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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘agriculture

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Discover‘s Collideascape notes that, even as agricultural land is falling worldwide, the productivity of this land is increasing even more sharply.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper examining the extent to which saline water might make cooler planets better for live, and to another paper suggesting that planetary magnetic fields are so importance for life (and oxygen levels) that brief reversals in the history of Earth have led to mass extinctions.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Ukrainian report that the country’s military has captured a Russian tank.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that vehemently anti-gay Minnesota archbishop John Nienstadt is being investigated for allegedly having sexual relationships with men.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that, despite economic collapse, there are some jobs (like low-paying fieldwork) that Portuguese just won’t do.
  • The New APPS Blog’s Gordon Hull notes the gender inequity involved in the recent Hobby Lobby ruling in the United States.
  • pollotenchegg maps the slow decline of Ukraine’s Jewish population in the post-1945 era.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle writes eloquently about his connections to and love of Lake Erie.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs links to a cartographic examination of the time spent by French television news examining different areas of the world.
  • Towleroad notes a faux apology made by the Israeli education minister after attacking gay families.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler notes the future of contraception coverage under Obamacare.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on fears that Crimean Tatar organizations will soon suffer a Russian crackdown, and suggests that the West should reconsider its policies on Belarus to encourage that country to diversify beyond Russia.

[LINK] “Ancient Europe Colonized by Island Hoppers?”

Andrew Curry’s National Geographic News article takes a look at how movements of early agricultural populations westwards across the Mediterranean are reflected in contemporary genetics.

By leapfrogging from island to island across the northern Mediterranean, Neolithic people were able to quickly spread their farming lifestyle across southern Europe some 9,000 years ago, a new genetic study suggests.

Archaeological investigations have shown that individuals in the Near East first developed farming and herding around 12,000 years ago. Agriculture then quickly replaced the more mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle—in what’s called the “Neolithic transition”—as farmers migrated into Europe and other parts of the world.

“The establishment of agriculture provided the possibility for population growth, and that growth led people to expand to new horizons,” said University of Washington geneticist George Stamatoyannopoulos.

In a new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stamatoyannopoulos and his colleagues analyzed the DNA of individuals from modern Mediterranean populations to reconstruct the migration patterns of their ancient ancestors.

The genetic data showed that the people from the Near East migrated into Anatolia-modern—day Turkey—and then rapidly west through the islands of Greece and Sicily, before making their way north into the center of the continent.

“The gene flow was from the Near East to Anatolia, and from Anatolia to the islands,” Stamatoyannopoulos said. “How well the genes mirror geography is really striking.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 10, 2014 at 7:47 pm

[LINK] “The quest to fix Quebec’s wines”

Martin Patriquen of MacLean’s had an interesting article describing the nascent Québec wine industry and its troubles.

In many ways, Quebec in 2013 is where Ontario was in the mid-’80s; strewn with disparate, stubborn winemakers eager to overcome their backwater reputation. Unlike Ontario, where winemakers benefited from promotion by the Grape Growers of Ontario wine association, Quebec has two winemaking associations that are completely at odds on how to move forward.

Grapes have grown in Quebec for centuries. When Jacques Cartier first saw Ile-d’Orléans in 1535, the mouth-shaped island in the St. Lawrence was overrun with native vitis riparia grapes. He called it Ile de Bacchus, even though the small blue grape was unsuited for wine. The province’s first winery, Côtes d’Ardoise (“slate hills”), opened in 1981 in Dunham, which sits in the valley between Sutton and Bromont mountains in the Eastern Townships. It did so illegally; the Quebec government had yet to devise a licence for residents to make alcohol, let alone sell it.

Then Charles-Henri de Coussergues, an agricultural exchange student from the Languedoc region of France, arrived in 1982. Languedoc was in the midst of a crisis because demand for its cheap table wine had collapsed; essentially, the French were becoming wine snobs. De Coussergues bought a 20-hectare dairy farm just down the road from Côtes d’Ardoise and began making and selling wine from the premises.

[. . .]

The trouble is Quebec’s 107 or so wineries can’t agree on how exactly to meet that challenge. It is a fundamentally divided industry, with the more established Association des Vignerons du Québec (AVQ) challenged by the upstart Vignerons Indépendants du Québec (VIQ), founded in 2006. Winemakers are a stubborn bunch, and there are many sticking points. But one of the main ones is certification and what varietals should and shouldn’t be part of it.

