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Study: There’s huge potential for increased food production on existing land

The recent wheat crisis in Russia is a warning sign for potential large-scale global warming impacts. PHOTO COURTESY THE WIKIMEIDA COMMONS.

The recent wheat crisis in Russia is a warning sign for potential large-scale global warming impacts. PHOTO COURTESY THE WIKIMEIDA COMMONS.

Tweaking farm practices could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture

FRISCO — A systematic University of Minnesota study of global agricultural resources suggest that improving food systems in a few specific regions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture’s environmental footprint.

The report, published in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world’s crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. Continue reading

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Environment: Bumblebees lose foraging skills after exposure to systemic neonicotinoid pesticides

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A bumblebee foraging on fireweed. @bberwyn photo.

‘Exposure to this neonicotinoid pesticide seems to prevent bees from being able to learn these essential skills’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Bumblebees carrying tiny transmitters have helped show how long-term exposure to systemic neonicotinoid pesticides prevents the insects from learning all the skills they need to forage for pollen.

The study was co-authored by University of Guelph scientist Nigel Raine and published in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional Ecology.
Continue reading

Environment: Honey bee mortality drops slightly

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A bumblebee searches for pollen on a wildflower in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Colonies still dying off at an unsustainable rate

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Honey bee colonies continues to die off at an alarming rate last year, with beekeepers reporting that they lost 23.2 percent of their colonies during the 2013-2014 winter. The preliminary numbers are from a survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The drop in mortality may be a small ray of hope in an otherwise bleak picture, showing mortality that is not economically sustainable for beekeepers. Of course it’s not just honey that’s at stake. Commercial beekeepers truck thousands of hives around the country to help pollinate many commercial food crops. Continue reading

Global warming threatens Central Valley’s fruit and nut crops

Winter tule fogs in decline; no rest for the orchards

A peach orchard in Palisade, Colorado in full bloom.

A peach orchard in Palisade, Colorado in full bloom.

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The winter tule fog in California’s Central Valley may be fading with climate change, threatening part of the region’s multibillion dollar agricultural industy, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley researchers,

High-value crops like almonds, pistachios, cherries, apricots and peaches all need a winter dormant period that is triggered and maintained by cold temperatures, but those are becoming less reliable as the global climate warms. The new study, published May 15 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found a 46 percent drop in the number of fog days between the first of November and the end of February during the 32-year study period. Continue reading

Is a global food shortage looming?

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Can food production keep pace with demand?

Cuts in research threaten ability to keep pace with growing demand

Staff Report

FRISCO — A top food expert says the world could be facing a serious food shortage in 40 years, when production won’t be able to keep up with growing demand.

“For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy,” said Dr. Fred Davies, senior science advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today.” Continue reading

Study: Garden diversity key to preserving bumblebees

UK researchers track flower preferences

Bumblebee butt and thistle.

A bumblebee searches for pollen on a thistle bloom. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Diversity in urban gardens can play a key role in sustaining pressured bumblebee populations, ecologists in the UK said this week, explaining the results of a study that measured bumblebee preferences for both native and non-native plants.

The most common species of bumblebee is not picky about a plant’s origin when searching for nectar and pollen. But other species, including long-tongued bees, favor plants native to the UK and Europe. Continue reading

Climate: Rise in heatwaves threatens food crops

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun.

North American corn belt could be hit especially hard

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While some plants will grow better with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the overall warming caused by greenhouse gases poses a serious threat to food crops — especially the expected increase in heatwaves.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia took a close look at wheat, maize and soybeans to try and estimate impacts to global food production. The findings were published this week in Environmental Research Letters.

Previous studies had already shown that climate change will reduce maze yields by mid-century, but the new study added potential heatwaves to the mix, showing that there is significant chance for catastrophic crop failures as heatwaves become more frequent and intense. Continue reading

California drought linked with global warming

‘What we are seeing now is fundamentally different from previous mega-droughts, which were driven largely by precipitation’

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Global warming is likely to exacerbate droughts worldwide.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While drought conditions have eased across parts of the U.S. in recent months, conditions have worsened in the far West, and particularly in California, where water shortages will have consequences spreading far beyond the state’s borders.

And the western drought has global warming fingerprints all over, according to four researchers who discussed the links between climate change and drought at a teleconference organized by Climate Nexus, a communications group focused on highlighting the wide-ranging impacts of climate change. Continue reading

Beekeepers challenge EPA pesticide approval

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Can a lawsuit save the bees? bberwyn photo.

Lawsuit targets use of systemic pesticides

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say the EPA put honeybees at risk by approving a bee-killing pesticide without adequately considering the potential impacts of the toxic chemical.

Sulfoxaflor is the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the neonicotinoid class of pesticides and is considered by the EPA to be “highly toxic.” Many scientists across the globe have linked this class of pesticides as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony losses.

Represented by Earthjustice, the struggling beekeeping industry is challenging the EPA in court, claiming that the EPA violated federal laws by  dismissing the input from their risk assessors that the field tests supplied by the manufacturer Dow Chemical were insufficient to adequately determine pollinator safety. Continue reading

Could a user fee curb excessive antibiotics use?

Industrial feedlots are huge sources of greenhouse gases. PHOTO COURTESY DAVIS CREEK FARMS.

Large-scale use of antibiotics for food production needs to be curbed, scientists say.

‘The real value of antibiotics is saving people from dying. Everything else is trivial’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Massive use of antibiotics for food production is only marginally beneficial and poses a huge long-term risk to human health, researchers in Canada say. In a new paper, the scientists proposed a user fee that could help curb excessive application antibiotics in the agriculture and aquaculture industries.

The new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine explains that in the United States 80 per cent of the antibiotics in the country are consumed in agriculture and aquaculture for the purpose of increasing food production.

The flood of antibiotics sprayed on fruit trees and fed to livestock, poultry and salmon has led bacteria to evolve. Mounting evidence cited in the journal shows how resistant pathogens are emerging — resulting in an increase in bacteria that is immune to available treatments. Continue reading

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