Filed under: Farm, history, science | Tags: ageing, brighter future, children, flexible mind, good old days, history, science, technology
A flexible mind may be more important than any other attribute in life. I’ve noticed that the only thing sure in this world is change. I’m not one of those who look back and yearn for the “good old days,” because I have seen so much of today and tomorrow to embrace.
I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results, and I’ve come to firmly believe it. I have watched way too many people keep trying the same thing over and over and wonder why it doesn’t work. Many of the organizations I belong to are complaining of declining membership. When you dig in, you find them doing the same things that did not work the last time. It seems to me it time to try something new.
I grew up interacting with older people, but today I like to be around young people. They help to keep me young. The most encouraging young folks to be with are the bright up and comers in technology fields. Agriculture also has its tech wizards, and the things they are doing are really going to change the way we farm in the future.
Having a positive attitude in life also can help you stay flexible. If you see only the bad in change you will forever be suspicious of change. Instead look to see the positives, and perhaps even look for ways that change will ease the more unpleasant parts of our existence.
So flex on. Talk to the bright young people in your life about what they see in the future. Read about the new and the exciting innovations that are coming in our world. Trust that we will overcome our problems. Wrap your mind around some new ideas of a brighter future.
Filed under: Politics, science | Tags: censored, censorship, freedom of the press, politics, science
Our nation, which has long held freedom of the press to be among our most cherished liberties, the U.S. currently ranks 47th in the world for true freedom of the press. Almost every one of our news outlets is owned by one of just six multinational conglomerates. Increasingly, the editorial content of our press is controlled by advertising dollars and internal corporate conflicts of interest. The nonpartisan organization Reporters Without Borders ranks the U. S. behind such countries as Niger, El Salvador and Estonia. We need to be asking ourselves why? Increasingly the news is censored to suit someones agenda. All too often what the press reports is opinion and not science. Check the credentials of the person reporting. Are they an expert in their field or a celebrity with an opinion.
We need to be asking ourselves some questions when reading or viewing any news story; If this is not true, who will suffer? If this is true, who stands to benefit.
Filed under: Farm, rain, science, weather | Tags: climate, drought, farm, nature, rain, weather
The forecast is out for prospective rains and the news is not good for those of us west of the Mississippi.Yep, the drought is likely to continue this summer. This is not good news for farm folks. It will mean higher prices for those who get a crop, but that is bad news for livestock producers. Crop farmers in the hottest, driest areas will not be looking for anything decent for a crop. Looks like another challenging year ahead.
Filed under: family, school, science | Tags: A Chance to Grow, art, children, dance, education, music, TED Talks
I was introduced to TED talks last night by our pastor. In particular he showed our boards the talk given by Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity from 2006. In his talk he speaks of the creativity in each child and of how our society and our schools crush that creativity as they push for tests and teach for the test. Sir Ken speaks of how this is a good way to turn out factory workers and academics, but seldom people who think creatively.
My wife and daughter both have taught in elementary education. They have both used techniques that help children learn by moving as they are taught. There is a large body of evidence that without certain types of movement the child’s brain cannot develop properly. In particular they have used the services of A Chance to Grow to develop skills in channeling childhood squirms into learning.
Sir Ken tells the story of a girl who could not sit still. Until her mother took her to dance class she was having a tough time in school. This girl grew up to be a world class ballerina and choreographer, all because she was given a chance to move, a chance to dance.
I am pleased that our local school still gives children a chance to experience art, music and theatre, but more and more schools are cutting the arts from their programs in the push to teach every child to pass tests. Teaching to the test is an educational practice where curriculum is heavily focused on preparing for a standardized test. These standardized tests are good at turning out factory workers and academics, but they do little to produce healthy creative adults. Children are not made in factories, so how come we expect them to all turn out the same?
So here is my challenge for you. Teach your children to be creative. Give them open ended projects and let them figure out how they should be done. Get them away from the TV and outside learning from the world. Let them run, jump and climb. Children need to get out and make mistakes, they need to get hurt and learn from the pain. Giving children a chance to create stimulates the brain. Who knows, your little squirmer may be famous one day. You’ll never know if you do not give them the chance to dance.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, Corn, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, organic, science, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, consumer fears, Corn, emotional subject, farm, farmers and ranchers, Food, food safety, hormone estrogen, nature, organic producer, safety, science, weather
Everyone wants to believe that their opinion is right. Sometimes we don’t know why, but we are right. Sometimes we jump on an emotional bandwagon and never look back pledging everything we have to the emotional belief.
