agriculture

Sci-fi writers have long warned about the dangers of modifying organisms. They come in forms ranging from accidentally creating a plague of killer locusts (1957) to recreating dinosaurs with added frog genes (2015).

Now, with researchers looking to even more advanced gene-editing technology to protect crops, they’ll have to think about how to present that tech to a long-skeptical public. 

Federal agencies are scrambling to establish regulations for hemp and hemp products as farmers in the Midwest and around the country start growing the crop. 

In the meantime, the government is warning companies not to make health claims about CBD they can’t back up. 

Ahead of the start of the Illinois State Fair next week, organizers say they’re optimistic about attendance and attractions. But the fair’s success is an open question.


With Water Slowly Receding, What Comes Next?

Jul 30, 2019
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WSIU Radio

On this edition of WSIU InFocus, we hear from some soil experts and a local farmer about the impact of the floodwaters in southern Illinois.

Less than half the corn and soybean crops in Illinois are in good to excellent condition, according to the latest crop progress report from the U-S Department of Agriculture.

That's fewer crops than usual doing well at this point in the year, and is due primarily to the wet spring that delayed planting for many farmers across the state.

Local Food Growers Receive Help

Jul 10, 2019
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Glaciersend Website.

June was a tough month for farmers and smaller growers in southern Illinois.

However, in between the rain showers, a beam of good news arrived in the form of a

$10,000 grant from the non-profit Faith In Place group, and the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers, or LEAF.

People have been leaving rural midwestern areas for decades. And it’s not just population loss. Often fresh food sellers move away too. There might be hope, though.

Illinois farmers now have until July 15 to officially say they won’t be planting crops this year. A key deadline has been extended for claiming some types of crop insurance.

It's been one of the wettest springs in state history. Just last month alone, Illinois averaged more than five inches of rainfall, a whole inch above normal. It’s been so wet for so much of the planting season, farmers across the state haven’t had much of a chance to get their crops in the ground.

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Illinois News Connection

Some Illinois growers are using the power of NASA in a new project aimed at addressing food security, from improving crop outputs to working their land more efficiently.

Midwestern fish farmers grow a variety of species, such as tilapia, salmon, barramundi and shrimp, all of which require a high-protein diet. The region grows copious amounts of soybeans, which have a lot of protein, but these two facts have yet to converge.

SIU Ag Day Brings Researchers and Farmers Together

Jun 26, 2019
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WSIU/Kevin Boucher

On Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 farmers, scientists and agricultural partners from all across Illinois met for a field day to showcase the latest agricultural research going on at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Douglas rattles around a collection of glass jars in the storage closet of his Denver apartment. They’re filled with a small grain, like barley, and covered in a soft white fungus — a mushroom spawn. Soon, he’ll transplant it in large plastic bins filled nutrients like dried manure and coconut fiber.

Over the course of two weeks, mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin, a psychoactive ingredient, will sprout.

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WSIU/Kevin Boucher

The Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture had some good news for State Fair Goers on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019. Standing in front of the DuQuoin State Fair Grandstand, Director John Sullivan said, thanks to the passage of the recent Capital Spending plan, work is being done right now to re–surface main street and the loop on the fairgrounds.  Sullivan said the work is being done by the Illinois Department of Transportation, and IDOT hopes to have the project done by June 21st.

Perry County resident, and Fair Manager,  Josh Gross  says the investment in the Fair amounts to just over 350– Thousand Dollars.  Gross also added that, starting this year, there will be NO admission fee to attend the DuQuoin State Fair.  Gross also said that this year's Grandstand Lineup will be announced this Monday, June 17th.

Farmers have been using the weed killer glyphosate – a key ingredient of the product Roundup – at soaring levels even as glyphosate has become increasingly less effective and as health concerns and lawsuits mount.

Nationwide, the use of glyphosate on crops increased from 13.9 million pounds in 1992 to 287 million pounds in 2016, according to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey.

By The Numbers: Glyphosate Use In The Midwest For Corn, Soybeans

Jun 12, 2019

Glyphosate is the most-used pesticide on U.S. crops, an estimated 287 million pounds in 2016, according to an analysis by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Midwest saw 65 percent of the nation’s total agriculture glyphosate use on crops, a 12-state territory that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.

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Courtesy of Illinois Farm Week

On this edition of WSIU InFocus, WSIU's Kevin Boucher visits with U of I Extension Educator in Local Foods and Small Farms, Nathan Johanning.

As grassland and prairies gave way to farmland in the Midwest, habitats for some native birds disappeared. There’s a relatively new program in central Illinois looking to restore wetlands for migrating birds and help farmers at the same time.

The program to help them is limited but is secure for now. However, the future for both the bird and the program could be on shakier ground in just a few years.

Northwestern Illinois’ Stephenson County is one area where changes in the status of cannabis are being embraced. The people doing it are not necessarily the ones you’d expect.

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Jackson County State's Attorney

A professor in SIU-Carbondale's College of Agricultural Sciences has pleaded not guilty to the charge of Theft of Governmental Property.

The Jackson County State's Attorney says 39-year-old Jeremy Davis of Carterville is accused of stealing a polymerase chain reaction machine and a Nano Drop machine.

A group of 16 Illinois organizations and agencies have teamed up to help the monarch butterfly survive. 

Andrew Joyce won’t be growing any tomatoes this summer. His three-acre produce farm in Malden, Missouri, will lie fallow. The cause: damage from the weed killer dicamba.

It’s been five years since the last ag census. Since 2012, the U.S. has lost about 70,000 farms, saw the average age of farmers go up and prices for certain commodities go down.

A company that makes dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton wants to expand use of the controversial weed killer to corn. But critics and experts questioning the logic of the petition.

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On Thursday, April 11th, 2019, the non-profit Keep Carbondale Beautiful is teaming up with the College Of Agricultural Student Advisory Council to remove harmful Wintercreeper vines in some properties in Carbondale.

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U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Illinois grants of more than $700,000 will be available over three years to specialty-crop growers to encourage fresh, locally grown produce.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced the program Wednesday. The money is allocated in the federal Farm Bill's Specialty Crop Grant Program.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has submitted their final draft of rules for the industrial hemp program. There were a few noteworthy changes made from the initial draft that was posted back in late Dec. 2018. 

At Hummel’s Nissan in Des Moines, Kevin Caldwell sells the all-electric Leaf. Driving one is basically the same as driving a typical gasoline or gas-electric hybrid car, he said, except for a few new features like the semi-autonomous hands-free option. And the fact that you plug it in rather than pumping gas into it.

About a quarter to a third of Caldwell’s Leaf customers are farmers, some of whom grow corn for ethanol.

Slow internet service can slow a business down, adding up to lost time and money. And often the problem is worse in rural areas.

That’s one reason John Sullivan, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said improving internet access is a top priority for him.

“If there isn’t adequate access to high-speed internet, it really drags and holds back the possibility for jobs and opportunities in those areas,” he said.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

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