Agriculture

OK, so this story is about weeds and weedkillers, neither of which is ever the hero of a story, but stay with me for a second: It's also about plants with superpowers.

Unless you grow cotton, corn or soybeans for a living, it's hard to appreciate just how amazing and wonderful it seemed, 15 years ago, when Roundup-tolerant crops hit the market. I've seen crusty farmers turn giddy just talking about it.

Researchers have nailed down something scientists, government officials and agribusiness proponents have argued about for years: whether antibiotics in livestock feed give rise to antibiotic-resistant germs that can threaten humans.

This is one of those stories that reminds us that everything really is connected to everything else.

Here's the web of connections: a threat to California's booming almond business; hard times for honeybees in North Dakota; and high corn prices.

Confused?

OK, let's start with the almonds. They come from an old-world tree that migrated to California and prospered in the hands of farmers like James McFarlane, who lives right outside the city of Clovis.

It's stevia time!

USDA

The USDA recently released a new growing zone map for the entire country. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the guide gardeners use to determine what plants and flowers will most likely thrive in their location. This is the first significant update in more than 20 years. The new online interactive map takes advantage of much more detailed data analysis, and it’s making news because it shows that warmer winters are sustaining plants that previously would have died off in colder climates.

Photo by Lisbokt, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We’ve heard the stories of farm family underdogs pitched against profit-hungry developers or deep- pocketed corporations. This story of a land dispute in Canterbury New Hampshire defies the good guy versus bad guy model. The players in this conflict are two well-liked farm families. One has been farming in town for hundreds of years, and currently runs a dairy farm. The other family is not native, farms organically, and has corporate backing.

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