My kids say that I seem to be able to talk on any subject as if I’m always right. They in their span have also developed the ability to speak as if their opinion is the right one, I got it from my ancestors and so did they. I have yet to see any of us argue a point on emotion only. We are all prone to reading and study. We know our subject, and some of us know a lot of different subjects.
Our food can be a very emotional subject. For some the thought that there could be hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or GMO’s in their food is an emotional no. Since I work in the food industry I see things a bit differently. I see the efforts of farmers and ranchers, haulers, processors and groceries to put the best product out for the consumer to eat. We are all in this together.
Once in a while I will see a grocery put up a sign that I know is indefensible in trying to calm consumer fears that they cannot defend. Sometimes labels are to promote a food as a premium product. Here are a few.
This label is completely indefensible. Without hormones, there is no life. When placed on beef this should be worded “Grown with no added hormones.” Folks get concerned about the possibility of the hormone estrogen in their beef, but never check to see the level of hormones. Your lettuce has many times the level of estrogen in it than beef raise with hormone implants.
I’ve seen this label placed on many different products. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. The true organic producer has to go through a three year certification process. They are subject to random check and a grueling documentation process. Make one mistake and you are out for three years. There is no one that can prove without a doubt that organic is better for you. This is an emotional label. If you want to pay more for organic, great. My organic farmer friends need the money since they spend many extra hours and lots more money to produce organic foods. It is best to buy certified organic in your store, or even better, only buy from a certified organic producer. Any other produce is suspect. There are times that the organic label has been put on foods that are not organic to satisfy demand.
Produce that is grown without the use of pesticides may or may not be better for you. Many fruits and veggies can be grown without pesticides naturally. They are usually thick skinned or naturally pest resistant. Those plants that are grown with the use of pesticides are checked by inspectors to be sure they do not contain more than the allowed limit of pesticides. It is in the best interest of the grower to produce your fruits and veggies without pesticides and they use them only when needed. The extra cost cuts into their already slim profit margin.
No livestock producer wants to see their animals sick. Just as you protect your children they also seek to protect their animals. If an animal needs a shot or a bit of cough medicine they get it. Many farmers try to produce antibiotic free meat since it brings a premium from the consumer. At times whole herds of animals can be removed from an antibiotic free process when a sickness breaks out. This is a financial loss to the producer, but they will do it to get the premium label that some demand.
All medication has a withdrawal period, a time that it cannot be used before slaughter. Farmers and processors are monitored to be sure that they follow withdrawal guidelines. If antibiotics show up in the meat, it cannot be eaten.
Grass fed, free range, cages (So many sub subjects here.)
University studies show that if there is a bias on grass fed beef, it is in favor of conventionally fed. The HDL/LDL levels in beef that are conventionally fed seems be better than grass fed. An animal raised conventionally also grows faster since it does not have to go so far in search of food.
Corn is a grass. Saying that because you feed corn to an animal you are doing something unnatural is bogus.
Living out doors is better. Living out doors exposes food animals to predators and disease as well as some really nasty weather. Being in and enclosed area also allows the farmer or rancher to watch for and treat disease or injury. Just as you would not like to live in a tent or cave, food animals prefer barns.
Injury as animals compete for food is one of the biggest problems faced in raising livestock. Independent studies have found that when pigs are allowed the choice of free range or stall housing they will choose stalls 90% of the time, they feel safer in the stall.
There are diseases and parasites that live in the soil that can infect animals raised outside.
This label is the most troubling for me. There are so many genetic modifications that have been made to our food plants and animals and some people try to lump them all into the same basket. Just because a food product has been modified to grow faster, use less water, use less fertilizer or resist pests does not mean it is dangerous. One of the staunchest critics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), environmentalist Mark Lynas, recently said he had been mistaken and that the threat of GMOs had been exaggerated by him and others for years. Every piece of evidence I have seen that says GMO’s are bad for you has had hundreds of pieces of evidence brought forth to show how wrong they were.
I know that many feel in their gut that I am wrong, but when the science is so overwhelming, I know I’m right.
