Agriculture

Crop Performance and Green House Gas Emissions
September 7, 2011 02:35 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Measuring the emission of greenhouse gases from croplands should take into account the crops themselves. That's the conclusion of a study in the Sept.-Oct. issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, which examined the impact of farm practices such as tillage on the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. Expressing emissions per unit of crop yield rather than on a more conventional per area basis produced very different results, says the study's leader, Rod Venterea, research soil scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

The mighty Missouri River and the mighty flooding damage
September 3, 2011 09:26 AM - David Bailey and David Hendee, Reuters, MINNEAPOLIS/COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa

The cost of America's quiet billion dollar disaster in the Upper Midwest keeps rising as floodwaters decline. Shortly before Memorial Day, a summer of unprecedented flooding from Montana to Missouri along the Missouri River started washing away interstate highway lanes and swamping rail lines as it routed thousands of people from their homes. Flooding continues this Labor Day weekend and is expected not to end for several more weeks. As the water recedes, the extent of damage from three months of flooding is showing up. In cities such as Pierre, South Dakota's capital, the receding floodwaters have left behind sinkholes in roads and parks and begun to reveal widespread damage to storm sewer systems, public softball fields and a city golf course. "We are just now, as the river is going back, really seeing what the damage is," Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill said. Along the riverbanks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the cost of repairing its levees and patching up its dams from Montana to Nebraska could top $1 billion.

Hybrid Midsize Sedan?
August 25, 2011 12:43 PM - Kathleen Neil, Contributing Editor, ENN

There seem to be a lot of people looking for a quality, affordable, and safe midsize sedan, but a hybrid midsize sedan? Mingling with everyone at the Toyota 2012 Camry event at Paramount Studios Hollywood yesterday I’d have to say, the mainstream car world just isn’t that concerned about how green their drive is at this point. The economy isn't helping, nor is the way most people are experiencing the modern electronic world as a bad case of button overload; and general interest in iconic brands like a Prius Hybrid or a Chevy Volt is limited. In the last two years my automotive interest has been focused on hybrids and electric vehicles. Yesterday in Hollywood I drove both the hybrid 2012 Camry and the non-hybrid 2012 Camry and I got to look more closely at the interface between the car most people are looking for and the dream of a greener driving world. The comparison was great fun. I admit I'm still more excited about the Plug-in Prius, which is now looking like it will be available starting around spring 2012 in 15 launch states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Availability is planned to open up to all other states in 2013. Much of the innovation in the development of the Prius appears to be showing up in the 2012 Camry Hybrid

Are Mermaids real? Vampires?
August 23, 2011 12:09 PM - BBC Earth

1. Vampires Tales of vampires which have been the inspiration for horror movies the world over originate from a small flying mammal that weighs less than two ounces. Of the three species of vampire bat the one that has contributed to the misunderstanding and fear of bats more than any other is the infamous common vampire bat. Perhaps an unfair reputation considering that they rarely kill their prey, in fact they can feed without their incision even being noticed due to specially adapted blade like incisors. They are found in the deserts and rainforest of the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, making their homes in caves, mines and tree hollows. If they are unlucky in their night-time search for sustenance for two consecutive nights they will die. Luckily for nursing mothers other bats will regurgitate blood meals to them. So how has this inconspicuous creature become the stuff of nightmares? When explorers returned to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, news of the bloodsucking creatures augmented the ancient myths of human vampires. Myths which had come about to explain blood dribbling from the mouths of semi-decomposed corpses. These South American night feeders carry and spread the deadly rabies virus and are considered an agricultural pest due to their paralytic affect on cattle herds. While bats may prefer bovine blood they have been known to attack humans. So beware the reality of the vampire myth! 2. Dragons With a reputation reaching back over 1,000 years, the stories that surround this outsized reptile are recalled by cultures all over the world. For instance, in England, St George’s day is celebrated in honour of the man who saved his town - and a princess - by slaying a dragon. As a result of this story, dragons are now considered to be a key part of England's heritage. Portraying one in bold colours across its national flag, Wales makes it clear that dragons are a part of the country's national heritage. It is believed that the ferocious, red dragon that appears on the flag symbolises the strength and courage of the Welsh people. With such an iconic position within the heritage of two cultures, it is not surprising that the dragon is not as mythical as some may think. At three metres long (9.8ft) and weighing around 70kg (150lb), the Komodo dragon is a living, breathing representative of this family of creatures which many think are only found in fairytales. A member of the monitor group, it is the largest living species of lizard. Although populations are now only found on a few volcanic Indonesian islands, fossil evidence suggests that they evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to Indonesia. Whether we celebrate its strength or revel in man's ability to overcome its fearsome spirit, the dragon has burst forth from the story books and is still alive and well in the 21st century.

