Thursday, April 24, 2014

Do We Need RR Alfalfa Or Wheat?

A food safety group filed a lawsuit in hopes of forcing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release documents in court that could explain why the federal agency approved genetically engineered alfalfa despite its misgivings about environmental safety.

The Washington-based Center for Food Safety said Thursday the USDA may have come under pressure by seed giant Monsanto Co. to grant approval of its Roundup Ready alfalfa, which is designed to withstand multiple applications of herbicide.

“USDA determined Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa posed significant environmental and economic harms and initially proposed placing restrictions on it. Yet the agency went ahead and granted full unrestricted approval one month later,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, said in a prepared statement. “Did the White House intervene? Did Monsanto pressure the agency? The fact is we don’t know, and unless the court orders USDA to hand over these documents we may never know.”,0,6462829.story#ixzz2yOjh7Z7l

I don't feel I need RR wheat or RR alfalfa.  I am one person and from the old school when RR was not even existent.

Do we need RR alfalfa or wheat?  Will either one improve anything?

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Next 40 Years

We need to grow as much food in the next 40 years as we did the last 8,000 years!  Sobering thought?

What would it take to grow enough food to meet human needs in 2050 while reducing environmental impacts of agriculture?

We have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000. That’s the challenge. And if we want to do it without expanding further into the environment, we’re going to have to produce twice as much food on the same amount of land. Where do we invest our time and money?

Where do we?

We need to look at which crops have the most to gain from genetics. It’s not going to be corn and soybeans, because the big gains have been made there. We haven’t even really started work on palm oil, cassava, cocoa yams, sweet potatoes, peanuts, bananas or plantain, and sorghum—those are the ones that we really need to work on. And why? We know that the average production on an average farm in Costa Rica in bananas produces 20 times more calories than the average corn production in Iowa on the same unit of land.

Speaking of Iowa, where production is advanced, aren’t there gains to be made in Eastern Europe or Africa, where farmers are using practices from 50 years ago?

We know globally that the best practices, the best producers in the world, are 100 times better than the worst. But what we’re finding is that that’s actually true in what we think of as homogeneous places. In a three-county area of northeastern Nebraska, some producers use inputs 10 times more efficiently than others. The only way we can move the bottom is to take the principles of what we’re doing with the top producers, and begin to push the bottom—get them on a stepwise approach to improve production.

I was 5 counties north yesterday and the planters and tillage equipment were rolling.  No-Till looked dead in the part of Ohio I was in.  I thought about this article and what happens to our corn and soybeans?  Most of it goes to fuel or feed, very little of it goes into direct consumption?

"During the last year I've been following a bushel of corn through the industrial food system. What I keep finding in case after case, if you follow the food back to the farm — if you follow the nutrients, if you follow the carbon — you end up in a corn field in Iowa, over and over and over again.
Take a typical fast food meal. Corn is the sweetener in the soda. It's in the corn-fed beef Big Mac patty, and in the high-fructose syrup in the bun, and in the secret sauce. Slim Jims are full of corn syrup, dextrose, cornstarch, and a great many additives. The “four different fuels” in a Lunchables meal, are all essentially corn-based. The chicken nugget—including feed for the chicken, fillers, binders, coating, and dipping sauce—is all corn. The french fries are made from potatoes, but odds are they're fried in corn oil, the source of 50 percent of their calories. Even the salads at McDonald's are full of high-fructose corn syrup and thickeners made from corn."
I have more questions than I have answers.  Is this sustainable?  Can we feed the world in the next 40 years?
Ed Winkle
pictures are a year ago this week, things haven't changed much!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

China Contaminated

Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China's farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.

The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land and Resources, says 16.1 percent of the country's soil in general and 19.4 percent of its farmland is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December 2013. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
In a dire assessment, the report declares: "The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism."

