Agriculture

High corn prices impact crop rotations
September 26, 2011 07:08 AM - Michael Hirtzer, Reuters, CHENOA, Illinois

Farmer Brian Schaumburg has planted corn for five straight years in some of the thousands of acres he tends in central Illinois. Farmers who eschew crop rotations that help to replenish the soil with nutrients take a risk that yields will decline. But corn prices soared to a record earlier this year, making so-called corn-on-corn crops a worthwhile bet for many farmers in Illinois, the No. 2 U.S. corn state after Iowa. "Last year and this year, we're seeing a little yield drag but, even so, corn pays," Schaumberg said from the air-conditioned cab of his crop-cutting combine as he mowed down tall corn stalks, gathering kernels of the yellow grain. Schaumburg was in the early stages of harvest and so far was averaging roughly 180 bushels per acre in fields that grew corn last year, and about 200 bpa in corn fields that were planted with soybeans last year, with both yields in line with his averages during the previous few years. "Corn on corn hurts in some places but there's places it's awful good," he said.

First radioactive rice found in Japan
September 24, 2011 07:59 AM - Reuters, JAPAN

Japan found the first case of rice with radioactive materials far exceeding a government-set level for a preliminary test of pre-harvested crop, requiring thorough inspection of the rice to be harvested from the region, the farm ministry said late on Friday. The ministry said radioactive cesium of 500 becquerels per kg was found in a sample of the pre-harvested rice in Nihonmatsu city, in Fukushima Prefecture, 56 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. The ministry said the Fukushima Prefecture will expand the inspection spots nearly ten-fold to around 300 areas. It is the first case in Japan of rice containing radioactive cesium exceeding 200 becquerels per kg, a level which requires further thorough testing of the area for the harvested rice.

WWF celebrates World Rhino Day
September 22, 2011 11:19 AM - WWF

On the occasion of the second annual World Rhino Day, WWF joins the residents of rhinoceros range countries in calling for an end to rhino poaching, which threatens the survival of rhino species. Officials in South Africa, home to most of the world's rhinos, have responded to the recent poaching crisis by increasing protection for rhinos, conducting more rigorous prosecutions, and imposing stricter sentences on wildlife criminals. This action must be met with a corresponding commitment by countries in Asia where consumer demand for rhino horn is inciting poachers. South Africa has lost at least 284 rhinos in 2011, including 16 or more critically endangered black rhinos. A majority of the poaching incidents have occurred in the world famous Kruger National Park, but privately owned rhinos have also been targeted. Law enforcement officials have made over 165 arrests so far during the year, and some convicted poachers have been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

Storm Nate weakens, warnings dropped
September 12, 2011 06:38 AM - Roberto Ramirez, Reuters, GUTIERREZ ZAMORA, Mexico

Storm Nate dissipated on Sunday as it moved farther inland across the coffee and sugar growing state of Veracruz along the Gulf of Mexico. Nate, which could still dump heavy rain over Veracruz, had turned into a remnant low, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said, and it was discontinuing warnings. State oil monopoly Pemex said it had rescued seven out of 10 contract workers who had been missing since Thursday after evacuating a rig in the Gulf of Mexico due to bad weather. The workers, including four Mexicans and two Americans, were rescued in the Bay of Campeche, but one Bangladeshi died later in a hospital. Two other workers were found dead and one remained missing, Pemex said. The depression was located 75 miles west southwest of Tuxpan, with maximum sustained winds of 30 miles per hour, the hurricane center said in its 10:00 p.m. CDT/0500 GMT advisory. It is moving west northwest at 8 mph, it said.

Weather disasters costing U.S. billions
September 8, 2011 06:08 AM - Mary Wisniewski, Reuters, CHICAGO

lizzards. Tornadoes. Floods. Record heat and drought, followed by wildfires. The first eight months of 2011 have brought strange and destructive weather to the United States. From the blizzard that dumped almost two feet of snow on Chicago, to killer tornadoes and heat waves in the south, to record flooding, to wildfires that have burned more than 1,000 homes in Texas in the last few days, Mother Nature has been in a vile and costly mood. Climate experts point to global warming, meteorologists cite the influence of La Nina or natural variability, and, in the case of tornadoes hitting populated areas, many simply call the death and destruction bad luck. But given the variety and violence of both short-term weather events and longer-term effects like a Southwestern drought that has lasted years, more scientists say climate itself seems to be shifting and weather extremes will become more common.

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.

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