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Perdue Says It Will Reduce Rate Of Hexane Emissions

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Lancaster, PA  (Lancaster Online, December9, 2014):  Seeking to break a 17-month impasse with state environmental regulators, Perdue AgriBusiness has submitted a new air-quality application it hopes will get the proposed $59 million soybean-crushing plant for Conoy Township a green light.

Perdue says it will spend significantly more money to add equipment and technology to reduce the emissions rate of hexane by 11 percent.

Hexane is a pollutant that has been a sticking point in the review by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The result, according to Perdue spokeswoman Julie DeYoung: "This is the lowest permitted hexane emission rate of any soybean processing facility in the United States."

"We continue to believe this plant will be one of the most highly efficient, technologically advanced, environmentally sound soybean processing plants in the country, and we are confident we can achieve this new emission rate," said Gregory Rowe, a vice president of environmental matter for Perdue.

Can Organic Crops Compete With Industrial Agriculture?

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Madison, WI (Food Manufacturing, December 10, 2014):  A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.

The study, to be published online Wednesday, Dec. 10, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, tackles the lingering perception that organic farming, while offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemically intensive agriculture, cannot produce enough food to satisfy the world's appetite.

"In terms of comparing productivity among the two techniques, this paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture," said the study's senior author, Claire Kremen, professor of environmental science, policy and management and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute. "With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it's critical to look more closely at organic farming because, aside from the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilizers to increase crop yields has been declining."

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies - a dataset three times greater than previously published work - comparing organic and conventional agriculture. They found that organic yields are about 19.2 percent lower than conventional ones, a smaller difference than in previous estimates.

The researchers pointed out that the available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favor of conventional agriculture, so this estimate of the yield gap is likely overestimated. They also found that taking into account methods that optimize the productivity of organic agriculture could minimize the yield gap. They specifically highlighted two agricultural practices - multi-cropping (growing several crops together on the same field) and crop rotation - that would substantially reduce the organic-to-conventional yield gap to 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Irish DNA Research Reveals Historic Agriculture

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Dublin, Ireland (Siliconrepublic, August 12, 2014):  New research undertaken by researchers from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the University of York shows extracted ancient DNA from parchments can determine the development of centuries-old agriculture.

The state-of-the-art process now opens up millions of ancient documents written on various animal skins to research as they have successfully conducted genetic sequencing techniques enabling them to establish the type of animals from which the parchment was made.

By comparing their genomes with their modern equivalents, the results provide key information as to how agricultural expansion shaped the genetic diversity of these animals, and more specifically animal husbandry, over the last few centuries.

To conduct their research, geneticists at TCD extracted DNA from two tiny samples of parchment, measuring 2cm x 2cm, provided by the University of York's Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Centre for Excellence in Mass Spectrometry at York extracted collagen (protein) from the same parchment samples.

In the first sample obtained by the researchers, its DNA showed a strong affinity with northern Britain, specifically the region in which black-faced sheep breeds such as swaledale, rough fell and Scottish blackface are common, whereas a second sample showed a closer affinity with the British midlands and southern Britain, where the livestock improvements of the later 18th century were most active.

Speaking of its potential, professor of population genetics at TCD Daniel Bradley, said: "This pilot project suggests that parchments are an amazing resource for genetic studies that consider agricultural development over the centuries. There must be millions stored away in libraries, archives, solicitors' offices and even in our own attics. After all, parchment was the writing material of choice for thousands of years, going back to the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Next Generation Key To Farms' Survival

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Hot Springs, VA (The Washington Times, December 7, 2014):  For farms to survive and thrive, they need a vibrant community around it, according to an expert.

"The rural community is more important to the family farm operation than the family farm operation is to the rural community," said Robert Young, chief economist and deputy executive director for public policy for the American Farm Bureau.

He was speaking during a workshop at the annual convention of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which focused much of its attention on the decline in farming. The convention's focus is on promoting agriculture by boosting farm education in schools with the theme, "Farming for the Next Generation."

Nearly 1,000 Virginia farming representatives attended last Tuesday as the three-day meeting kicked off at the Omni Homestead Resort.

Young said being dependent primarily on farming isn't a sustainable way to live now.

Benefits of Forest Buffer

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Seven Valleys, PA (Bay Journal, November 17, 2014):  Standing amid tall trees next to White Clay Creek, listening to the forest birds sing and the water splash along rocks, roots and fallen branches, one could imagine the creek had always looked like this.

But, walking through the site one summer afternoon, Bern Sweeney pointed to a tell-tale sign that the site wasn't as pristine as it appeared. "If you look over there," he said, "the trees are all in rows."

Just a bit more than three decades ago a cornfield grew right to the edge of the stream. Another section was a pasture, again to the edge of the stream.

Sweeney and other scientists from the Stroud Water Research Center planted trees on a portion of the field and the pasture, and have been watching — and studying — changes ever since.

Just a few hundred yards downstream, the creek winds through a meadow and is so narrow a person could jump across. Here, among the tall trees, it requires a bridge — even though this upstream site was carrying less water.

Farmer Writes: The Science Of Agriculture

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Dublin, Ireland (Irish Farmers Journal, December 8, 2014):  Have you ever noticed how people have an aversion to the idea that science is involved in food production?

Picture the conversation:

"Have you heard about this "Diazotroph?"

"Sounds like a disease."

"Actually it's a bacteria."

"Worse again. I bet that needs some equally dangerous chemical to kill 99.9% of it."

"No. It is used to get grain plants to produce around 70% more yield."

"There should be a label on that bread. No way would I buy it. It has to be dangerous."

"No. It is perfectly safe, in fact good for the environment."

"Who told you that? Probably some big multinational corporation."

"Not at all, it was three teenage girls from Kinsale. They won the Young Scientist competition."

(silence)

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