| Farming

Trump administration to provide $12bn in aid to farmers hurt by tariffs

3 weeks 1 day ago

The plan aims to provide temporary relief to farmers who have face retaliation during Trump’s trade dispute with China

The US government has announced a $12bn plan to assist farmers who have been hurt by Donald Trump’s trade disputes with China and other trading partners.

Related: The Iowa farmers on the frontline of Trump's trade war with China

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Associated Press in Washington

Meet the real-life farmers who play Farming Simulator

3 weeks 2 days ago

The agricultural simulation game could cultivate a new generation’s enthusiasm for a declining industry

Imagine that you spend most of your day ploughing fields, sowing seeds, spraying fertilisers or pesticides, harvesting crops, feeding livestock (if you have any), repairing fences, and maintaining a half-dozen different kinds of farm machinery. You do this every day, all year, in all weather. And then, in the evening, you sit down at a computer to do it all again – virtually.

Farming Simulator is a long-running video game series played by about a million people. The game’s creator, Giants Software, estimates that as many as a quarter of its players are connected to farming in some way, and around 8-10% are full-time, professional farmers.

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Rick Lane

Orchards face being bulldozed as Heineken ends cider-apple deals

3 weeks 2 days ago

Glut of fruit leads to drinks giant not renewing some Herefordshire contracts

Orchards in one of Britain’s biggest cider-making regions face being bulldozed because the drinks giant Heineken is pulling the plug on apple-growing contracts.

The Dutch brewer – which has owned Herefordshire-based Bulmers since 2008 – uses around a third of all the cider-apples grown in the UK. About 180 orchard owners, mostly based in Herefordshire, supply the fruit.

Related: Quorn invests £7m into R&D on back of veganism boom

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Robin Eveleigh

Gordon Hillman obituary

3 weeks 2 days ago
Archaeobotanist who was a distinguished researcher into ancient food plants and the history of agriculture

Well before the beginnings of farming, people had developed an understanding of how to use the plant world that was detailed and sophisticated. That observation is far less surprising now than it was before the life’s work of Gordon Hillman, a distinguished researcher into ancient food plants, who has died aged 74.

The early 1970s brought Gordon as a young postgraduate to the Turkish village of Aşvan, to join David French’s team of archaeologists who were charting patterns of village life that were soon to disappear. Not just the local customs and resources, but even the village of Aşvan itself was about to be engulfed by the Keban hydroelectric dam. Gordon brought to that project his novel approach to “archaeobotany”, the science of studying past crops and their management through recovered plant remains.

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Martin Jones

Indian police 'took tea break' before attending to lynching victim

3 weeks 3 days ago

Inquiry into response to fatal attack by Hindu cow vigilantes on Muslim man Akbar Khan

Indian police have begun an inquiry into officers alleged to have taken a tea break instead of taking a critically injured lynching victim to hospital.

Akbar Khan died of his injuries after being attacked by a gang of Hindu cow vigilantes in Alwar district, Rajasthan state, on Friday.

Related: 'WhatsApp murders': India struggles to combat crimes linked to messaging service

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Agence France-Presse in Delhi

Safety controls on food imports at risk from no-deal Brexit, says report

3 weeks 3 days ago

Lorries with perishable loads could be ‘waved through’ at UK ports to avoid long delays

Ministers are considering plans to suspend food safety controls in the event of a no-deal Brexit to prevent perishable goods being delayed at the border, a report has claimed.

The academics who wrote the report said they were told by a government adviser that this option was being considered as something that might be necessary should delays emerge. But EU countries might then retaliate by blocking exports from the UK because of its “cavalier” approach to safety standards, the report added.

Related: Dairy products 'may become luxuries' after UK leaves EU

Related: Food safety may be put at risk by Brexit, council body warns

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Andrew Sparrow Political correspondent

Italy’s farmers turn to cow dung to save beloved olive trees

3 weeks 4 days ago

As disease threatens the olive oil industry in Puglia, scientists hope to revive a traditional remedy

Ciccio Manelli, 81, who owns hundreds of ancient olive trees in the southern Italian province of Brindisi, burst into tears when contemplating the prospect of his precious trees being uprooted.

“My life is being destroyed,” he said. “An infected olive tree was found on another farmer’s land and now they want to come and uproot mine, even if they’re not sick. I grew up among these fields. These trees are my family.”

