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Opportunity for Food Waste Processors

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Fertile Opportunity Awaits For Food Waste Processors

(New York, NY)(Forbes, August 9, 2014);  Globally speaking, the statistics on food waste are sobering, but in the United States they are downright shocking: the U.S. Department of Agriculture figures up to one-third of the available supply goes to waste.

Set aside, for a moment, the frightening ramifications this has in the face of world population growth. We definitely should be working to reduce waste. But what about the organic scraps or produce that legitimately should be disposed of that are currently emitting all sorts of methane in landfills? There's a greentech movement afoot to use that material both as the feedstock for renewable energy and for soil nutrients.

Five-year-old anaerobic digestion company Harvest Power, for example, is processing more than 2 million tons of organic waste per year at its "Energy Garden" facilities, producing approximately 33 million bags of soil and mulch in the process. "In North America, over the next few years, heightened consciousness about the alternatives to dumping organics wastes in landfills will drive tremendous opportunities for companies able to recycle organic wastes into clean energy for our communities and soil enhancement products for our gardens and agricultural land," noted CEO Kathleen Ligocki early this year.

One newer company that I'm watching closely is WISErg, founded by two ex-Microsoft engineers. They've developed a technology called Harvester that digests food scraps and turns it into organic fertilizer: it early customers are grocery stories looking for a more responsible way of dealing with overripe produce and waste from their delicatessen, seafood and meat departments.

After working with several independent stores in Washington state, WISErg caught the eye of local Whole Foods Market WFM -0.77% managers in the Bellevue; when I chatted with WISErg CEO Larry LeSueur earlier this summer the technology was in the process of being installed, although the store already sells the fertilizer.

Where is your closest farmers market?

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(Washington, DC) (Smithsonian, August 5, 2014):  Though the idea of a place where farmers can sell their wares is hardly revolutionary, the local farmers' market has seen a boom that's raised it from hipster/yuppie food trend to integral part of the urban and suburban cityscape. Twenty years ago, a mere 1,755 farmers' markets were scattered across the country. Since then farmers' markets have seen fruitful growth. On Saturday, USDA came out with its latest round of stats and revealed that over the past five years the number of farmers' markets in the United States has jumped from 4,685 in 2008 to 8,268 in 2014; that's a 76 percent hike.

California and New York top the list with 764 and 638 markets each, followed closely by Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. The southern states saw the greatest increase in farmers' markets with Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas seeing the highest percent increase in the last year.

There's also been a boom in business. From 1997 to 2007, direct sales from farmers to consumers tripled and grew twice as fast as total agricultural sales. This year the USDA is also adding databases to their farmers' market site to include online directories connect consumers to farms that do deliveries during harvest seasons and/or maintain markets on their properties.

Though they began as a morning, often weekend trend, farmers' markets at unorthodox locations and times are becoming a thing, too. Some markets sell exclusively at night, while others mine a lack of competition in the winter off-season. Some have even ventured onto the Internet, allowing customers to order local crops and artisanal foods online.

Some think that the farmers' market boom may be leveling off. "There's only so many markets that you can stuff into an area. So there began to be in these key urban markets a shortage of producers to sell," Larry Lev, an economist at Oregon State University, told U.S. News. As markets become more popular, it's harder for new ones to open because an urban business ecosystem can only support so many inhabitants. From 2013 to 2014, farmers' market tallies only grew nationally by about 1.5 percent, compared to 3.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 and 17 percent spike seen between 2010 and 2011.

Two farm's different choices on GMO's

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(Syracuse, NY)(Syracuse.com, August 10, 2014);  The vegetables that grow at Early Morning Farm in Genoa look the same as the vegetables that grow 85 miles away in fields at Long Acre Agriculture.

But how they are grown and the kinds of seeds the farmers use are worlds apart. Early Morning Farm uses only organic seeds and grows certified organic crops. Long Acre Agriculture grows mostly genetically modified crops--called GMOs -- using seeds that have been tweaked in test tubes to keep away pests and withstand spraying with chemicals.

The differences are at the heart of debate about whether consumers should know if their food comes from genetically modified sources.

Long Acre Agriculture has been growing corn and soybeans on its family farm outside of Utica for three generations.  The farm grows 500 acres of corn and soybeans from genetically modified seeds.

The farm, in Sauquoit, started using genetically modified seeds shortly after they were approved in 1996 and hasn't looked back, said Vincent Johns, who now oversees the growing operation.

Notable Pest Observations

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Notable pest observations in specific locations provide guidance for the rest of
the state.

(University Park, PA) (Penn State Ag College, August 5, 2014): As we reported a few weeks ago, soybean aphid is colonizing Pennsylvania soybean fields. Yesterday, we received our first report of fields in central Pennsylvania (Clinton County) with populations of aphids exceeding the economic threshold of 250 aphids per plants—these fields are scheduled to be sprayed.

In light of this finding, I encourage soybean growers to scout their own fields for soybean aphids to determine current populations. Recall that natural-enemy populations (lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, lacewings) in soybean fields often suppress aphid populations, so avoid unnecessary insecticide applications to give the natural enemies a chance to contribute to control. However, if aphid populations build to the economic threshold of 250 aphids per plant, they should be treated to protect yield. For more information on soybean aphids, please see our fact sheet.

