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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘agriculture

[ISL] “Reward increased to $500,000 in potato tampering investigation in P.E.I.”

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The Canadian Press reports on the latest in a criminal investigation on Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island’s potato industry has increased the reward it is offering to $500,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for inserting metal objects into potatoes.

The new reward is available until Aug. 15, and tips received from Aug. 16 to Oct. 31 will be eligible for the previous reward amount of $100,000.

The federal government recently announced it will spend $1.5 million to buy metal detection equipment to help find foreign objects in potatoes from the province.

The funding will be used to purchase and install detection equipment, while an extra $500,000 from the province is being used for on-site security assessments and training.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • The Big Picture has photos from the scene of the disastrous Chinese cruise liner sinking on the Yangtze.
  • blogTO observes that a schooner found buried at the foot of Bathust Street will be moved to Fort York.
  • D-Brief notes that the antidepressant Zoloft can be used to fight Ebola.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes how pre-agricultural Europeans were more robust than their agriculturalist successors.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas discusses the problems of a mind that reduces everything to routine algorithms.
  • Joe. My. God. notes how a Costa Rican judge recognized a common-law same-sex marriage in that country.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders if Greece might be well-advised to default.
  • pollotenchegg charts declining economic output.
  • Torontoist examines the growing controversies over garding.
  • Peter Watts wonders what consciousness is actually good for.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the extent to which Russian sanctions against the European Union try to distinguish between pro- and anti-Russian states, and argues that Russia’s traumatic long 20th century still continues.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily notes, after the Economist, that badly-educated men have not adapted well to global trade, high technology, and feminism.
  • blogTO notes that the High Park peacock roaming around Roncesvalles may have returned to its home in the zoo.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly provides tips for people moving to freelance writing from staff employment.
  • The Cranky Sociologists shares a parody of the new movie Aloha, set in Hawaii yet dominated by whites.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the unique astronomical biosignature of photosynthesis.
  • The Dragon’s Tales compares the clays of Earth and Mars.
  • jsburbidge examines the concept of the literary canon.
  • Language Log considers the complexities of Chinese character usage in an unacknowledged multilingual China/Taiwan space.
  • Marginal Revolution considers China’s heavy investments in the new Silk Road project.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell looks to a historian who suggests the world needs a new origins story based on science.
  • Towleroad notes how a gay couple dissolved the adoptive relationship that once united them to become married.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the illicit sexuality involved among the Republicans opposed to Clinton in the 1990s.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Crimea is set to be Russified and notes the importance of Russian rural agriculture in the time of sanctions.

[BLOG] Some pop culture links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talked about her social networks, and about the need to have faith in one’s abilities and to be strong.
  • C.J. Cherryh describes her visit to Grand Coulee Dam.
  • Crooked Timber notes the ways in which Ian Macleod is actually a romantic writer.
  • The Crux looks at the controversy over the siting of a new telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.
  • Cody Delistraty wonders if social rejection is needed for creative people.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at how difficult it is for Americans with criminal records to get jobs.
  • Mathew Ingram notes how young Saudis can find freedom on their phones for apps.
  • Language Hat suggests that a computer’s word analysis has identified a lost Shakespeare play.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw linked to his local history columns.
  • Otto Pohl notes the culinary links between Ghana and Brazil.
  • Peter Rukavina remembers the fallen elms of Charlottetown and reports on innovative uses of Raspberry Pi computers.
  • The Search reports on format migration at Harvard’s libraries.
  • Mark Simpson notes homoeroticism on British television.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle describes his discovery of wild leeks.
  • Towleroad notes an Austrian magazine’s printing of a limited edition with ink including HIV-infected blood, notes a gay Mormon’s defense of his life to his church, and observes an Argentine judge who thought it acceptable to give a man who raped a possibly gay child a lighter sentence because of the child’s presumed orientation.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the repeal of blasphemy laws in Norway and examines the questionable concept of Straight Pride.

[LINK] “Pineapple Industry Leaves Costa Rican Communities High and Dry”

The Inter Press Service’s Diego Arguedas Ortiz describes how commercial pineapple plantations have led to serious contamination of the water table in parts of Costa Rica.

Since Aug. 22, 2007, these [four] rural communities have only had access to water that is trucked in. They can’t use the water from the El Cairo aquifer because it was contaminated with the pesticide bromacil, used on pineapple plantations in Siquirres, a rural municipality of 60,000 people in the Caribbean coastal province of Limón.

“Chemicals continue to show up in the water,” Briceño said. “During dry periods the degree of contamination goes down. But when it rains again the chemicals are reactivated.”

