Aug 23, 2012

Dateline Drought - August 22, 2012 - YouTube

Published on Aug 22, 2012 by FarmProgressDaily

Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje takes a look at the weather as the drought continues, offering his insight into the weeks ahead. Bryce Knorr, senior editor, Farm Futures, offers his take on the markets, where traders seem to be denying the degenerating quality of the corn crop.

Aug 22, 2012

All-American Tree Fruits

Created 2012-08-14 13:22

All-American Tree Fruits
Scattered throughout the woodlands of North America are hidden treasures waiting to be discovered—pawpaws, mulberries, and persimmons. These tasty fruits grow on beautiful,native American trees that practically take care of themselves. What could be better for an organic garden?

American Persimmon
Over the years, our American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) has received a bad rap, mostly due to the awful sensation that comes from eating the unripe fruits. But when ripe, the fruits actually have a rich, honeylike flavor and jellylike texture.

Native from Connecticut to Florida and west to Kansas, persimmon trees grow about 50 feet tall and look handsome in the home landscape. For home gardens in most regions, the best cultivars are ‘Early Golden’, ‘Florence’, ‘Garretson’, ‘Killen’, ‘Morris Burton’, and ‘Wabash’. If you live in the fruits’ northern range, however, choose an early-ripening variety, such as ‘Meader’, ‘John Rick’, or ‘Yates’.

Persimmons are attractive trees with large, leathery leaves that turn beautiful bright colors in the fall. The bright orange fruit often hangs on the branches long after the leaves drop. Persimmon fruit can be very astringent before the fruit is mushy-ripe, but some cultivars can be enjoyed while still firm.

Persimmon pollination can be a little tricky to understand. Sometimes the male trees produce female flowers and vice versa. The easiest way to get fruits is to plant a self-fertile female tree, such as ‘Garretson’ or ‘Meader’. To get fruit from the other varieties, you’ll need to plant both sexes, or graft a male branch onto a female tree.

Dig deeply when you plant or transplant—the persimmon tree has a long taproot. Potted trees can be transplanted at any time, but the best time to plant a bareroot tree is in spring. Be sure to water the plants throughout their first season. Persimmons produce a lot of root suckers. Discourage them by spreading a thick layer of organic mulch such as compost over the root zone. Remove suckers whenever you see them.

Persimmons are reasonably pest-free in the home garden. They can be troubled by scale and borers, and by persimmon psylla and citrus mealybug in the South.

Don’t harvest your persimmons until the fruits are fully colored and soft. The ripe fruits are delicious when eaten fresh, but they also make good pies, breads, cookies, and cakes. Before you use persimmons in a recipe, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of pulp to remove any remaining astringency.

Photo: Rodale Images

Maybe you’ve already planted one of these 25- to 30-foot trees for its white or reddish spring blossoms and vibrant autumn foliage. If so, don’t overlook the tasty, edible fruit. The small blue, red, or white berries have a unique sweet flavor that hints of almond.

Juneberry trees and shrubs (Amelanchier spp.) grow wild throughout North America and are known by various other names, including saskatoon, shadblow, and sarvis or serviceberry. All species bear edible fruits, but the tastiest ones are found on the Allegheny serviceberry (A. laevis), the thicket serviceberry (A. canadensis), the saskatoon (A. alnifolia), and a hybrid, the apple serviceberry (A. grandiflora). Good varieties for fruit and beauty include ‘Ballerina’, ‘Cumulus’, and ‘Robin Hill’.

Plant your juneberry in well-drained soil in either full sun or partial shade. The trees are hardy in Zones 4 through 8, and need little care once they are established. If you see a few orange spots on the leaves, don't be alarmed. It’s probably rust, a disease spread from wild red cedars. You don’t need to take any special measures because the disease usually doesn’t harm the fruits.

Juneberries begin to bear fruits in their third or fourth year. Harvest them quickly—before they drop, dry up, or are eaten by the birds. You can eat them right off the tree or cook them, complementing their sweetness with one of the season’s tarter fruits, such as currants. For traditional American fare, cook juneberries with rhubarb, or pound the dried berries with meat (preferably buffalo) to make pemmican, a staple of the Native American tribes of the prairies.

Photo: (cc) Se Neko/Flickr

Want to grow a “tropical” fruit in a temperate climate? Try a pawpaw (or “Hoosier banana,” as it is sometimes called), the northernmost member of the custard apple family and cousin to the cherimoya and soursop. The 10- to 25-foot trees (Asimina triloba) are native to woodlands from New York to Georgia and west to Nebraska, but their lush, drooping leaves give them an exotic appeal. The smooth, creamy fruits taste something like a banana with hints of mango and pineapple. They often weigh as much as a pound apiece.

