"American farmers’ broad use of the weedkiller glyphosphate — particularly Roundup, which was originally made by Monsanto — has led to the rapid growth in recent years of herbicide-resistant weeds. To fight them, farmers are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing."
Different Stalks Brewers make note of which kind of barley they use: On the left, six-row barley. On the right, two-row barley.
Barley Genome: A variety of views of the barley genome. The first row, a, just shows each of the seven barley chromosomes: 1H through 7H. Rows b through g show different sets of positional data, including the locations of high-confidence genes along the physical map. tl;dr It's a really complicated infographic.
Last month, scientists announced a big breakthrough in barley research: They had finally sequenced the entire barley genome. In response, some media outlets ran stories declaring that this will somehow result in better beer (barley being one of beer's key ingredients). Sure, on some level, understanding the barley genome is going to yield better--or more, or cheaper--beer, especially if climate change goes down the way scientists suspect it will and crops become more difficult to grow due to substandard environmental conditions. But those media stories are missing the point: That kind of better-beer hyperbole is a bit like taking some NASA results from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and saying that the data will help you get a better tan. The implications of the research are much more complex.
Some background: Barley is a member of the tribe Triticeae along with other domesticated grains such as wheat and rye. These crops are among the earliest domesticated agricultural grain products--archeological evidence indicates that humans domesticated barley around 10,000 years ago.
"Two-year corn-and-soy rotation field (left) and four-year rotation field covered in alfalfa (right). Both were photographed in early September, 2012. By using cover crops like alfalfa, researchers could dramatically reduce herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer use without sacrificing productivity. Photo: David Sundberg
What they’re doing on Marsden Farm isn’t organic. It’s not industrial, either. It’s a hybrid of the two, an alternative version of agriculture for the 21st century: smart, green and powerful.
On this farm in Boone County, Iowa, in the heart of corn country, researchers have borrowed from both approaches, using traditional techniques and modern chemicals to get industrial yields — but without industrial consequences."
Small Farm Rising is a one-hour documentary film inspired by first generation farmers who are redefining agriculture in America.
Filmed in the Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains of New York State, the documentary follows a group of farmers from three unique farms as they carry plants, animals and soils through a growing season. These modern small farms have robust business models, sustainable practices and deep connections to the communities they serve: a goat farm that produces award-winning cheeses; a horse-powered, CSA (community supported agriculture) farm which provides 100 members with a full diet year round; and a vegetable farm run by two youthful entrepreneurs.
"Making charcoal may sound like a strange way to boost crop production, but the concept was proven more than 2,000 years ago in South America, where native farmers added charcoal to the poor soils of the Amazon rainforest to create a rich, fertile soil known by the Portuguese name "terra preta," or black earth."
“When it’s done right, adding biochar to soil can improve hydrology and make more nutrients available to plants,” says Rice University biogeochemist Caroline Masiello, the lead researcher. To make the soil additive biochar, charcoal must reach at least 450 degrees Celsius to ensure that water and nutrients get to plants.
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov (Russian: Никола́й Ива́нович Вави́лов) (November 25 [O.S. November 13] 1887 – January 26, 1943) was a prominent Russian and Soviet botanist and geneticist best known for having identified the centres of origin of cultivated plants. He devoted his life to the study and improvement of wheat, corn, and other cereal crops that sustain the global population.
A bizarre system dubbed the "Headless Chicken Solution" would grow brainless birds in Matrix-style meat factories. Photo: André Ford
"Each year, the United Kingdom raises and kills around 800 million broiler chickens for their meat. These creatures are grown in vast sheds with no natural light over the course of six to seven weeks. They are bred to grow particularly quickly and often die because their hearts and lungs cannot keep up with their body’s rapid growth.
Architecture student André Ford has proposed a new system for the mass production of chickens that removes the birds’ cerebral cortex so that they don’t experience the horrors of being packed together tightly in vertical farms.
After this “desensitization,” the chickens could then be stacked into huge urban farms with around 1,000 chickens hooked up to large vertical frames — a little like the network of pods the humans are connected to in The Matrix. The feet of the chickens would also be removed in order to pack more in. There could be dozens of these frames in the vertical farming system, which Ford refers to as the Centre for Unconscious Farming . Food, water and air would be delivered via a network of tubes and excrement would be removed in the same way. This technique could achieve a density of around 11.7 chickens per cubic meter instead of the current 3.2 chickens achieved in broiler houses."