Earlier this summer in this newsletter, I mentioned that we are again monitoring populations of western bean cutworm across the state. For the most part, we have only captured a limited number of moths across Pennsylvania, but last week moth activity in northwestern PA, and in Erie County in particular, really exploded. Our cooperator just west of Erie captured 450 moths at one trap over seven days. So while western bean cutworm populations appear to pose little threat to corn or snap bean growers in most of the state, those of you in the northwest corn might get out and scout for eggs and young caterpillars. For more information, on this so-far minor pest, visit our website.

 

Late-Summer Alfalfa Seeding

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Johnston, IA (DuPont Pioneer, August 4, 2014):  Late summer can be an excellent time to establish alfalfa for productive stands next spring. These key recommendations will help you successfully establish alfalfa in late summer.

  1. Plant six weeks before first killing frost. Alfalfa needs 45 days' growth from germination to the first killing frost to survive the winter.
  2. Eliminate weed competition. Use a burndown herbicide like glyphosate to control perennial weeds and volunteer small grains prior to planting.
  3. Lime and fertilize. Before summer planting, have your soil tested, and follow lime and fertilizer recommendations for phosphorus, potassium and sulfur.
  4. Direct seed alfalfa for best success. Companion crops compete for sunlight and moisture. If a companion crop is needed to prevent erosion, control oats by planting at one-half bushel per acre.
  5. Plant when soil conditions are right. Avoid planting alfalfa into extremely dry soil with little chance of rain in the near-term forecast.
  6. Monitor seeding depth. Ideal planting depth for alfalfa in clay or loam soils is one-quarter to one-half inch. For light or sandy soils, seeds should be placed at one-half to three-quarters inch deep.
  7. Plant winter-hardy, disease-resistant varieties.Seedling diseases are not as important in the late summer seeding as in spring seeding, but major diseases and winter-hardiness are still key factors for persistence.
  8. Maintain normal seeding rates. Plant alfalfa at 15 to 18 pounds per acre to ensure an adequate stand.
  9. Don't reseed into old alfalfa stands. Alfalfa plants produce a toxin that can reduce root development and survival of new seedlings. You can reseed immediately into a failed spring seeding (or one from the previous fall), but if an alfalfa stand is more than a year old, don't attempt to reseed for at least one year. 

Late summer can be an excellent time to establish alfalfa for productive stands next spring. These key recommendations will help you successfully establish alfalfa in late summer.

  1. Plant six weeks before first killing frost. Alfalfa needs 45 days’ growth from germination to the first killing frost to survive the winter.
  2. Eliminate weed competition. Use a burndown herbicide like glyphosate to control perennial weeds and volunteer small grains prior to planting.
  3. Lime and fertilize. Before summer planting, have your soil tested, and follow lime and fertilizer recommendations for phosphorus, potassium and sulfur.
  4. Direct seed alfalfa for best success. Companion crops compete for sunlight and moisture. If a companion crop is needed to prevent erosion, control oats by planting at one-half bushel per acre.
  5. Plant when soil conditions are right. Avoid planting alfalfa into extremely dry soil with little chance of rain in the near-term forecast.
  6. Monitor seeding depth. Ideal planting depth for alfalfa in clay or loam soils is one-quarter to one-half inch. For light or sandy soils, seeds should be placed at one-half to three-quarters inch deep.
  7. Plant winter-hardy, disease-resistant varieties.Seedling diseases are not as important in the late summer seeding as in spring seeding, but major diseases and winter-hardiness are still key factors for persistence.
  8. Maintain normal seeding rates. Plant alfalfa at 15 to 18 pounds per acre to ensure an adequate stand.
  9. Don’t reseed into old alfalfa stands. Alfalfa plants produce a toxin that can reduce root development and survival of new seedlings. You can reseed immediately into a failed spring seeding (or one from the previous fall), but if an alfalfa stand is more than a year old, don’t attempt to reseed for at least one year.

While late-summer seedings present some risks, they offer many advantages for establishing strong, productive alfalfa stands on your farm.

PA Ag Preservation Program

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Pittsburgh, PA (Trib Live, August 3, 2014):  Before Bill Iams began raising beef cattle and planting acres of hay on a farm in southern Washington County, five generations worked the soil and raised livestock there.

Soon, Iams hopes to ensure the 155 acres in Amwell, which the king of England granted to his ancestors before the American Revolution, remain farmland forever.

"Look around at the changes in this area over the last 50 years, especially in the Washington area. North on Route 19 was all farms," said Iams, 57, owner of Log Cabin Fence Co., a farming supply business off Interstate 79 in Amity. "Now you've got malls and everything else going on but farming."

Iams awaits approval by a state committee to sell development rights to his farm to Washington County through the county's Farmland Preservation Program, part of a statewide initiative to make certain that fertile land is used for agriculture.

Iams' interest in the program is unusual for a Washington County farmer. The number of applications has dwindled from a high of 18 filed in 2006 to none this year, said Caroline Sinchar, a county planning administrator who runs the program. Iams applied last year.

"It's only since gas came into play that our applications have dropped off. ... A lot of people have misconceptions that the government is buying their land or gas rights to the land," she said. "We're not. We're only buying your rights to develop your land."

Since 1995, Washington County has preserved 29 farms and nearly 4,700 acres. The program added six farms and 1,200 acres since the end of 2008 — about the time the Marcellus shale natural gas boom struck.

"Now we can't even get people to come to a meeting," Sinchar said.

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