Despite everybody needing food every day, and hunger prevalent in Africa, Asia, and South America, speakers noted how the global economy generally discouraged potential farmers from agricultural careers, offering better paid rewards elsewhere. 

Former National Farmers’ Federation president, now chairman of Nufarm and Australian Agricultural Company Don McGauchie said governments also had to wake up to the cost of an alarming decline in public spending on agricultural research. 

He said farm productivity had been sliding because Australia had “dropped the ball on R&D”. 

“Let me tell you this is a great concern,” he said, pointing out Australia’s farm productivity had to grow 2.5 per cent annually if we were to double our farm sector output by 2050. 




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Sustainable Agriculture and Soybean Breeding: Contribution of Soybean Yield Increase to Sustainable Agriculture - Stojsin &al (2014) - Springer

Sustainable Agriculture and Soybean Breeding: Contribution of Soybean Yield Increase to Sustainable Agriculture - Stojsin &al (2014) - Springer | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

Soybean production has increased steadily in the USA since the beginning of twentieth century due to increases in yield... and total area for soybean production... This chapter discusses factors that influenced the increase in soybean production and its association with yield as an important contributor to sustainable agriculture.

 

Four distinct eras for soybean production have been identified. The first era (prior to 1942) was characterized by adaptation of soybean land races introduced to the USA. The second era (1943-1977) was defined by cultivars that resulted from public breeding programs, followed by predominantly private sector breeding effort during the third era (1978-1998). The fourth era (1999-now) is defined by introduction of biotechnology traits.

 

Yield increase was observed throughout this 87-year period, with the greatest rate of increase... associated with the biotechnology trait era. Soybean yield improvements were generally due to breeding effort, optimization of agronomic practices, increased investment in research, and advances in biotechnology. Farmland used for soybean production increased during the first two eras, showed fluctuations during the third era, and stayed generally flat for the fourth era.


Greater yield allowed for less farmland required for soybean production. It has been estimated that if US farmers were to grow low yielding soybean cultivars from 1924, they would need to plant almost four times as many hectares to achieve 2010 soybean production. In that respect, the continual effort of modern agriculture towards increasing soybean yield is one of the most important contributors to sustainable agriculture.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55262-5_9

 


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Blended Learning Becoming Standard | LearnDash

Blended Learning Becoming Standard | LearnDash | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

Why is it Popular?

The increased usage of mobile devices and elearning tools in our daily lives is certainly a contributing factor to the rise in popularity of blended learning. But there are other potential factors as well.

For instance, recently the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described education’s “new normal”, which puts an emphasis on schools to do more with less. Blended learning could play a critical role as schools begin to re-think about course delivery, structure, and materials in an effort to accomplish more with “less”. Blended learning allows for economies of scale never possible before.

It is projected that by the year 2019, roughly 50% of high school courses will be delivered online. With the course material online, it opens the possibility of using the flipped-classroom model – ultimately changing the fundamental way we approach learning.


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Agricultural technologies could increase global crop yields as much as 67 percent and cut food prices nearly in half by 2050 - IFPRI (2014)

Increased demand for food due to population and income growth and the impacts of climate change on agriculture will ratchet up the pressure for increased and more sustainable agricultural production to feed the planet. A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) measures the impacts of agricultural innovation on farm productivity, prices, hunger, and trade flows as we approach 2050 and identifies practices which could significantly benefit developing nations...  examines 11 agricultural practices and technologies and how they could help farmers around the world improve the sustainability of growing three of the world’s main staple crops – maize, rice, and wheat.

 

Using a first-of-its-kind data model, IFPRI pinpoints the agricultural technologies and practices that can most significantly reduce food prices and food insecurity in developing nations. The study profiles 11 agricultural innovations: crop protection, drip irrigation, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, integrated soil fertility management, no-till farming, nutrient use efficiency, organic agriculture, precision agriculture, sprinkler irrigation, and water harvesting.

 

Findings from the book indicate: (i) No-till farming alone could increase maize yields by 20 percent, but also irrigating the same no-till fields could increase maize yields by 67 percent in 2050. (ii) Nitrogen-use efficiency could increase rice crop yields by 22 percent, but irrigation increased the yields by another 21 percent. (iii) Heat-tolerant varieties of wheat could increase crop yields from a 17 percent increase to a 23 percent increase with irrigation.

 

Yet, no single silver bullet exists. “The reality is that no single agricultural technology or farming practice will provide sufficient food for the world in 2050... Instead we must advocate for and utilize a range of these technologies in order to maximize yields.”