Standards are inconsistent. In 2007, an attempt to create a Canada-wide Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) stalled; Ontario and British Columbia wanted nothing to do with hybrid grapes­­—thought to be of lower quality­—and objected to the method many wineries used to harvest ice wine grapes. The AVQ has its own certification process, though only 22 wineries take part.

Then there’s the climate. Quebec is cold. Ontario and British Columbia less so. The crux of the argument is what, exactly, Quebec wine should be. People like Carone say Quebec will only be recognized as a true winemaking region when its wineries adopt the vitis vinifera grapes grown in Europe. The first commercial crop in Canada was planted in Ontario’s Niagara Region in 1978.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Canada, Economics

Tagged with , , , ,

[URBAN NOTE] “Mississauga’s last family farm hangs on”

Wendy GillisToronto Star article describing the last family farm operating in the city of Mississauga caught my attention. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the economics are dire, the younger Hustler men having to work off the farm as well to keep to farm going as a viable business. Will it be much longer until it’s sold off at a hefty price for real estate development?

As if he knew the house would one day sit on the edge of one of North America’s busiest highways, British settler Jacob Scott laid the red brick walls of his farm house 14 inches thick, then slapped on a layer of horse-hair plaster for good measure. For that, the Hustler family is forever grateful — their home, built by Scott in 1828, is uncannily quiet.

Outside on the farm, it’s a bizarre cacophony of urban and rural noise. Massive Hereford cattle bellow. Three dozen sheep swap nasally baas. Titan and Bailey, the Hustler farm dogs, bark replies.

The animal chorus competes against the roar of cars speeding down the 401 and the on-ramp to the 407, which together form the Hustler farm’s northern boundary. To the immediate east, the cars swerve in and out of the bustling big-box shopping centre, a maze of chain stores and restaurants.

“The cows used to summer pasture across the road,” says 34-year-old Jason, a fifth-generation Hustler, trudging through soggy grounds on a recent spring day.

“Basically, where the Rona is, the Buffalo Wild Wings, the Michael’s.”

Once just another farm in a predominantly agrarian region, the Hustlers today operate the last working farm in Mississauga, a 52-acre lot tucked in the very northwest corner of a city better known for cosmopolitan condos and sprawling subdivisions.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 2, 2014 at 7:54 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • io9 shares photos of Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.
  • Anders Sandberg links to a recent discussion of a paper he co-authored on the ethics of augmentation.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper analyzing the density of different Kepler-discovered exoplanets that determines that worlds more than 2.5 times the diameter of Earth are likely to be mini-Neptunes.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence for global cooling following the Chixculub impact that ended the Cretaceous, tracks the spread of farming from the Neolithic Fertile Crescent, and observes Russia’s withdrawal of a particular rocket engine from use by the United States.
  • Discover‘s Imageo blog shares maps of what the world will look like when the West Antarctic sheet melts.
  • inuit panda scarlet carwash notes the happy reunion of a cat separated from his owners three years ago by the Japanese earthquake with said.
  • Language Log links to a paper suggesting that the location of letters on a standard QWERTY keyboard influences the way we see the words these letters make up.
  • Registan warns that it looks as if Kazakhstan won’t be able to balance Russia off with China and the United States now.
  • Torontoist shares pictures of the Game of Thrones expedition in town.
  • Towleroad notes that disgraced NBA team owner Donald Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper went terribly for him.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy links to a Michael Totten essay making the point that Cuba is actually a very repressive society.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that some Karelians want greater autonomy for their Russian republic.

[LINK] “Apples of Eden: Saving the Wild Ancestor of Modern Apples”

Josie GlausiuszNational Geographic article exploring how wild apple trees in Central Asia might provide useful traits to the modern apple crop makes for engrossing reading. Going back to nature, and accessing traits that might have been neglected in the globalized apple crops of the 21st century, can work.

An epiphany came to Adrian Newton in the form of an afternoon tea. In 2009, the British forest conservation ecologist was surveying threatened fruit trees in the forests of the western Tien Shan mountains, in the Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan, when local residents invited him into their tapestry-bedecked home in the heart of the woods to share a ceremonial meal.