The Associated Press writes that the report was "previously deemed so sensitive [that] it was classified as a state secret." The official Xinhua news agency blames "irrigation by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and the development of livestock breeding."
Xinhua says: "In breakdown, 11.2 percent of the country's surveyed land suffers slight pollution, while 1.1 percent is severely polluted." (Update at 12:06 p.m. ET. Earlier, we were citing numbers from The Guardian, but these figures from Chinese state media are being more widely cited.)
Most of the contaminated farm land is on the highly developed and industrialized east coast, but heavy metal pollution was especially bad in the country's southwest, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper says:
"In January, an agriculture official admitted that millions of hectares of farmland could be withdrawn from production because of severe pollution by heavy metals. And last December the vice minister of land and resources estimated that 3.3 million hectares of land is polluted, mostly in gain producing regions."
According to the AP, the report "also points to health risks that, in the case of heavy metals, can take decades to emerge after the first exposure. Already, health advocates have identified several 'cancer villages' in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment where they say cancer rates are above the national average."

As we've reported in the past, China's air pollution has become a real health concern in major urban areas.

I wondered about this when our group of 30 agricultural educators visited for the month of October, 1985.  Pollution was as bad then as what they show on TV today.  It's a major problem.  We need to be careful and I think we are.

Some say we are too careful with too much regulation and others think we are not careful enough?

What do you think?

On this "Earth Day" Celebration, doesn't the rest of the world need to be more concerned about their doings than we?

Ed Winkle

Monday, April 21, 2014

God's Not Dead

We rarely go to the movies but we went to see God's Not Dead in Hillsboro Saturday night.

"Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words "God Is Dead" on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at acrossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future.

Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that "God Is Dead," he must prove God's existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God's existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes.

Can he actually prove the existence of God? Wouldn't it just be easier just to write "God Is Dead" and put the whole incident behind him? GOD'S NOT DEAD weaves together multiple stories of faith, doubt and disbelief, culminating in a dramatic call to action. The film will educate, entertain, and inspire moviegoers to explore what they really believe about God, igniting important conversations and life-changing decisions. --(C) Official Site"

This is a well written story with some humor provided by Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty Commander fame and others.  It's a pretty serious movie though, the whole concept has been questioned since time began.  It focuses on a modern day college campus and the way the writers weave the characters to the end is very compelling.  The apologetics are very well substantiated and made the movie real to me.

I enjoyed the movie and think you might too unless you don't believe in God, don't want to believe in God or even hate God like one of the main characters.  The Newsboys Christian rock group really puts the finishing touches on the end of this movie.

Now we want to see Heaven Is Real.

Ed Winkle

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Memorable Easters

Easter Sunday April 7, 1958, our family woke early to a huge train wreck about a half mile from our farm in Sardinia, Ohio.  The Pocahontas Trail of the Norfolk and Western railroad still runs through the farm that connects Norfolk, Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio.  Maybe my sister remembers but I think we went to church that Sunday but we sure couldn't get to the Sardinia First Presbyterian Church the normal way, a half mile east on State Route 74 as it was called then.  The road was blocked from the two huge trains that hit head on that morning.

I remember the wreckage but couldn't find any pictures or a complete story online.  I think at least two men were killed in the wreck but I don't remember all of the details.  I know it made travel difficult for quite a time until they got the cars and engines moved off the two crossings on State Route 74 in town, the one near us and the one east of town to Ellis Feed Mill.

I would have been 7 years old and Linda would have been 4.  Our brother Jeff would have been a newborn, born the month before.  We had just moved into the new ranch style house that was built on the Bare Plantation farm.  Mom still lives in that house and it became the Winkle Farm in 1990.  Grandpa moved into the old plantation house in 1918 when dad was almost 3 years old.

"Frank W. Hunter (1874-1939) lived in Arizona, and his wife, Lila, inherited.
Frank was married several times and had three children that I read about. The one I have written about before was Ralph “Phoy” Hunter (1908-58), who was a fireman on the N&W Railroad and was in the train wreck at Sardinia Easter Sunday, 1958. Ralph and his wife are buried in the Mowrystown Cemetery."  That is also where grandpa and grandma Winkle are buried.