 

However, it is realistic to assume that farmers in the developing world and elsewhere would adopt a combination of technologies as they become more widely available. If farmers were to stack agricultural technologies in order of crop production schedules, the combination of agricultural technologies and practices could reduce food prices by up to 49 percent for maize, up to 43 percent for rice, and 45 percent for wheat due to increased crop productivity.

 

The technologies with the highest percentage of potential impact for agriculture in developing countries include no-till farming, nitrogen-use efficiency, heat-tolerant crops, and crop protection from weeds, insects, and diseases.

 

The anticipated negative effects of climate change on agricultural productivity as well as projected population growth by 2050, suggest that food insecurity and food prices will increase. For example, climate change could decrease maize yields by as much as 18 percent by 2050–making it even more difficult to feed the world if farmers cannot adopt agricultural technologies that could help boost food production in their regions.

 

“One of the most significant barriers to global food security is the high cost of food in developing countries... Agricultural technologies used in combinations tailored to the crops grown and regional differences could make more food more affordable – especially for those at risk of hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.” 

 

However, based on current projections, stacked technologies could reduce food insecurity by as much as 36 percent. Making this a reality... depends on farmers gaining access to these technologies and learning how to use them... 

 

http://www.ifpri.org/pressrelease/agricultural-technologies-could-increase-global-crop-yields-much-67-percent-and-cut-foo

Report:  http://www.ifpri.org/publication/food-security-world-natural-resource-scarcity

 

... Results for Organic Agriculture... shows consistently decreased yields across regions and crops, with small fluctuations around the mean. Yield impacts are most negative for wheat. The literature review and extensive consultations we conducted with experts in Brazil and India suggest that OA is unlikely to play a significant role in the technology mix for addressing food security at the global level.... 

 


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Can This Man Feed the World? Billionaire Harry Stine's Quest to Reinvent Agriculture -- Again

Can This Man Feed the World? Billionaire Harry Stine's Quest to Reinvent Agriculture -- Again | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it

On one of the windiest days in recent memory Harry Stine, the richest man in Iowa, cranes his neck to examine the elevator shaft inside the 110-foot steel observation tower next to his garage. “The cables look awfully frayed. Who knows if it will last one more time?” he chuckles. Nonetheless, we hop into the elevator cab, he flips the switch to get it moving, and up we go as the wind rips into us at 40mph.

Stine, the 72-year-old founder and owner of Stine Seed, the largest private seed company in the world, built this tower back in 1987 so he could get a good view of his empire, some 15,000 acres of frozen Iowa farmland. Aside from a small, glass-walled house, it’s his only visible indulgence. Once home to his father’s hardscrabble cattle-and-crop farm, Stine has, without attracting any widespread notice, developed some of the most valuable agricultural products on Earth here. With more than 900 patents, Stine sells his coveted soybean and corn seed genetics to agri-giants like Monsanto and Syngenta, nabbing estimated annual sales of more than $1 billion with margins in excess of 10%. Along with his four children, Stine owns almost 100%.

It is a good reminder to those tempted to confine “innovation” solely to the world of Silicon Valley that some of the most impressive and fundamentally important advances on Earth are occurring today in agriculture, and the global epicenter is America’s heartland. The seed market–a $44 billion worldwide industry that supplies crop growers with the essential element they use to plant, harvest and sustain the world’s food supply–is expected to double in the next five years as crops fortified with more resilient genetics improve yield and efficiency. That’s good news since the world’s population continues to grow by about 85 million every year, while arable land remains scarce.

With a combined market value of $320 billion, five publicly traded conglomerates own most of the action: Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow and Bayer. Then there’s Stine. Based in Adel, Iowa (pop. 4,000), the dozen or so companies under Stine’s umbrella form an unlikely titan at the heart of the market, directly or indirectly generating revenues from almost 50 million acres of crops in the U.S. each year.

Stine Seed does business with all of the heavyweights and has for more than three decades, primarily because it has something everybody else needs: the best-performing soybean seeds in the business. Through plant breeding, a roughly 10,000-year-old technique that’s not unlike creating Thoroughbred horses or show dogs, Stine has been perfecting the genetic makeup of soybean seeds–primarily used in animal feed and to produce vegetable oils–since the 1960s. The basic technology may be ancient, but an innovative, data-savvy strategy, married with shrewd leadership and a classic midwestern work ethic, has made Stine’s operation best in class. He isn’t bashful about what his small-town company has accomplished.