The failure of the public institutions to guarantee a clean water supply to the residents of these four communities reflects the complications faced by Costa Rica’s state apparatus to enforce citizen rights in areas where transnational companies have been operating for decades.

The technical evidence points to pineapple plantations near the El Cairo aquifer as responsible for the pollution, especially the La Babilonia plantation owned by the Corporación de Desarrollo Agrícola del Monte SA, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Fresh Del Monte.

But it is public institutions that have had to cover the cost of access to clean water by the local communities.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 28, 2015 at 10:39 pm

[LINK] On Rhodiola rosea agriculture in Alaska

In her Slate article “The Soviet Military Secret That Could Become Alaska’s Most Valuable Crop”, Sarah Laskow took a look at an apparent upsurge in interest in Alaska in cultivating Rhodiola rosea as a cash crop suited for the harsh climate.

Al Poindexter’s front yard in the south-central plain of Alaska has been taken over by a spread of more than 2,000 cell trays, each growing dozens of plants that look “like something you’d expect from Mars,” he says. The little ones look like little nubs; the larger ones are no more than an inch tall and feature a spiral of fleshy leaves.

“I tried killing it—you can’t kill it. That’s my kind of plant,” says Poindexter. “It can go weeks without water. Moose don’t eat it, rabbits don’t eat it, weather doesn’t seem to bother it. It’s a real easy plant to grow.”

This is Rhodiola rosea—golden root, rose root—a succulent that was used for centuries as folk medicine and once considered something of a Soviet military secret. Decades ago, the Soviets realized that Rhodiola could boost energy and help manage stress. These days, a small group of Alaskan farmers are hoping that it could enter the pantheon of plants (coffee, chocolate, coca) whose powers people take seriously—and, along the way, become Alaska’s most valuable crop.

In Alaska, farmers spend a lot of time trying to coax plants that would prefer to be growing elsewhere into surviving in Alaska’s tough conditions. Rhodiola, though, comes from Siberia’s Altai Mountains, and it seems right at home in the frigid ground.

“It’s actually an environment that the plant wants to grow in, as opposed to everything else we grow in Alaska,” says Stephen Brown, a professor and district agriculture agent at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “It’ll grow in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. It wants our long days. It’s already coming up out of the ground—and the ground’s still frozen.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 25, 2015 at 9:42 pm

[LINK] “How Syrians Saved an Ancient Seedbank From Civil War”

Lizzie Wade of Wired shared this encouraging story from Syria.

When civil war erupted in Syria, Ahmed Amri immediately thought about seeds.

Specifically, 141,000 packets of them sitting in cold storage 19 miles south of Aleppo. They included ancient varieties of wheat and durum dating back nearly to the dawn of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, and one of the world’s largest collections of lentil, barley, and faba bean varieties—crops that feed millions of people worldwide every day. If these seeds were decimated, humanity could lose precious genetic resources developed over hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of years. And suddenly, with the outbreak of violence, their destruction seemed imminent.

[Ahmed] Amri is the director of genetic resources at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), one of 11 international genebanks charged with conserving the world’s most vital crops and their wild relatives. Each center has a speciality—you’ll find the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, for example, while the International Potato Center is based in Peru—and this one focuses on preserving and protecting crops from arid regions, mostly in developing countries. The Center’s crown jewel is its genebank, where its samples are identified and stored for future use, either by the center’s scientific staff or plant breeders around the world.

[. . .]

At the beginning of Syria’s civil war, the fighting was concentrated in the south, far from the Center’s headquarters in the north. But Amri knew it wouldn’t take guns or bombs to destroy the genebank. All it would take was a power outrage that knocked out the facility’s air conditioning. The seeds, preserved in cold rooms for decades, would warm quickly and become unusable. The bank had backup generators, but how long would they last? What if it became impossible to buy fuel? What if the generators were stolen, or commandeered by soldiers?

Luckily, the Center had been preparing for its own destruction since day one. It already had sent emergency backups of about 87 percent of its collection to genebanks in other countries. Even under the best political conditions, “you worry about fire, you worry about earthquakes,” the Center’s director general Mahmoud Solh says in this video interview. Creating emergency backups is standard practice for international genebanks, from Mexico to Nigeria.

But that left 13 percent of the Syrian collection—more than 20,000 samples—that hadn’t been backed up. As soon as the fighting started in the spring of 2011, the genebank’s staff switched gears from collecting and distributing seed samples to devising a rescue plan. People there became very familiar with northern Syria’s back roads as they drove the seeds out of the country.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2015 at 10:57 pm


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