Filed under: Farm, science | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, glyphosate, nature, resistance, science, super weeds, Weed control
The headline says “Glyphosate resistance spreads,” but for me that is nothing new. Chemical manufacturers always expected this to happen. They warned farmers that it would happen, Why are we surprised. I noticed a resistance to glyphosate for certain plants from the first time I used it, this day was always going to come.
It is a fact of life that organisms adapt or die. Those that do adapt live to overcome the adversity that they were facing. If you live in a dry area only those plants that can tolerate dry conditions adapt and survive. If the soil is constantly wet, only those plants that can adapt, live. No matter what the problem, it’s a live or die world.
Despite headlines, these are not “super weeds” only survivors. There are still ways to control these weeds, it’s just that one of the cheapest methods is now gone. It is part of the battle for mother earth that we on the farm fight everyday. When we overuse a control method, ways will be found to get around it. There are ways, and we will find them, what we don’t know is how long the new methods will last.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Biofuels, ethanol, Farm, Farm Bureau, science | Tags: Agriculture education, car, cars, compressed natural gas, diesel, diesel fuel, ethanol, ethanol producers, farm, Farm Bureau, gas, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, machines, transportation
One of the sessions I attended at the AFBF meeting in Nashville was a General Motors seminar on the future of motor vehicles. Since they were talking to a farm audience they mostly talked about light trucks, but automotive and heavy truck technology was also touched on. One of the items that they made plain was that the gasoline technology was not going away just yet, but they were gearing up for the future.
The biggest driver in the future of motoring was the higher mpg demands of both the public and government in this era if higher fuel prices. The problem with most of the new technologies is getting the fueling stations out for use. Although Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) are available for larger fleets where they can come to a base station every night, long distance motoring is still going to require a liquid motor fuel. The same is true of hydrogen and electric vehicles, we know how to make them, we just cannot keep them on the road once they get away from fast refueling connections. To bridge the gap until we get refueling stations set up for these fuels we are still going to have to rely on liquid fuels like diesel, gasoline and ethanol.
Despite where you stand on ethanol, the automotive industry is planning on using greater amounts of it in fuels for the foreseeable future. If they are to meet the government mpg guidelines they have no choice. Understandably the growers of ethanol feedstocks are all in favor of this increase.
While today we in agriculture are fighting a battle to keep E-15 approval, automotive manufacturers are gearing up for E-30. They are telling the ethanol producers that it will happen. Automobile manufacturers need the higher octane that ethanol gives to produce the higher performance engines of the future.
I don’t expect Big Oil to give up this battle without a fight. They want to keep us dependent on gasoline and diesel for as long as possible. They are already breaking down the gunkier oils that they used to throw away to meet demand. This costs more money, money they are getting from government subsidies and from us in higher prices. In the mean time, automotive manufacturers are planning for a future that uses less gasoline. They can already see a future of less oil usage, and it is something that I have waited for for a long time.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, science, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: climate, Corn, drought, dry soil, farm, harvest, history, Minnesota, nature, Planting, rain, science, Soybeans, spring, weather
There has been a bit of talk lately of what this last years crop year was and what next years will be like. What is past is always a bit easier to know.
A month ago we started work on a new barn. Part of the process was to dig a rather large hole 4 feet deep. The clay under the top soil was dry. It made for some very easy digging. What does that have to do with next year and what does that say about this years crop.
Back in May a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talked to me about the prospects for the future with an early planting and a future of a very large crop. You can read that story here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/05/24/corn-crop-outlook/> When he asked me what I thought of the USDA prediction of a large crop, I laughed and said they were guessing. A few months later he came back to talk to me and the talk was not about a record crop and depressed prices, but of a short crop and prices at historically high levels for months now. That story is here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/15/business/2012-minnesota-crop-report/>
So much changed just weeks after the May interview and so much can change now. Historically we have only a 5% chance of a drought this next year, yet the least expected option often happens. So how do we get from dust to a banner crop? Rain.
We will get rain. If it is enough is not in our hands. I was blessed to be raised in a part of the country that has small chance of a drought, but much has changed in my lifetime. Centuries of man’s wanton waste of the energy resources of our earth have tipped us into new territory. I hesitate to try to predict the unpredictable.