“Our germplasm–our genetic base here–is the best in the world,” says Stine. “We dominate genetics in the industry.”

Today 60% of all U.S. soybean acreage is planted using genetics developed by Stine’s companies, which also have a strong presence in South America and other international markets. FORBES estimates that Stine’s company–which, among other things, also breeds corn genetics, creates plant traits in its biotech lab and has a small but growing commercial seed sales operation–is worth nearly $3 billion.

While rivals scoff, he now thinks he can double the world’s output of corn, the most popular crop on Earth. By breeding corn seeds genetically predisposed to thrive when planted in high densities, he thinks he can supercharge the engine generating animal feed, biofuels and food for the whole planet. “We’re going to be able to double corn yields very easily,” says Stine. “And apparently a lot of people working in the same industry can’t see that…. They think, ‘How can this be? And furthermore, how can this little farm kid out here be doing this?’”

After seven years of genetic tinkering he’s won plenty of converts. “It’s an insight that will revolutionize the corn industry,” says Dermot Hayes, a professor of agribusiness at Iowa State University. If it works out, it won’t be the first time this farm kid, unknown outside his industry, has changed the world.

A tall man partial to Levi’s and blue button-downs with pens in the pocket, Stine stands on the burnt-orange carpet in his office–a little-changed artifact of the Reagan era littered with the nuts, berries and, especially, mushrooms he likes to forage for (he has a handwritten log detailing when and where he’s found each of the 32,000 morel mushrooms he’s nabbed in recent years). He’s waving several reams of paper, filled with three years of yield results that drive Stine’s corn euphoria. At almost every location they plant them, he says, his seeds outperform any other variety.

The secret to Stine’s golden corn? Efficiency. In the early 1930s, prior to the Dust Bowl, 7,000 corn plants per acre were grown in the U.S., yielding about 27 bushels per acre. Seeds were planted in rows 42 inches apart so horses could traverse the fields. Now 35,000 plants and 150 bushels per acre is common–nearly five times the yield–thanks to modern tractors, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds genetically modified to resist insects and herbicides. But while genetic modification–using biotechnology to insert a genetic trait into a seed–grabs headlines (and stokes health fears, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of safety), traditional breeding programs by seed developers have done just as much to raise yields.

Stine noticed that corn plants hadn’t changed much in generations. Tall has always been sexy for corn, even though less than half of the plant is actually harvested. That means most of the biomass is using valuable resources that don’t necessarily improve a farmer’s yield. The conventional spacing of corn rows has also largely persisted at 30 inches or more in modern agriculture, with narrower rows in use on less than 5% of corn acres in North America as of 2012, according to rival DuPont Pioneer.

 

Stine flipped the conventional wisdom on its head. He began breeding corn to thrive at higher planting density: shorter plants with smaller tassels and more upright leaves that attract more sunlight. A leaner, more efficient plant. After breeding many descendants of the seeds with that genetic makeup, the company has developed corn that can be planted in much narrower rows–12 inches or even pairs of rows 8 inches apart–increasing the number of plants per acre to as much as 80,000. And, of ultimate importance, substantially increasing a farmer’s harvest.

“Harry’s breeding for it,” says Van Wiebe, an agronomist with Hefty Seed in Buhl, Idaho, who has seen a 30% difference between Stine’s seed and those of his rivals in his experimental fields. “It’s going to be the way of the future.”
Not everyone buys what Stine is selling. A DuPont Pioneer study from 2012 concluded that for most of the Corn Belt narrow rows do little to increase yields. “Future changes in production practices could favor narrow rows at some point,” says Mark Jeschke, DuPont Pioneer’s agronomy research manager. “But no research thus far has shown that ultrahigh populations combined with narrow rows significantly increased corn yield.”

“It is an interesting story and a great conversation piece,” adds Tony Vyn, professor of agronomy at Purdue University, “but a sideline to the real drivers of corn yield and economic efficiency gains that are needed most for this decade.”


For farmers there’s a sizable capital risk in switching. Buying more seeds per acre is expensive. It also requires more fertilizer and new planting and harvesting machinery specially fitted for the narrower rows. To pay for the change, you’d need at least an immediate 10% yield improvement–and 20% to 30% to really benefit a farm’s bottom line, estimates Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Group, which grows corn and soybeans on 20,000 acres of land in Iowa and Nebraska. “It’s going to take some time,” says Rastetter, who is experimenting with Stine’s model. “I don’t see extremely quick adoption, but I do think there’s an early-mover advantage to doing it and learning to do it well.”