The only thing to do when a bacterium has spread is to find a way to live with it and strengthen trees

Related: Row erupts between Italy's Parma ham makers and activists over pig welfare

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Lorenzo Tondo

Labour pledges to reinstate Agricultural Wages Board

3 weeks 4 days ago

Jeremy Corbyn to announce policy that aims to raise rural workers’ living standards in areas of high inequality

Labour has pledged to improve the pay and conditions of rural workers in England by reinstating the Agricultural Wages Board, which was abolished five years ago.

Jeremy Corbyn will announce the policy on Sunday at the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Dorset, which commemorates the history of trade unionism and agricultural workers’ struggle for fair pay.

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Lin Jenkins

Country diary: birds cherrypick their share of fruit

3 weeks 5 days ago

St Dominic, Tamar Valley: This year’s exceptional cherry harvest has seen our feathered friends gorge on maturing fruit

Abundant fruit reflects the sun as we pick cherries in the cool of evening. The spreading trees in James and Mary’s orchard of traditional varieties provide oases of shade among dried-up grasses and help protect the shallow roots from drought; despite the hot weather, rustling leaves remain fresh and bright green.

A few weeks ago, pigeons and jackdaws flocked here to gorge on maturing fruit, breaking off new shoots and littering the ground with wizened stones. Since these birds left for alternative venues and feasts of ripening grain, the remaining fruit has become plump and juicy, tasting sweet and slightly tart, as delicious as that of ancestor trees. These were common in the valley’s widespread orchards during the 18th and 19th centuries, with only a few surviving until the 1980s.

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Virginia Spiers

Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten farmers as drought grips Europe

3 weeks 6 days ago

Abnormally hot temperatures continue to wreak devastation across northern and central parts of the continent

Farmers across northern and central Europe are facing crop failure and bankruptcy as one of the most intense regional droughts in recent memory strengthens its grip.

States of emergency have been declared in Latvia and Lithuania, while the sun continues to bake Swedish fields that have received only 12% of their normal rainfall.

Related: Wildfires rage in Arctic Circle as Sweden calls for help

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Arthur Neslen

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

3 weeks 6 days ago

Supermarkets stocked with peach-flavoured strawberries and seedless tomatoes on horizon, scientists say

Smooth or hairy, pungent or tasteless, deep-hued or bright: new versions of old fruits could be hitting the produce aisles as plant experts embrace cutting-edge technology, scientists say.

While researchers have previously produced plants with specific traits through traditional breeding techniques, experts say new technologies such as the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 could be used to bring about changes far more rapidly and efficiently.

Related: Gene editing – and what it really means to rewrite the code of life

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Nicola Davis

'It's dire': farmers battle their worst drought in 100 years – photo essay

4 weeks ago

In central-western New South Wales some families on the land are facing ruin as the rain stays away

“It’s a pretty tough old time,” says Coonabarabran farmer Ambrose Doolan. “But if you’re working with your family and everyone is looking out for each other, you count your blessings.” In the central-west region of New South Wales, farmers continue to battle a crippling drought that many locals are calling the worst since 1902. In Warrumbungle shire, where sharp peaks fall away to once fertile farmland, the small town of Coonabarabran is running out of water. The town dam has fallen to 23% of its capacity and residents are living with level-six water restrictions. There are real fears the town will run dry.

My dad didn’t want me to be a farmer and I think this is why.

Financially, we’re on our borderline now

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Brook Mitchell and Lisa Cox

Sinking land, poisoned water: the dark side of California's mega farms

4 weeks 1 day ago

The floor of the Central Valley is slumping, and there is arsenic in the tap water. Now it seems the two problems are connected

Isabel Solorio can see the water treatment plant from her garden across the street. Built to filter out the arsenic in drinking water, it hasn’t been active since 2007 – it shut down six months after opening when the California town of Lanare went into debt trying to keep up with maintenance costs.

Related: ‘Nothing to worry about. The water is fine’: how Flint poisoned its people

It’s cruel to be living in a state that’s so powerful, so rich, but we can’t count on clean water

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Alissa Greenberg in Lanare, California

Plantwatch: phosphate leading to widespread pollution

4 weeks 1 day ago

Phosphate fertilisers are causing dangerous levels of pollution in waterways that harm aquatic plants and animals

Much of the environment is awash with fertilisers, boosting thuggish weeds such as stinging nettles that swamp other wild plants. Nitrate is a big villain in this onslaught, but far less notice is taken of phosphate.

Phosphate is crucial for plant growth and development, and it is estimated that half the world’s food supplies rely on phosphate fertilisers, but this is a dwindling resource that is used very inefficiently, which is leading to widespread pollution. Unlike nitrate, phosphate binds very strongly to the soil, which makes it difficult for plant roots to get hold of. And so farmers apply even more phosphates in fertilisers and manure, although much of that phosphate then sticks to the soil again, driving the levels of phosphate in the soil even higher.