I can't remember if those were steam engines or not when diesels came in around that time?
I imagine most of you can remember an Easter Sunday in your past.  I think my friends in Minnesota still have snow on the ground and it is getting close to planting time!
I leave you on this note, "Easter is not only the greatest Christian feast; it is the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. Through His Death, Christ destroyed our bondage to sin; through His Resurrection, He brought us the promise of new life, both in Heaven and on earth. His own prayer, "Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven," begins to be fulfilled on Easter Sunday."
Happy Easter!
Ed Winkle

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Way To Go, Lucas

I met Lucas Criswell from Eastern Pennsylvania some years ago at a field day I was presenting near Hagerstown, Maryland.  Here he is being recognized as someone to follow.

"CEDAR FALLS — Farmers started the soil health movement that Ray Archuleta, a conservation agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Greensboro, N.C., sees as the solution to energy, climate, air and water quality and human health issues.

"Farmers are learning to farm in nature's image, and they are healing the land," said Archuleta during a recent workshop at the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. He also gave the Shivvers Lecture at Iowa State University.

"No more diapers, no more bandaids," said Archuleta, who is known as the "Soil Guy." "The only way to heal the land is through understanding."

Archuleta said desperation led him to question if there wasn't a better way. He worked for the NRCS in Oregon, lived in Idaho and drove across the Snake River to work. He noticed that when farmers turned on the irrigation water every summer "that beautiful emerald river turned to chocolate."

"We were putting millions of dollars into conservation, and that river was still chocolate, and that bothered me, but what resonated even more was that I had a hard-working, frugal friend who farmed 600 acres of prime Idaho land, and he couldn't make it and bring his son into the operation."

When Archuleta started working on the NRCS Soil Health and Sustainability Team, he began to understand the problem. He wasn't taught the things he since has learned about soil health, and neither were most people who studied soils at universities.

Lucas Criswell no-tilled corn into standing cereal rye on his steep Pennsylvania farm ground and grew 170-bushel corn. North Carolina farmers are growing no-till cotton, tomatoes and potatoes with cover crops. Kansas rancher Michael Thompson grew 58 bushel corn on 7 inches of total rainfall using no-till with cover crops."

We really need to think outside the box for maximum profit from maximum soil health.

Lucas is doing that.

Ed Winkle

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Legend Of The Weeping Willow Tree

A legend or fable is a story that doesn't pretend to be historical, but simply teaches a lesson.  The events surrounding the suffering and death of Christ gave rise to many legends.

The Legend of the Weeping Willow
Why does the weeping willow bend its branches and leaves downward?

According to one legend, the tree "weeps" because it was the tree upon which Judas hanged himself. 
Another legend says its branches were used by the soldiers to whip the imprisoned Jesus.

Even earlier people had viewed the weeping willow as a grieving tree because of Psalm 37: "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.  There on the willow trees we hung up our harps."  Some scholars believe the trees were actually poplars.

"But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit."  Matthew 27:50

Life is usually pretty noisy but sometimes becomes deathly silent.  On this day in 2006, we were visiting LuAnn's parents near Naples, New York.  We had just laid down to sleep when our son Eric called and asked his mother if she was sitting down?  We had just went to bed so now she was sitting on the edge of the bed.

He said a terrible windstorm had come through at dark and he thought the garage was moved off its foundation.  He was living with us at the time as he was starting his career after college.  He said he had tried to lock the barn doors down but the wind sucked them right off the barn.  Was it a tornado we asked?

He didn't know.  The main thing was he was safe but had put himself in harm's way!  By this time we knew we couldn't sleep so we got dressed and drove all night to home.  We got to Martinsville about sunup and never saw anything until we ended Greene Road and State Route 28.  Limbs and wires were strewn everywhere, we knew it was a bad storm and were anxious about the damage.

We live one mile east of that intersection and when we pulled into the drive we saw the devastation.  The 26 foot beams on our front porch were blown off and wedged behind the wheels of his Dodge Dakota!  The garage was sitting 3 feet farther east, straddling the bushes beside it.  The garage contents including years of soil test records were strewn from the garage to the house across the road a half mile south of us.  Almost every bin and building suffered damage.  Shingles were scattered across the countryside.

All was still but 12 hours earlier was sheer turmoil.  It took me all summer and $30,000 to put the place back into original condition.  It was the Good Friday we will never forget.

Today on Good Friday all is quiet.  It sure wasn't eight years ago.  I imagine any weeping willow would have been pointing to the sky.

Ed Winkle