In the National News
CHANGES TO THE USDA NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM
Miles McEvoy, the new Deputy Administrator for the National Organic Program, recently announced improvements and changes to the Program. Recent findings from the first-ever USDA survey of organic producers found that regulations was the number one barrier they faced. McEvoy aims to change that reality by clarifying requirements and increasing enforcement measures for violations. Pesticide residue sampling, for example, has never been implemented, and along with surprise inspections, will help to enforce policy. Staff increases and a boost in funding will allow the program to enact measures that will add credibility to the organic program and streamline organic agriculture regulations.
SPRAY VOLUME CALCULATOR FOR iPHONE
DuPont Crop Protection has created a free spray volume calculator app for iPhone called “TankMix.” The app helps users determine amount of product and water needed for a tank or area. The app does not contain product specific information.
NEW TERMITE TRACKING METHOD EFFECTIVE AND AFFORDABLE
Agricultural Research Service entomologists in Arizona have developed a protein marker to track termites over long distances. The subterranean termite has caused an estimated $1.5 billion in losses in the southwestern U.S. each year. The marker is created from egg, milk, or soy, and is sprayed over vast areas where termites live. Termites gathered from infested areas can be tested for the protein and thus, their spread can be monitored. This inexpensive marker has been successfully tested for a wide variety of pest and beneficial insects. Ideally, this method will lead to improved and affordable control of termites, lygus bug, and other pests.
WHITEFLIES REDUCE PLANT "DISTRESS SIGNALS"
German entomologists have discovered that bean plants attacked by both spider mites and whiteflies are not attractive to beneficial predatory mites. Typically, spider mite feeding on beans causes the plant to produce odors that attract predatory mites. Whitefly feeding interferes with the plant enzymes that produce the odors, resulting in lower predatory mite populations. Researchers also found that spider mites produce more offspring on a plant under whitefly attack. Research in this area will help determine how pests interact and affect plants’ “cries for help” (originally discovered by this same group in 1988).
REVIEW OF INSECT RESISTANCE TO Bt ENHANCED CROPS
Researchers reviewed results of more than 40 studies on five continents from around the world to determine if insect populations are developing resistance to Bt transgenic crops. Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt, produces an insecticidal toxin and the gene has been used in certain crops for over a decade. The review concluded that although isolated cases of resistance have appeared, most pest populations are still susceptible to Bt crops. The authors recommend that producers using Bt crops should grow an adjacent area of non-Bt crops to slow evolution of resistance.
RESULTS OF ORGANIC FARMING SURVEY RELEASED
USDA conducted its first ever survey of organic producers in 2008. Over 14,500 farms were tallied on 4.1 million acres of land. All 50 states were represented, with 20% of farms and 36% of national sales in California. Organic sales in the U.S. totalled over $3.16 billion in 2008. Average sales and production expenses of organic farms were found to be higher than conventional farms. Most products were sold locally or within 100 miles of the operation.
The survey showed that challenges organic producers face are regulatory (the number one challenge), production, management, and marketing issues. More than 78 percent of respondents indicated that they plan to maintain or increase their organic production over the next five years. Results can be found here.
Useful Publications and Web Sites
• "Guide to Rocky Mountain Vegetable Gardening" has recently been published by Montana State University horticulturists Bob Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough by Cool Springs Press.
• "A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples" and "Production Guide for Organic Grapes," are two new online guides to help organic growers choose varieties and growing sites, while providing recommendations for how to manage diseases, insects, and weeds organically. Access the apple guide here, and the grape guide here. Organic guides for beans, carrots, cole crops, cucumbers and squash, peas, and spinach also are available here.
• Organic Farming Research Foundation is now offering a free newsletter called "Organic Link" that highlights research in organic agriculture and policy actions. Subscribe here.
• "Protecting Pollinators on Farms and Urban Landscapes," produced by Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship, helps growers and pesticide applicators protect native pollinators. Access it here.