“They sit you down and make you this lovely cup of tea, and then you’re served a whole range of different jams and preserves, and all of these are local. They’re all made from the forest and [are] absolutely delicious,” says Newton, a professor at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom. “That’s when it really hit home to me what a fantastic cultural value these forests are. You do feel in a small way that you are in a land of plenty.”

The ancient woodlands of Kyrgyzstan—and of the four neighboring former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—are home to more than 300 wild fruit and nut trees. They include walnut trees, eight to ten species of cherry, up to ten species of almond, four or five plum tree species, and four wild species of apple, according to a 2009 report co-authored by Newton, The Red List of Trees of Central Asia.

According to that same report, 44 species of trees and shrubs in the region are “critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.” They’ve been menaced for decades by overgrazing, pests, diseases, timber—felling for fuel, and most recently, climate change.

One of these threatened species, Malus sieversii—a wild apple that Newton describes as “small but highly colored with a very nice sweet flavor”—is one of the key ancestors of all cultivated apples grown and eaten around the world. So rich and unique is this species, Newton says, that on one wild apple tree, “you can see more variation in apple form than you see in the entire cultivated apple crop in Britain. You can get variation in fruit size, shape, color, flavor, even within the tree, and certainly from tree to tree.”

Several thousand years of selective breeding have mined that diversity to give us the varieties we know today, from the Golden Delicious to Cox’s Orange Pippin to the improbably named Winter Banana. Just 10 of the 3,000 known varieties account for more than 70 percent of the world’s production.

But in the process many traits that might still be valuable—genes for disease resistance, say, or heat tolerance—were left behind. For breeders of apples and other fruits today, tapping the riches of the original Garden has become a practical strategy—and saving it from destruction, Newton says, an urgent necessity.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 9, 2014 at 3:29 am

[NEWS] Some Friday links

  • Al Ahram notes that, as Ukraine is starting to turn towards the European Union, Russia is doubling down on its Eurasian Union project.
  • Al Jazeera notes that the Russian Orthodox Church is more skeptical of the costs of Crimea’s annexation than the Russian state, for fear of losing followers in Ukraine.
  • The Atlantic Cities commemorated the brief return of Major League Baseball to Montréal a decade after the Expos’ death with a Toronto Blue Jays away game, shares pictures of London’s first cat cafe, and maps imbalances in supply and demand in New York City’s popular but troubled bike share program.
  • Bloomberg notes how IKEA’s dreams for expansion in Ukraine were undermined by corruption.
  • Bloomberg BusinessWeek chronicles falling Japanese stock prices, warns that Russia is becoming a junior partner of China, and notes the threats facing Ukrainian agriculture.
  • CNET examines the story behind the iconic Windows XP photo “Bliss”.
  • Global Voices Online hints, by way of a recent quitting, that Ukrainians might be disenchanted with Russian-owned Livejournal.
  • The Guardian notes that the Australian city of Darwin is a military garrison par excellence, and observes that Bulgaria has derived some benefit from the Greek economic collapse as businesses have migrated north.
  • MacLean’s suggests that Ukraine can be anchored ittno the West if it can experience Polish-style prosperity.
  • National Geographic News takes another look at the proposed Nicaragua Canal project.
  • Radio Free Europe notes that a Russian plan to institute fast-tract citizenship procedures for professionals has sparked fears of brain drain in Central Asia, observes the effects that currency devaluation has had on immigrants in Kazakhstan, and comments that Afghanistan’s support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea has much to do with Afghanistan’s long-standing irredentism aimed at Pakistan.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily’s Omar Ali warns that ongoing violence against Shia in Pakistan threatens to destroy the country and destabilize the whole region.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about her week-long vacation in Nicaragua.
  • blogTO shares vintage photos of Spadina Avenue.
  • Centauri Dreams’ notes that the surface of Titan’s Ligeia Mare is apparently completely still.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to different papers, one suggesting that terrestrial planets orbiting red dwarfs are less likely to enter runaway ice ages, another further examining the concept of superhabitable worlds.
  • Eastern Approaches takes a look at the continuing progress made by Poland’s modernizing agricultural sector.
  • Geocurrents examines the geopolitical complexities of Ukraine and its relationship with Russia.
  • The New APPS Blog notes research suggesting that Internet trolls actually are problematic people in real life.
  • The Transit Toronto Blog notes that a vintage streetcar will be giving free rides on Kingston Road on Saturday the 29th of this month.
  • Torontoist provides an overview of the concept of co-op housing.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that, whatever else it was, the Russian conquest of Crimea was at least almost bloodless.
  • Window on Eurasia warns of unrest among the Tatars of Tatarstan.

