Environment


The Ord River dam, completed in 1971, formed Australia's largest artificial lake in the far north west. Graeme Churchard/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Willem Vervoort, University of Sydney

Some 27 irrigation and dam projects are highlighted in the green paper for agricultural competitiveness released this week by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce.

New geochemical tracers can identify any hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that could have spilled into the environment, according to field tests at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania. 


Modern food science has meant a lot fewer people starving, but there has also been an increase in products designed to keep animals and fish healthy, like antibiotics.

Antibiotics do not just disappear. Even in trace amounts, over time they can build up in the environment and that gives bacteria another path to developing resistance.

In a new study, PhD candidate Hansa Done and Dr. Rolf Halden, PhD of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, examine antibiotic use in the rapidly expanding world of global aquaculture. They measured the presence of antibiotics in shrimp, salmon, catfish, trout, tilapia and swai, originating from 11 countries. Data showed traces of 5 of the 47 antibiotics evaluated.


80 years ago, America was going through The Dust Bowl and farmers got a lot of the blame. They didn't let land lay fallow, or used monocultures. Now we know it was the worst drought of the last 1,000 years, 7X larger than other comparable intensity droughts that struck North America since 1000 A.D. 75 percent of the country was affected, 27 states severely, and farming had very little to do with it.

But farmers have gotten a lot more scientific since then anyway. They know monocultures can be cultivated efficiently but they are not sustainable so crops are often rotated. Monocultures remain the principal crop form in some regions because it is believed that is the only way to get higher yields in plant production.


We can blame man for the altered composition of Eastern forests, but not climate change, according to a researcher in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Forests in the Eastern United States remain in a state of "disequilibrium" stemming from the clear-cutting and large-scale burning that occurred in the late 1800s, contends Marc Abrams, a professor of forest ecology and physiology. And since about 1930, the Smokey Bear era, aggressive forest-fire suppression has had a far greater influence on shifts in dominant tree species than minor fluctuations in temperature.


In an instantaneous, 24-hour news cycle, a lot of being made of current U.S. droughts but the 1934 version was 7X larger than other comparable intensity droughts that struck North America between 1000 A.D. and 2005, and nearly 30 percent worse than the next most severe drought that struck the continent in 1580, finds a new analysis.  


by Marc Brazeau, Genetic Literacy Project

Next week, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to approve Enlist Duo–a new herbicide formulation that combines two popular herbicides, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), which are used to control weeds.


By Jon Entine, Genetic Literacy Project

New genetically modified corn and soybean traits, already approved by the US Department of Agriculture, is likely to gain Environmental Protection Agency next week, the Genetic Literacy Project has learned.

Onions consistently make the lists of organic foods even the most ardent organic advocates don't recommend paying the extra money for; they have so many layers of skin that no pesticide, organic or synthetic, is getting through.

But it's still a market as long as people are willing to pay for a special sticker. And if you are in that market, there is good news; a new study of herbicides derived from clove oil tested the natural products' effectiveness in controlling weeds in Vidalia® sweet onion crops. Vidalia® sweet onion is a dry bulb onion grown in Georgia as a cool-season (winter) crop.