| Farming

New pesticides may harm bees as much as existing ones – study

15 hours 43 minutes ago

Ability of bumblebees to reproduce, and rate at which colonies grow, compromised by new sulfoximine-based insecticides

A new class of pesticides positioned to replace neonicotinoids may be just as harmful to crop-pollinating bees, researchers have warned.

In experiments, the ability of bumblebees to reproduce, and the rate at which their colonies grow, were both compromised by the new sulfoximine-based insecticides, they reported in the journal Nature.

Related: Bumblebees thrive in towns more than countryside

Related: Rogue beekeepers and dirty tricks blamed for rise in Belgian hive heists

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Agence France-Presse

Farming ideas to make a fortune: inside Brazil's food security festival

2 days 3 hours ago

Agriculture startups from around the world gathered at a vibrant conference sponsored by pesticide manufacturer

As confetti showers a theatre inside Rio de Janeiro’s normally sedate Museum of Tomorrow, electronic pop music pounds and dozens of young people crowd the stage to dance enthusiastically, hugging each other and waving flags as their audience films the festivities on their phones.

But this is not a religious event, or a disco. It’s an unusual conference that has attracted several hundred young people from across the world to pitch and discuss ideas on how to feed the world’s booming population with agriculture startups – and make their fortunes doing so.

[It's] very bleak for young people around the world so this is a moment they can get motivated and inspired

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Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Government ministers should ban Roundup – not sing its praises | Natalie Bennett

2 days 5 hours ago

Thérèse Coffey’s ill-judged tweet shows we have still work to do to rid the planet of the glyphosate

On a summer Sunday afternoon, Thérèse Coffey, parliamentary-under secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was, it would appear from her Twitter feed, about to do some gardening. Unremarkable, you might think. Parliament is in recess, and parliamentarians are entitled to their leisure like anyone else.

But this was political gardening, for before doing so she put out a quite remarkable message: “Getting ready to deploy the amazing Roundup!” it said, with a picture of the bright green bottle of a weedkiller by Monsanto – a multinational company with a toxic reputation (as even Bayer, which has recently taken it over, acknowledges). The tweet came just hours after a US jury gave a terminally ill retired groundskeeper $289m in damages for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which it attributed to glyphosate – the active chemical in Roundup.

Getting ready to deploy the amazing Roundup!

Related: The British countryside is being killed by herbicides and insecticides – can anything save it?

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Natalie Bennett

Australian farmers body says Roundup cancer ruling is 'in blatant ignorance' of science

2 days 14 hours ago

National Farmers’ Federation says US court ruling that weedkiller causes cancer sets a ‘reckless precedent’

Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation has rejected the finding of a US court that the weedkiller Roundup causes cancer, saying it set a “reckless precedent” that could harm agriculture.

On Monday, Greenpeace urged the Australian government to start restricting the sale of Roundup – which is widely available in supermarkets and hardware stores – after a Californian court found it caused the cancer of a terminally ill man.

Related: Homebase to review sale of Monsanto weedkiller after US cancer verdict

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Naaman Zhou

Country diary 1968: bracken spreads like a flood across the fells

3 days 11 hours ago

19 August 1968 Bracken is a pest and over the last 20 years has taken over much good grazing land

There is rain again on the fells after some weeks of perfect, settled weather and very welcome it is, too. Drought does not seem right in the Lake District. Some of the crags are dangerous, rocks fall without warning and it is only the bracken which has thriven; its deep green is startling against the bleached grass of the fell slopes. Bracken is a pest here, it has spread like a flood in this century and even in the last score of years it has taken over much good grazing land. It is cut on some fell farms for bedding but I am told that it should be well rained on before storing to remove its pollen, which is poisonous to cattle. This is almost the last remaining use of bracken and some farms still have massive wooden sledges – iron runnered – for bringing down the bracken.

Related: Bracken spray on moors gets temporary reprieve

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Enid J. Wilson

Meet me in the pig palace! The architects who turned their HQ into a farm

4 days 1 hour ago

Feilden Fowles is scooping up all the best work. Is this because their HQ is also a farm?

Lambs are bleating, pigs are snuffling and a chicken is wandering about between planters spilling over with tomatoes and courgettes. All this is just a short walk from the teetering towers of Southbank Place, where £10m apartments are rising in stacks behind the London Eye. But there’s a very different type of regeneration going on in this city farm, which sits on a sliver of land in Lambeth, between the tangled tracks of Waterloo station and the slabs of St Thomas’ hospital. Today the animals are going about their business while a group of young architects are toiling away in a low-slung studio shed at the other end of the site from a great wooden barn.

“The name Lambeth originally means ‘landing place for lambs’,” says architect Fergus Feilden. “So it’s sort of fitting that we’ve brought them back here.”