In the meantime I will plan and prepare. The soil is here, I will protect it. The rain will fall, I will use what is given to me. The sun will shine and plants will use it. God willing there will be a harvest again next year.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, fertilizer, food, genetic modification, GMO, Minnesota, nitrogen, science, Soybeans, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, farm, Minnesota, nitrogen fertilizers, science, Soybeans, weather, Weed control
As much as some would like to stuff it back in, the GMO genie is out of the bottle. The use of genetic modifications in sciences of all kinds will continue to come. Medical breakthroughs will help us to lengthen life. Our food plants will grow faster, use less fertilizer and water. Our food will grow faster on less feed. Our companion animals will live longer and be more helpful. All because of genetic modifications that are either now being developed or will be in the future.
My specific focus, on the crops raised here in Southwestern Minnesota, will also see some changes. Here are some I’ll especially be looking forward to;
- Drought tolerance and efficient water usage will increase.
- Use of fertilizers will decrease as plants become more efficient.
- Plants will be breed to take their nitrogen from the air eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizers that are currently produced by the oil industry.
- More plants will be developed for specific industries with corn varieties specific for feed stocks in industry and livestock feed, and changes in the oil and meal content of soybeans.
- Disease tolerant varieties of crops will be developed quicker as new crop diseases and insect pests develop or move to new areas.
- More crops will be developed that contain needed vitamins and minerals so that those in countries facing vitamin and mineral deficiencies will live a healthier life.
These are just a few of the discoveries we have to look forward to. The future advantages of genetic modification far outweigh the potential problems. It is going to be an exciting future.
Filed under: Farm, genetic modification, GMO, science | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, GMO, GMO's, science
You can most likely guess from the previous posts that I am in favor of what has been happening with GMO products. Part of it is because I understand the science of GMO’s. I have training in Agricultural sciences and have kept up with what universities and private companies are doing. I have not been “shocked” by some fake science finding that has no basis in truth.
A case in point. One of the GMO items that some people are upset about is the addition of the Bt gene to crops so that crops can produce their own insecticide. Here’s what the University of Wisconsin has to say about Bt.
- What is Bt?
- Bt is the common abbreviation for a naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus thuringienus that is found in the soil. A unique feature of this bacterium is its production of crystal like proteins that selectively kill specific groups of insects. These crystal proteins are insect stomach poisons that must be eaten to kill the insect. Bt insecticides have been used for over 60 years and are considered safe to non-target organisms. However, because it is a natural product it is unstable and short-lived.
- How is Bt corn created?
- Plant geneticists create Bt corn by inserting selected exotic DNA(in this case Bt DNA) into the corn plants DNA. DNA is the genetic material that controls the expression of a plants or animalss traits. The Bt gene, modified for improved expression in corn, produce the crystal proteins which are toxic to some caterpillars, such as the European corn borer. Promoters determine where the toxin will be expressed in the plant. Varieties that express the toxin in silks, kernels and pith tend to offer longer season protection than varieties that express only in the pollen and green tissue of the plant.
- How safe is Bt and Bt corn?
- The EPA considered 20 years of human and animal safety data before registering Bt corn. Bt proteins are not toxic to people, domestic animals, fish, or wildlife; and they have no impacts on the environment. Bt crystal proteins are highly selective in killing larvae of moths. Bt corn, however, does not affect beneficial insects including honey bees, lady beetles, green lacewing larvae, spiders, pirate bugs or parasitic wasps.
So there you have it, that is the science of Bt genetics. An organic insecticide is produced in the plant. This product had over 20 years of trials before it was placed into plants and has been used for over 10 yeas since then. I’d consider that to be sufficient testing.
Yes, insects will develop a resistance to it, that is natural. These will not be super bugs, just survivors. There will be other methods available to help contain those surviving insects.
Then you have genetic modifications that encourage better root growth or put more beans in a pod, are they to be classed with all other modifications when they do not add exotic DNA?
So many people are afraid that we are going to unleash Frankensteins Monster on an unsuspecting public, but this is not likely to happen. This is not a horror movie, this is life folks. Our scientific community is trying to produce more food to feed the children of the future, let them alone to do their job. Please don’t stop them from creating beneficial changes in our plants and animals because of some fear monger’s nightmare. The era of genetic modification is upon us and the potential benefits are exciting.