Dust storm engulfs downtown Phoenix
August 19, 2011 06:43 AM - Reuters, PHOENIX

A billowing wall of dust engulfed downtown Phoenix on Thursday, cutting visibility to a few hundred yards and delaying flights at the international airport, authorities and news reports said. Driving rains and winds gusting at nearly 60 miles per hour also buffeted San Tan Valley, southeast of Phoenix in the early evening, according to the National Weather Service. Roaring gusts downed trees and power lines in Pinal County, trapping drivers in their cars and preventing commuters from reaching their homes south of the state capital. "This storm hit during a very busy time for traffic, bringing down power lines over several miles on top of cars with visibility near zero," Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman Elias Johnson said in a statement.

Rains bring only brief relief to drought-stricken Texas
August 13, 2011 08:50 AM - Jim Forsyth, Reuters, SAN ANTONIO

Scattered heavy rains brought badly needed relief to parched north and west Texas overnight, but forecasters said on Friday that the storms quickly passed and were not enough to break the devastating drought that has gripped the state. Hardest hit was the town of Del Rio, which received nearly four and a half inches of rain in two hours, according to the National Weather Service. Scattered rain in the Dallas area prevented the region from hitting 100 degrees for the first time in forty days, two days shy of the record. "No, unfortunately, none of it was nearly enough," said meteorologist Ken Boone of the Weather Channel. "Those people who got rain were lucky to have a cell right over them. This is not the sweeping frontal system that we need." All possibility of rain goes away after Saturday night, Boone added. "After that, the state is dry through the week," he said.

US South deep in heat, unrelenting drought
August 7, 2011 08:06 AM - Karen Brooks, Reuters, HOUSTON

The southern United States stood mired on Saturday in an unrelenting heat wave that promised more of the triple-digit temperatures that have roasted the region for weeks. Forecasters predicted the heat and dryness will continue in the area at least through next week, though they looked for remnants of former tropical storm Emily to bring some rain to coastal Florida on Saturday night. Heat advisories across much of the South and Central Plains were common Saturday and cut into the Midwest. Temperatures across the Missouri Ozarks and parts of Kansas reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. In the Northeast, extreme heat was easing with temperatures expected to dip into the low 70s in Trenton, New Jersey to give residents an escape from what AccuWeather.com forecasters called a "heat bubble" that had blistered the area in July.

Drought worsens in Midwest
August 5, 2011 07:04 AM - Michael Hirtzer, Reuters, CHICAGO

Drought worsened in the Midwest during the last week as record-high temperatures stressed the developing corn and soybean crops, while cotton and pastures eroded amid a historic drought in the southern Plains. Nearly 38 percent of the Midwest was "abnormally dry" as of August 2, the climatologists said in a weekly report, the most since December 2008. Temperatures in the past week hit record highs from the Plains to the East Coast, in some cases rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) for the first time in more than 20 years. "Exceptional drought" decreased modestly in Texas, the epicenter of the worst drought in decades, where 73.5 percent of the state was suffering from that most severe category, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by a consortium of national climate experts

Rising Carbon Dioxide Could Reverse Drying Effects of Higher Temperatures On Rangelands
August 4, 2011 07:25 AM - ScienceDaily

Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can reverse the drying effects of predicted higher temperatures on semi-arid rangelands, according to a study published in the journal Nature by a team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and university scientists. Warmer temperatures increase water loss to the atmosphere, leading to drier soils. In contrast, higher CO2 levels cause leaf stomatal pores to partly close, lessening the amount of water vapor that escapes and the amount of water plants draw from soil. This new study finds that CO2 does more to counterbalance warming-induced water loss than previously expected. In fact, simulations of levels of warming and CO2 predicted for later this century demonstrated no net change in soil water, and actually increased levels of plant growth for warm-season grasses.

Drought continues to worsen in southern Plains
July 22, 2011 06:55 AM - Julie Ingwersen, Reuters, CHICAGO

A historic drought in the southern Plains intensified in the last week and contributed to dry conditions emerging in the heart of the Midwest crop belt, a weekly climatologists' report said Thursday. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by a consortium of national climate experts, showed abnormally dry conditions affecting a significant area of the Midwest -- about 10 percent -- for the first time this summer. The areas included parts of Iowa and Illinois, the top two corn- and soy-growing states that annually produce about one-third of the U.S. corn crop. Also affected were southern Wisconsin, northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Texas remained the epicenter of the crisis, with "exceptional drought," the most severe drought category, gripping 75 percent of the state. Texas climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said it was the state's third-worst drought since 1895.

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