[PHOTO] Cavendish Farms potato warehouse, 24 St. Charles Road, Rollo Bay

Cavendish Farms potato warehouse, 24 St. Charles Road, Rollo Bay

The potato warehouse belonging to potato agribusiness Cavendish Farms, located at 24 St. Charles Road just north of Route 2, is one of a dozen Cavendish Farm locations in the Maritime provinces and Maine and one of four dozen potato dealers on Prince Edward Island.

Potatoes are huge on Prince Edward Island, as the Canadian Encyclopedia notes. The biggest potato-producing province in Canada despite its small size, Prince Edward Island agriculture depends heavily on the potato and has for quite some time, as noted in this historical essay at the website of the PEI Potato Blossom Festival.

Prince Edward Island was first introduced to potatoes in 1758 when the British took over from the French. An ideal growing place for potatoes the potato harvest was ‘a phenomenal success’. Soon, potatoes were being exported to other colonies, and in 1802, Lord Selkirk brought settlers from the Scottish highlands to the Orwell Bay area of the Island. Provided with potatoes to cultivate, the Scots survived almost exclusively on a diet of potatoes and cod for a few years, and by 1806 John Stewart was quoted as saying: ‘potatoes are raised in great abundance, and in no country better’.

Faced with land covered almost entirely by a dense forest, the settlers who arrived on Prince Edward Island had to clear land tree by tree to make room for their farms. Often it would take several years to get their fields completely clear of tree stumps. Making as much of their land as they could, they were forced to plant their crops among the stumps while they were still at work clearing out the fields. Because the potatoes took little care or attention, the land owners were free to focus on the development of their farms. In 1822 a man named Walter Johnstone described the potato planting among tree stumps and the piles of soil over the potatoes as resembling ‘mole hills’.

In 1805, statistics showed that out of 10,000 acres of farm land on PEI, 15% was devoted to potatoes. This percentage increased over time, and by 1820 over 40,000 bushels of potatoes were being sent as far away as the West Indies. By the ’40s this number had increased to 124,000. Exports kept increasing until 1845, when the Island was hit by the same blight that caused famine in Ireland. The modern potato industry in PEI eventually became world famous, beginning in the 1920s after two new varieties of potatoes were introduced: the Irish Cobbler variety and the Green Mountain variety.

In the 1920s, potato acreage in PEI almost doubled, with yields tripling. The beginning of a period of cooperation between federal and provincial governments resulted in the development of the seed potato industry and the control of potato diseases. Realizing that with the small size of the Island, scientists could familiarize themselves with all of its potato farms. This, along with the Island’s cold winters, made disease and pest control and prevention much easier. These advantages of the Island’s size and isolation have resulted in exceptionally high quality potatoes. Today, no seed potatoes are able to leave the Island without the certification of government inspectors.

The 1950s brought around the introduction of large-scale mechanization to potato farming on Prince Edward Island. The result: more potato acreage, less individual potato growers. Today, PEI’s largest number of the acres used for the cultivating potatoes are found in our area, Prince County (the western part of the Island).

The website of the Canadian Potato Museum in the western community of O’Leary has more information on the contemporary potato.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 22, 2014 at 1:58 am

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Anders Sandberg of Andart links to a paper suggesting that mind emulations–uploaded human minds–are likely to arrive not too late after 2050.
  • Cody Delistraty wonders why writers are so often depressed and in bad relationship.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that analyses of the atmospheres of five hot Jupiters.
  • The Dragon’s Tale observes evidence that First Nations in British Columbia practiced mariculture.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog observes that Euroskepticism and hostility towards the Euro is growing in Italy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes note of Paul Ryan’s tone-deaf statement about inner-city men.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that, at least in the United States, large amounts of property are held by governments which don’t make use of them.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer wades into the question of just how many constitutions Argentina actually has had.
  • Towleroad links to Stephen Colbert’s interview with former Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl.
  • The Way the Future Blogs shares an old Frederik Pohl article from 1988 describing his experiences on a book tour.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that apparently more Russians don’t believe Ukraine is a nation and think Russia has legitimate claims on Ukrainian territory, and shares an article written by one man who thinks this threatens Russia’s future.
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