Stine is hardly alone in his beliefs. Monsanto is doing similar work, and he’ll have to battle with it for market share should crop growers flock en masse to high-density planting. “We’ve worked a lot in that space but also in the design of the plants and equipment,” says Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, who has been doing business with Stine since the early 1980s. With the world adding 800 million to 900 million bushels of corn demand each year, Fraley says corn seed still needs more innovation, and he buys into Stine’s vision: “We absolutely think it’s possible to double yields.”

We’re willing to give Stine the benefit of the doubt for a simple reason. He’s already revolutionized agriculture. Twice. In 1994 the U.S. government granted its first patents on the full genetic makeup of a soybean. Previously only asexual plants like rosebushes or apple trees could be patented, not self-pollinating crops like corn and soybeans. Stine Seed was first in line to get its top-performing varieties patented. It wasn’t a coincidence: As early as the 1970s Stine, who had taken one business law class at McPherson College, a small liberal arts school in Kansas, was stipulating in contracts the royalties companies had to pay for using his seed and prohibiting them from using the seeds their harvest produced to plant for next season. Crucially, it also forbade them from using his seeds to breed their own.

“His was the first company in the industry with soybeans to structure licensing agreements so that when companies took a contract with him they could not breed,” says Philippe Dumont, a lawyer and seed industry veteran who has spent the past decade working for Bayer. “It shows a superior foresight.”

 

It also helped secure Stine, in 1997, one of the most pivotal and lucrative deals in agricultural history. At the time Monsanto–with Fraley, then president of the company’s genomics group, leading the charge–had developed the biotechnology to insert genes into crop seeds, making them resistant to glyphosate, the plant-killing herbicide in the company’s dominant weed killer, Roundup. For farmers the “Roundup Ready” soybean seed would be an industry-changing innovation that reduced time and labor battling weeds. But a fancy biotech trait offered limited value if the genetic base of the seed was inferior and overall yields suffered. Roundup Ready technology combined with Stine’s industry-leading soybean genetics was a natural fit.

When a battalion of Monsanto lawyers and dealmakers descended on Stine Seed to finalize the deal, they found Stine alone in the company’s conference room at a Ping-Pong table (Stine still rarely loses). “If you really want to be fair here, you need to go get two more [lawyers],” he smirked.

Neither party will disclose the agreement’s terms, but that deal contributed to the phenomenal success of the Roundup Ready soybean seed, a technology that’s now used in 96% of the soybean acreage in the U.S., likely generating in excess of $10 billion for Monsanto since 1997. Stine will only say he receives a cut from his company’s contributions to Roundup Ready soybeans, and its relationship with Monsanto extends well into the future.

That lead was solidified in 2013, when the protections of patented seeds like Roundup Ready withstood a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case–which held portentous implications for all seed developers, including Stine–went in Monsanto’s favor, affirming intellectual property rights for plant genetics. Stine’s business model had been blessed by the highest court in the land.

Stine’s savvy is homegrown. After graduating from McPherson in 1963, he did two quarters of graduate work at Iowa State, then went home to work on his father’s modest farm. The family was poor and the work both long and hard–rising at 6 a.m. and finishing at 6 p.m. was the norm, except in summer, when the hours were even longer.

After learning about some anomalous soybean plants with extra seeds in a nearby field, Stine became obsessed with breeding higher-yielding seeds to boost profits. Even if the process has grown more involved and advanced, the strategy behind breeding has changed little in ten millennia. “It’s very simple. You take good parents, and you make lots of offspring,” says Stine, who learned the basics in under an hour from an Iowa State technician. “It takes a minute and a half to learn what there is to learn about plant breeding.”


At the time public universities dominated breeding, and for good reason: Profits were limited, since intellectual property rights for soybean plants didn’t exist–and wouldn’t for another 30 years. Additionally, it was a labor-intensive, painstaking endeavor, unsuitable to most businessmen or dawn-to-dusk farmers but perfect for Stine, innately curious and capable of intense focus, despite a childhood filled with academic struggles. He didn’t know it then–and wouldn’t for several more decades–but he suffered from dyslexia and also mild, high-functioning autism. Knowledge of those diagnoses was all but nonexistent at the time. Back then, he says, he just thought he was “retarded.”

“I’m a data and information and facts person; I’m not a people person. I don’t understand how people’s brains work and why they do what they do,” says Stine. But, as a consequence of his learning disabilities, Stine always worked slowly and carefully. He also possessed a canny, fluid mental aptitude for data and math. His “disabilities” were actually advantages that let him see things in ways others did not.

