Environment: Lowe’s to drop bee-killing pesticides

Bumblebee butt and thistle.

Bumblebee butt and thistle.

Decision follows EPA’s recent move to ban new uses of neonicotinoids

Staff Report

FRISCO — Home gardeners who shopp at Lowe’s can rest a little easier, knowing that the big-box retailer will eliminate bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides from its stores.

Conservation groups two years ago launched a campaign to convince the company to drop the systemic pesticides. This week, Lowe’s said it will phase out neonicotinoids (“neonics”) as suitable alternatives become available, and provide additional material educating customers about pollinator health. Continue reading

Study tracks huge surge in use of bee-killing pesticides

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Treatment of corn and soybean seeds driving the increase

Staff Report

FRISCO — Penn State researchers say the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides spiked in the mid-2000s, not in response to a documented crop threat, but as a prophylactic treatment against uncertain insect attacks.

The growth is primarily due to the use of neonicotinoids in the treatment of corn and soybean seeds. In 2000,  less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed. Continue reading

EPA dials back use of dangerous systemic pesticides

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Pesticide-free sunflowers thrive on this organic farm in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Agency says it won’t permit any new uses until pollinator safety studies are done

By Bob Berwyn

*More Summit Voice stories on pesticides and honey bees here

FRISCO — Under persistent pressure from the public and environmental activists, the EPA today started dialing back the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that have been implicated in the decline and collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

In a notice to entities using those pesticides, the EPA said it would not be accepting any new applications: “EPA believes that until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed, it is unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” as required by federal environmental regulations, the agency wrote in its April 2 letter to registered users. Continue reading

Growth hormone for cattle disrupts fish reproduction

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Growth hormones for cattle can disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

Researchers eye potentially devastating long term evolutionary and ecological impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — A common hormone used to spur growth in cattle around the world has been found to change sexual behavior in fish. Even at very low concentrations in waterways, the hormone could have  serious ecological and evolutionary consequences, according to researchers with Australia’s Monash University and Åbo Akademi University in Finland.

The endocrine-disrupting steroid influences the ratio of male courtship (where the female chooses her mate) to forced copulatory behavior (sneaking), whereby the female is inseminated internally from behind and does not choose her mate. The results of his research indicated a marked increase in sneaking behavior. Continue reading

Genetic research helps forest scientists determine which trees can survive global warming

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Can forests evolve to survive global warming?

Research will inform forest planning efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Spanish scientists say they can use genetic data to help determine which pine trees are most vulnerable to climate change, and which trees might be able to thrive in a warmer world. Their findings, published in GENETICS, could help forestry managers decide where to focus reforestation efforts and guide the choice of tree stocks.

The study focused on maritime pines, which grows widely in southwestern Europe and parts of northern Africa. But the tree’s important economic value and ecological roles in the region may be at risk as the changing climate threatens the more vulnerable forests and the productivity of commercial plantations. Continue reading

Wheat experts warn on global warming impacts

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo

Extreme weather could cut global yields by 25 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in the biggest wheat-producing state in the U.S. issued a stark climate change warning last week, saying that 25 percent of the world’s wheat production will be lost to extreme weather if no adaptive measures are taken.

The research by scientists at Kansas State University concluded that global wheat yields are likely to decrease by 6 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise. In the next few decades, that could add up to a 25 percent loss in global wheat yields. Continue reading

Environment: Can adaptive grazing techniques help rebuild soils and sequester carbon?

Most modern cattle, including these longhorns near Silverthorne, Colorado, are descended from a

Adaptive grazing could have environmental benefits, researchers say. bberwyn photo.

Short-rotation pastures with long recovery time for fields may yield environmental benefits

Staff Report

FRISCO — While healthy forests are known to be important carbon sinks in the global atmospheric cycle, there’s also a role for robust soils, according to a study team that’s exploring whether new grazing management techniques could have long-term environmental benefits.

The Arizona State University-SoilCarbon Nation team is looking at adaptive multi-paddock grazing, rotating stock through small pastures for short periods of grazing and longer recovery periods for soil and vegetation.  The method mimics the migrations of wild herd animals, such as elk, bison and deer, and could help create robust soils, watersheds and wildlife habitat while sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. Continue reading

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