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Oliver Wainwright

Homebase to review sale of Monsanto weedkiller after US cancer verdict

4 days 23 hours ago

Roundup was ruled by a Californian jury to have caused Dewayne Johnson’s lymphoma

One of the UK’s largest DIY retailers is reviewing the sale of Roundup weedkiller products amid mounting concerns about their use, after a US jury found that the herbicide had caused a terminally ill man’s cancer.

The manufacturer of the weedkiller, Monsanto, has insisted that British consumers are safe to continue using Roundup products, which are widely sold at DIY stores and used by British farmers. But a spokesperson for Homebase said it would be reviewing its product range after the ruling in California.

Related: EPA ordered to ban pesticide linked to learning disabilities

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Patrick Greenfield

Brexit risks: food insecurity and a weak pound | Letters

6 days ago
Bishop of St Albans Alan Smith on avoiding making every meal a moral quandary; David Redshaw on the implications of sterling’s slide; Marion Hine on the referendum result

The NFU is right to highlight the danger Brexit poses for British food (Food shortage warning, 8 August). It is concerning in this uncertain geopolitical landscape that there has been a long-term decline in our food security.

Brexit brings additional risks and we could be at the mercy of other nations in our government’s bid to strike trade deals. Despite government promises to maintain our high-quality food and welfare standards, the reality is that any new trade deals will demand access to our markets. There is a danger that we will find ourselves importing food which has been produced in poor conditions, by underpaid and overworked farmers who have limited concern for animal welfare. We must have assurances that leaving the EU will not mean exporting morality overseas. As a nation we cannot hold our farmers to high standards here in Britain while eating imported food produced at much lower standards.

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The chips are down in Belgium as heatwave hits supply of frites

6 days 6 hours ago

Reduced yields are putting national dish and ‘symbol of Belgium’ under threat

Food vendors in Belgium are praying for rain as the hot weather threatens the supply of the country’s national dish, frites.

The Europe-wide heatwave has shrunk Belgium’s early crop of potatoes by about one-third compared with an average year. Without significant rainfall over the next few weeks, the key September and October harvests could be smaller still.

Related: Brussels' battered chip shacks to get revamp

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Daniel Boffey in Brussels

Heatwave forces cancellation of Highland games

1 week ago

Farmer where Invercharron games are held has not been able to harvest slow-growing hay

Scotland is more familiar with weather extremes of the icy or wet variety, but this summer’s exceptionally dry conditions have resulted in a traditional Highland games being cancelled.

The Invercharron Highland games, which were scheduled to be held on 15 September near Bonar Bridge in Sutherland, have been cancelled because the farmer who owns the field where they are held has not been able to harvest his crops, which are unusually slow-growing owing to a lack of rain.

Related: IAAF can learn from the Highland games | Letters

Related: Why is Europe going through a heatwave?

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Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

Reflecting sun's rays would cause crops to fail, scientists warn

1 week ago

Research shows geoengineering method intended to combat climate change would have adverse effect on agriculture

Proposals to combat climate change by reflecting the sun’s rays back into space would cause widespread crop failure, cancelling out any benefits to farming from the reduction in warming, according to new research.

By examining the effects of volcanic eruptions on agriculture – which has a similar effect to proposed artificial methods of scattering solar radiation through aerosols – scientists have concluded that such methods could have unintended consequences.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

First UK-grown chia seeds to go on sale this week

1 week 1 day ago

The popularity of plant-based diets has created huge demand for the oil-rich seeds, prompting a farm in Essex to plant a crop

The first UK-grown chia seeds go on sale this week, as demand for the plant native to the Americas is fuelled by the explosion in the popularity of plant-based diets.

The company Hodmedod, pioneers of British-grown pulses, grains and seeds, has been working with farmers Peter and Andrew Fairs, of Great Tey in Essex, to bring the new British crop to market.

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Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

The story of a recovery: how hurricane Maria boosted small farms

1 week 1 day ago

Puerto Rico’s small farms – aided by outside groups such as World Central Kitchen – have seized a post-disaster opportunity to challenge the island’s import-reliant food economy

Nestled between a chemical factory and sparkling blue ocean sits a wonderland filled with rowdy goats, sturdy passionfruit plants and tiny chive blossom flowers that when bitten, erupt with garlicky flavor 50 times more potent than their size.

That this farm in Manatí, Puerto Rico, exists at all is a marvel, considering owners Efrén Robles and Angelie Martínez could not enter the property after Hurricane Maria tore through on 20 September. The couple said the hurricane destroyed 80% of the farm’s infrastructure and leveled its production capacity to zero.

