The superstition mountains of GMOs

CM-MR-1-GMO_0456by Steve Wagner
Changing Food Trends was the theme of the 137th PennAg Annual Meeting and it asked the question on the front page of the program “do consumers drive the agricultural marketplace?” Penn State’s Ross Pifer was one of the answerers. Pifer, who is with the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center’s Rural Economic Development Clinic, pointed out many of the ifs, ands or buts with regard to how various states are handling some of the thornier issues. Pifer is specifically addressing mandatory GMO labeling. Fifteen years ago, the New York Times ran an op-art illustration of what the supermarket offering of GMO foods might look like in the future. Among the items were odorless fish ($5.99/lb.), rectangular zucchini (for easier cooking on the grill), and Viagra peas for 99 cents. (Don’t ask.) But since public perceptions of GMOs still runs against them, largely mountains of superstition and misinformation, Pifer focused on a specific argument using tomatoes as an example, and also how some states are managing labeling of GMO products, and also with legal developments. [Read more…]

Air blast sprayers: useful but difficult to calibrate

CN-MR-2-AIR BLAST2by Bill and Mary Weaver

Now New Hampshire and PA Extensions have a grant-funded calibration unit that can quickly and accurately measure the output of each nozzle on the sprayer. In Pennsylvania, the cost to the grower is $50 for the first sprayer and $35 for a second one. The rest of the expenses, estimated at $200, are paid for by grant funds supplied by the PA Department of Agriculture and the State Horticulture Association of PA. The calibration unit has eight cylinders, each with a quick-connect hose that connects to the nozzles on your air blast sprayer. “The unit does the job with precision,” says Dr. Kerry Richards, Director of the Pesticide Education Program for Penn State Extension. According to Richards, the grower can see on the unit which of his nozzles are ‘off’ and not working properly. “What’s at stake is your bottom line,” [Read more…]

New restrictions on the use of antibiotics in livestock feeding

by George Looby, DVM

For almost 60 years the use of antibiotics as additives in livestock and poultry feeds has been an accepted and recommended practice. It was found that such use increased feed efficiency and was thought to reduce the incidence of low grade infections. This practice did not go unnoticed by consumer groups who became concerned about the likelihood that such drugs would find their way into the human food chain with unknown consequences. For years this very active group made their concerns known to their legislators requesting that some sort of regulations be instituted that would control such activity. In time the medical community began to observe an increase in the number of antibiotic resistant strains they were observing in their practices. This was particularly evident in hospital settings where compromised patients were failing to to respond to conventional antibiotic therapy. This trend led to very real concern among physicians and hospital staff when the MRSA (Methacillin resistant Staph aureus) problem began to surface. [Read more…]

Meeting the challenge of the transition cow

CMN-MR-DY-2-Transition cows5056by Sally Colby

Cornell University extension veterinarian Dr. Daryl Nydam is interested in the management of close-up and just-fresh cows, and the importance of minimizing negative energy balance. He’s done a lot of research in this area, and says his best research collaborators are cows.

“Transition cows have all kinds of challenges,” said Nydam. “Social pressures, getting to the feed bunk. We re-group them, put them in a new group and it’s a challenge. And while they’re growing and in early lactation, there’s a negative protein balance. We’ve just started to crack that nut.” [Read more…]

Organic farming

by Jane Primerano

The term “organic farming” was coined by J. I. Rodale back in the 1940s. The institute he founded and the farms he started continue, now under the direction of Mark Smallwood.

The institute is housed at Kutztown University, not far from the Emmaus, PA, publishing company (think Organic Gardening) operated by members of the family, but a separate entity.

Smallwood was invited to be the keynote speaker for the 25th annual Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association — New Jersey held at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. His address was a call to good stewardship and a delineation of the work being done at Rodale. [Read more…]