“Those qualities he has have enabled him to do in business what he has done. He has the right combination of everything,” says son Myron, who has worked alongside his father at the company for 20 years. “When you put him in the room with a bunch of people, he’s going to outpace everybody intellectually.”

Stine founded the first private soybean research and development firm in the U.S. in 1968. By the mid-1970s, under a new company called Midwest Oilseeds, Stine was operating the most widely used soybean genetics company in the U.S., licensing the robust seeds it bred for royalties. Though the company also began breeding corn seed genetics, soybeans remained its most profitable niche.

It was around this time that Stine recognized the necessity of protecting his valuable genetics. If a farmer could buy your seed one year and then simply use the offspring or seeds from the plants it grew the next year, he could cut the seed developer out of the loop while retaining the powerful genetics. Moreover, he could start his own breeding program using the seeds. The contracts Stine drew up prohibited this.

Some still infringed and faced legal confrontation if caught, but largely the strategy worked. The company expanded throughout the 1980s, gobbling up smaller seed companies and conducting soybean research in other climates around the country. The breeding process grew more advanced and automated, and by the early 1990s the company was testing 150,000 soybean varieties annually and producing the highest-yielding seed on the market. The Stine network of 1,700 dealers was selling Stine soybean products in 15 states under 160 brands. By the time it got its 1994 patent Stine had become the largest private seed company in the country, the bulk of its revenues still coming from royalties from licensing its award-winning soybean genetics.

“There’s always wrinkles in his science and negotiations that catch you off guard,” says Monsanto’s Fraley. “He’s not afraid to speak his mind. But at the very bottom of it all, he has made a huge difference in the industry and he’s done it in his very unique and special way.”

As we stand high atop his tower, the wind streaking into us, “unique and special” seems a vast understatement. “Now here’s what’s going to happen. I’ll sit here,” he says, perched on the top bar of the guardrail, unfazed by the steep plummet behind him or the violent gusts. “And you sit next to me. And then we’ll negotiate.”

He’s kidding, of course. It’s a long-running gag he’s played on acquaintances, business competitors and even his wife, Molly, who had suffered the misfortune of the elevator actually breaking and had to climb down the ladder–in heels.

But the joke, conducted amid full view of his empire, serves as a playful reminder: Harry Stine, the dyslexic farm boy turned cunning negotiator, data savant and agriculture visionary, is on top of the world. And he’s got plans to stay there. Says Stine: “I’m having too much fun.” 


Via Stéphane Bisaillon
GNG's insight:

Love this focus on innovation in agriculture!

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The Teacher's Guide To Flipped Classrooms - Edudemic

The Teacher's Guide To Flipped Classrooms - Edudemic | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
We've combed through thousands of resources to offer you our first official guide to flipped classrooms. It's a curated list just for you.

Via Beth Dichter
GNG's insight:

GrowNextGen curricular units are built upon this philosophy. Great guide!

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Beth Dichter's curator insight, February 21, 2014 10:13 PM

If you are considering flipping your classroom check out this resources from Edudemic. It provides links to many resources to make this journey easier. Resources include:
* An interview on how a flipped classroom works

* The ten best web tools for flipped classrooms

* Eight crucial resources for flipped classrooms

Many more resources are available in the post.

Ness Crouch's curator insight, February 23, 2014 4:53 PM

Let's flip the classroom! I'm trying!

Rescooped by GNG from Grain du Coteau : News ( corn maize ethanol DDG soybean soymeal wheat livestock beef pigs canadian dollar)
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Soybean production needs to increase

Soybean production needs to increase | Education & Agriculture | Scoop.it
PEORIA, Ill. — Oil crop production must increase 89 percent to meet global demand by 2050, but the current yield trend is falling short.

Meeting growing global demand for soybeans will require enhanced soil management to increase soil water availability and improve the soybean’s response to more extreme temperature and precipitation.

“The global demand for crop calories will increase by 100 percent, and global demand for crop protein will increase by 110 percent. That gives us a reason to think differently about our crop production systems,” said Jerry Hatfield, director of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment.

Hatfield said at the Illinois Soybean Association’s recent Soybean Summit that if world soybean production maintains its current trend yield and there is no change in the land area used, there will be a 17 bushel per acre deficit to meet demand by 2050.

Another caveat Hatfield tossed in was the reality that at the current rate of agricultural land lost, the U.S. land production area will decrease 25 percent by 2050.