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Amanda Holpuch in Manatí, Puerto Rico

Race to contain destructive march of armyworm as pest spreads to India

1 week 2 days ago

Voracious caterpillar that cost Africa billions of pounds in lost crops now threatens food security across Asia, scientists warn

A crop-chomping caterpillar that has devastated food stocks across Africa has now arrived in southern India, and scientists warn the insect could spread throughout Asia to become a major threat to global food security.

The voracious fall armyworm, which was first spotted on the African continent two years ago and has since cost billions of pounds in crop losses, is best known for gnawing on maize but eats an additional 186 plant species, including sorghum and soya beans.

Related: Armyworms: The hungry caterpillar threatening a global food crisis

Related: Invasion of maize-eating caterpillars worsens hunger crisis in Africa

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Kate Hodal

UK could run out of food a year from now with no-deal Brexit, NFU warns

1 week 2 days ago

Farmers’ union says supplies would only last until August next year if Britain had to be self-sufficient

Britain would run out of food on this date next year if it cannot continue to easily import from the EU and elsewhere after Brexit, the National Farmers’ Union has warned.

Minette Batters, the NFU president, urged the government to put food security at the top of the political agenda after the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was talked up this week.

Related: Brexit provides the perfect ingredients for a national food crisis

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Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent

'Big call': minister refuses to link drought to climate change on Q&A

1 week 2 days ago

Agriculture minister David Littleproud tells ABC audience he doesn’t ‘give a rats’ whether climate change is man-made

The agriculture minister says linking the drought affecting much of Australia to man-made climate change is a “big call” and he does not “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

David Littleproud made the comment on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday, which was filmed in Lismore in the northern rivers region of New South Wales. His comment was booed by the audience.

Related: Turnbull announces $12,000 payments for drought-stricken farmers

Why is the Australian government not giving drought stricken farmers adequate support? @afsnsw @D_LittleproudMP & @fitzhunter respond #QandA

What is your plan, after this drought to ensure farmers livelihoods are secure for the future? @fitzhunter @D_LittleproudMP & @afsnsw respond #QandA

Related: Australia's drought crisis and farmers' stories of anxiety, fear and resilience

Next week a sequel of #QandA on drought from another rural centre, Nimbin

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Calla Wahlquist

Farmers using medieval methods to combat rural crime

1 week 3 days ago

Farmers put up earth banks and dry ditches to block criminals who use 4 x 4 vehicles to get on to farm land

Farmers are resorting to medieval methods to combat rural crime which has risen to its highest level in four years, an increase being blamed on organised criminal gangs and policing cuts.

Offences against farmers and other rural businesses cost an estimated £44.5m last year, an increase of 13.4% from 2016, according to insurer NFU (National Farmers Union) Mutual.

Related: 'It's an epidemic' – farmers suffer from the theft of vital quad bikes

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Haroon Siddique

'It's an epidemic' – farmers suffer from the theft of vital quad bikes

1 week 3 days ago

Jamie Smith has had two vehicles stolen from his farm in Worcestershire in 15 months

Jamie Smith’s Worcestershire farm has been broken into three times in 15 months. On the first two occasions, he had a quad bike stolen. In the most recent burglary, two months ago, his workshop was broken into but fortunately his quad bike was not there.

The 65-year-old, who has been a farmer for 30 years, estimates that over the same 15-month period about 35 quad bikes have been stolen from farms in a 20-mile stretch from Pershore through to Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire.

Related: Farmers using medieval methods to combat rural crime

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Haroon Siddique

Science’s search for a super banana

1 week 4 days ago

A fruit bowl favourite and a staple food to millions, the banana is under threat from a formidable foe

Some suggest the banana is on the brink of extinction. Panama disease, also known as fusarium wilt, is on the march, wiping out plantations that provide a staple food for hundreds of millions of people and a livelihood for hundreds of thousands more.

Others say talk of Bananageddon is exaggerated. They point out bananas are as cheap and abundant as ever in our shops. The fungal strain that causes a new form of Panama disease has been spreading steadily for three decades, yet global production has continued to rise. Latin America – where some 80% of exported bananas are grown – has so far kept the pathogen at bay.

Related: Weird new fruits could hit aisles soon thanks to gene-editing

Related: Can a GM banana solve Uganda's hunger crisis? | Alon Mwesigwa

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Nic Fleming

Trump administration lifts ban on pesticides linked to declining bee numbers

1 week 5 days ago

Environmentalists say lifting the restriction poses a grave threat to pollinating insects

The Trump administration has rescinded an Obama-era ban on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in dozens of national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted.

Environmentalists, who had sued to bring about the two-year-old ban, said on Friday that lifting the restriction poses a grave threat to pollinating insects and other sensitive creatures relying on toxic-free habitats afforded by wildlife refuges.

Related: EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides

Related: Alarming link between fungicides and bee declines revealed

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3 hours 49 minutes ago | Farming
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