Related: Conservationists claim 'legal victory' in dispute over government protection of rivers

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Paul Simons

UK imports salad from US, Spain and Poland as heatwave hits crops

1 month ago

Wholesale prices soar by more than 30% and farmers have to renegotiate with supermarkets

Lettuce is being flown in from the US, and imported from Spain and Poland as soaring temperatures increase demand but hit crops in the UK.

The cargo carrier IAG Cargo said it had flown 30,000 heads of lettuce from Los Angeles to the UK in the past week alone.

Related: Starbucks introduces 'latte levy' of 5p on single-use paper cups

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Sarah Butler

Sunscreen for cows: UK farmers struggle to cope with heatwave

1 month ago

Traditional farming shows its benefits as stone barns and hedgerows provide cattle with relief from the heat

Sunscreen and waiter service for cows, and a renewed appreciation for traditional countryside structures such as stone barns and hedgerows, are some of the modern and ancient ways in which farmers are trying to cope with the heatwave.

Record temperatures and a lack of rainfall have drawn comparisons with 1976, the UK’s biggest drought in living memory. Forecasters say the hot weather is set to continue, probably for weeks.

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Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Country diary: wilding calls to the turtle dove

1 month 1 week ago

Knepp, West Sussex: A 3,500-acre estate has been transformed from intensively farmed land to a rich natural environment, luring back a bird we are close to losing

It’s 4.30am and the sky is already light above Knepp, the Sussex estate whose 3,500 acres have been transformed from intensively farmed agricultural land to one of the richest natural environments in the country. I’m with Penny Green, the estate’s resident ecologist, and here to see turtle doves, birds whose mellifluous purring once played a starring role in the soundscape of British summers, but whose numbers have fallen by 93% since 1994.

Related: The magical wilderness farm: raising cows among the weeds at Knepp

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Alex Preston

Jimmy Doherty: ‘It’s really important having a few key friends who can make you laugh’

1 month 1 week ago

The farmer on the joys of living for today, having a passion for something and dealing with stress

My happiest day would be simple, one where it was totally free, no meetings or a plumber coming over, it wouldn’t be filled with a lot of stuff. I’d get up early and my four kids would be asleep. I’d make a crispy bacon sandwich and sit outside in the sun and watch the birds. At lunchtime I’d walk to the pub with the children and later have a barbecue with friends. It’s really important having a few key friends who can make you laugh. It’s important to live in the moment, otherwise you can spend too long being bitter or worrying.

My dad recently died and he’d often say: ‘You’re a long time dead.’ That always stuck with me. You can spend life hesitating or you can get on and do it. I’ve always been a bit more gung ho, free and easy than my father, more, ‘Do you know what, let’s just do it.’ You can’t always be scared of the unknown, but you have to go for it and trust in your instincts.

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Interview by Emma Cook

The moon also rises – as a solution to our energy crisis

1 month 1 week ago

This week’s Upside looks at the energy potential of our oceans and a coding academy in Gaza

We’re unlikely to find fixes to our global problems if we’re battling against our planet’s natural resources rather than making use of them. This week, some tales of harnessing the power of nature as we tackle man-made crises: climate change and our insatiable need for energy.

Move aside, the sun – could the moon be the solution to our clean energy crisis? The power of our ocean tides, the only renewable source derived from the moon, might be able to provide huge amounts of clean, renewable electricity. Damian Carrington reports from France on the extraordinary inventions that could help to harness it.

All these tidal sources are important and may contribute, but the main and cheapest contribution comes from efficient use. In other words: it is not sustainable to fly to remote destinations to board a ship that is supposedly cruising to important places that we must see. It is not sustainable to board a jet plane to watch a football match. And it is not sustainable to fly in food from faraway places out of season by airplane just for the kick of strawberries in winter or lamb from down under.

Commenter, continental cyclist, writing below the line of our piece on tidal power.

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Aidan Mac Guill

Two amputations a week: the cost of working in a US meat plant

1 month 1 week ago

As unions warn of serious injuries, plans to take speed limits off the lines at pig plants are causing anxiety

Amputations, fractured fingers, second-degree burns and head trauma are just some of the serious injuries suffered by US meat plant workers every week, according to data seen by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

US meat workers are already three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker, and pork and beef workers nearly seven times more likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries. And some fear that plans to remove speed restrictions on pig processing lines – currently being debated by the government – will only make the work more difficult.

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Andrew Wasley, Christopher D Cook and Natalie Jones
3 hours 47 minutes ago | Farming
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