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

New map IDs pesticide pollution hot spots

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Pesticide pollution hotspots are identified in a new map.

Global warming could exacerbate pesticide woes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world has a long way to go to come to grips with pesticide pollution say scientists who recently created a global map showing which areas are most susceptible.

Their modeling suggests that streams across about 40 percent of the planet’s surface are at risk from the application of insecticides, with the Mediterranean region, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia among the hotspots.

On average, farmers apply about 4 million tons of agricultural pesticides  annually, equating to an average of 0.27 kilograms per hectare of the global land surface. 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: Lawsuit highlights herbicide ‘death spiral’

A ladybug enjoys a leisurely stroll in an organic Austrian corn field.

A ladybug enjoys a leisurely stroll in an organic corn field.

Court challenge aimed at protecting whooping cranes, endangered bats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hoping to forestall a DDT-type disaster, environmental groups and farmers last week moved to block the EPA’s approval of a new herbicide that could threaten endangered species.

In a federal court, the groups said the approval violates the Endangered Species Act because the EPA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.  Continue reading

Is the fight over organic foods an ideological battle?

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European farmers have been much quicker to embrace organic standards, resulting in a positive response from consumers.

New study looks closely at ingrained belief systems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some farmers may be resisting the trend toward organic agriculture simply because of a deeply held set of beliefs that aren’t necessarily based in fact. Making the switch to organic farming may make some farmers feel like they’re switching belief systems, which isn’t easy for anyone.

“The ideological map of American agriculture reveals an unfolding drama between chemical and organic farming,”an international group of researchers wrote in a new article in the  Journal of Marketing. “Chemical farmers argue that to make money, one must follow chemical traditions; when organic farmers make more money, it seems “wrong.” Continue reading

Colorado farming, ranching water ‘in the crosshairs’ as big reservoirs dwindle

Water experts to discuss role of agriculture in Colorado River puzzle

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Can ag water save the Colorado River?

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new $11 million effort to keep water flowing in the Colorado River to Lake Powell could up the pressure on Colorado farmers and ranchers to sell or lease their water.

In fact, agriculture is in the crosshairs in Colorado, according to the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents western Colorado water interests. Low water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead — the key storage buckets on the Colorado — have prompted measures to put more water in the river.

The CRWCD’s annual water seminar (Sept. 19, Grand Junction) will focus on what that means for western Colorado, with panel discussions and presentations on ag efficiency, the worth of ag efficiency and how ag efficiency works with the chief goal of sustaining ag as a viable industry. Continue reading

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