“Not only are you going to have to produce more per each unit of land because we’re going to have less land to produce on, our land quality is also decreasing in terms of its capabilities to produce a crop,” he said.

Weather Matters

Weather variations also impact yields, adding to the challenge of meeting demand.

Hatfield said the 1950s and 1960s saw a stable weather period, and corn yields climbed with little variation. An erratic weather pattern followed before stability returned.

“However, now we’re going through a lot of variations in yield production due to weather,” Hatfield said.

“The interesting thing about soybeans in the U.S. is they show more variation across years than corn or wheat. Part of it is because of where we grow soybeans, but also the fact that late season water stresses impact yields.”

Hatfield’s research team looked at the deviation from maximum yields for soybeans from 1960 to 2009 and found some years where 40 percent of the maximum potential yield was lost.

“In Illinois, basically about 5 percent of the time we’re losing 40 percent of our yield, and 40 percent of the time we’re losing 5 percent of our yield. The farther west you go in terms of the more erratic rainfall, it really becomes problematic,” he said.

“If we’re going to build a sustainable system, we have to understand why we can’t achieve what we think we achieve every year.”

Soil management is a piece of the sustainable soybean production system puzzle.

The variation in yields over the years has been attributed to late-season water stress.

“One of the pieces of climate that’s changing is that the rainfall patterns are shifting. We’re going to have more spring precipitation and less reliable summer precipitation, in particular less-reliable late-summer precipitation,” Hatfield said.

“So, in a crop like soybeans that really fills its grain late in the growing season, those deviations that we see in the yields is really a result of not having adequate water to fill that bean.”

Production Limits

Limitations to soybean production really boil down to efficient soil-plant interface and the roots’ ability to penetrate the soil and extract water and nutrients needed for grain fill.

“If we want to build a sustainable system, we have to consider water and nutrient availability and efficient growth early in the season,” Hatfield said.

“The first two are easy to understand. We just need water to grow the plant, and they need nutrients. But efficient growth early in the season is a combination of some interesting things that occur.”

Early-season stress limits the number of flowers per node on the plant.

“If I already limit myself early in the season of the number of flowers per node, I’m not going to set any more pods than what I have flowers in. If I manipulate this plant differently and I alleviate that stress and I have really vigorous growth, I sometimes end up with seven, eight, 10 flowers per node,” Hatfield said.

“Now they still may abort because of all sorts of things, but I at least have a much higher potential to start with.”

The soil degradation spiral that begins with poor land management also fits into the issues of water and nutrient availability and early season growth.

The degradation can include compaction, soil particle aggregation and soil crusting that limits gas and water exchange.

“As soon as this aggregate begins to degrade, we end up with water and wind erosion. That influences plant growth, and because we’re not putting something back into the system, we influence soil biology, yield decreases and then all of a sudden we’re back to reduced soil productivity,” Hatfield said.

Organic Answer

Increased organic matter will improve the soil’s water-holding capacity and positively impact its biological systems.

“Enhancing soil biology will increase nutrient cycling and nutrient availability. The dynamics of soil biology is not well-understood, but a critical part of efficient agriculture. The nutrient supply during grain-filling is critical to high-yielding crops,” Hatfield said.

Climate impacts soybean growth through precipitation, temperature and solar radiation.

“They affect the phenology rate and affects yield. Those factors that affect plants directly also give us an indirect effect because those factors impact insects, diseases and weeds. So the climate factors are getting you from both sides in terms or productivity,” Hatfield said.

Researchers continue to determine how the genetic, environment and management aspects fit together.

“If we want to build a sustainable agricultural system, we need to begin to understand how we bring the genetics and genetic variation out there into the type of environment they are exposed to and will be exposed to in the future and what role can we play in terms of management,” Hatfield said.

The challenges of building a sustainable system include increasing the depth of understanding of the interactions of water and temperature on plant growth and development and the role of plant nutrition on grain production and the quality of grain such as protein and oil content.

“If we want to build a sustainable production system, it is not just about water. It is not just about nutrients. It is not about just the genetics. It’s really very complex things. Farming is not rocket science — it is much more complex,” Hatfield said.

“In farming, you’re trying to optimize about six or seven simultaneous differential equations to create this optimum surface out there. We’re trying to bring this together in unique ways to do this because sustainability is not about one factor — it’s about how we bring all of those factors together.”


Via Stéphane Bisaillon
GNG's insight:

This article describes issues scientists wrestle with as they consider how to feed 9 billion people in the future. Great problem-solving topics teachers can use related to soil science, water management, etc!

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