You can grow pawpaws if you live within Zones 5 through 8. They are small, deciduous trees with purple flowers. The flowers aren’t very prominent, but they do appear late enough in spring to escape frosts. Plant the trees in well-drained soil and be sure to dig a hole deep enough to accommodate their long taproots. You’ll probably get the most fruits from a tree planted in full sun, but pawpaws are woodland natives, so light shade is okay, too, especially in the first year or two. Be patient—the trees grow slowly at first.

For the best fruits, plant ‘Overleese’, ‘Mitchell’, ‘Taytwo’, or ‘Sunflower’, advises the PawPaw Foundation, which promotes research and development of pawpaw cultivars. Plant at least two different varieties to ensure good fruiting. As further insurance, you could hand-pollinate the flowers with an artist’s brush: Dust the brown pollen from one plant’s flowers onto the shiny green, ripe stigmas of another. (In the wild, beetles and flies pollinate pawpaw flowers, but you may not have enough of these natural pollinators around to do the job for you.)

Pawpaws taste best if harvested when their yellowish skins become speckled with brown, a sign of full ripeness. For milder flavor, pick slightly underripe fruits and allow them to finish ripening indoors at room temperature. Delay ripening by storing them in the refrigerator before setting them out to ripen. Each mature tree will yield about 25 to 50 pounds of fruits a season.

The “proper” way to eat a pawpaw is to cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, but the fruit is just as tasty if you peel back the skin and eat it like a banana. If you decide to cook your pawpaws, don’t go overboard on sweetener or you’ll steal their naturally good flavor.

Photo: (cc) Frank Enstoen/Flickr

The name says it all: Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis, C. opaca, and C. rufula) is a southern edible hawthorn that ripens in May. The fruits vary in color from yellow to bright red, range in size from 1/3 to 2/3 inch across, and taste similar to a tart crabapple.

The broad-topped thorny trees are an attractive addition to the landscape—especially in early spring when they burst into a cloud of white to pale pink blossoms. They grow about 25 feet high and should be spaced at least 20 feet apart.

Plant at least two mayhaws to ensure cross-pollination and maximum fruit production. The trees grow and produce best when planted in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in Zones 6 to 9. (Although the trees are hardy to 15°F, they don’t fruit well in Zones 5 and colder.)

In most regions, you won’t need to do much to maintain an established mayhaw tree other than harvest it. The easiest way to do that is to spread a sheet under the tree and shake it. The fruits typically ripen over a period of several weeks. Expect a 5-year-old tree to yield about 5 gallons of fruits.

You can pop the mayhaws right into your mouth—fresh off the tree—but most people prefer to cook the fruits into marmalades, preserves, and desserts. Old-timers from the Deep South claim that mayhaws make the best jelly in the world. If you want to try your hand at mayhaw jelly, expect to get about 6 pints of jelly for every 6 quarts of fruit. As with pawpaws, though, go easy on the sweetener, or you’ll mask the distinctive mayhaw flavor.

Photo: (cc) Leslie Seaton/Flickr

The mulberry’s fruits look like blackberries but range in color from deep black to red to lavender to pure white. Their flavor ranges from strictly sweet to tangy sweet. Many "wild" mulberries actually aren’t fully native, but are “half-breeds”—the result of a cross between our native red mulberry (Morus rubra) and the Chinese white mulberry (M. alba), which was introduced in the 19th century for the silkworm industry. Although some female trees need a male pollinator, many cultivars set fruit without pollination.

If given full sun and well-drained soil, mulberry trees are practically carefree. Provide plenty of growing space, however, because mature mulberry trees can reach 30 feet or more in both height and spread. Also try to find a site away from walkways and driveways so that the ripe fruits don’t stain them or your shoes!

Plant container-grown stock any time the ground isn’t frozen, or set out bareroot plants in spring or fall, while they are dormant. Space plants 10 to 30 feet apart. Mulberries are easy to care for: no need to prune, and you can handle dieback by simply cutting off infected portions.

Birds like the red mulberry’s acidic red fruits, but you’re more likely to enjoy the sweeter hybrids. The most widely available cultivar, ‘Illinois Everbearing’, grows well throughout most of North America and bears large, tasty, nearly seedless fruits throughout the summer. And like most mulberry varieties, it needs no cross-pollination. Although birds may eat lots of your mulberries, mature trees generally produce enough fruit for you and the birds.

Mulberries ripen over the course of several weeks. To harvest mulberries in quantity, spread a clean sheet under the tree and shake the branches. Ripe fruits do not keep well fresh, but they can be dried. For cooking, pick the fruit when it is slightly underripe.

Photo: (cc) Isabel Eyre/Flickr

Keep Reading: Regional Guide for Native Trees

Dateline Drought - Farm Progress

Published on Aug 21, 2012 by FarmProgressDaily

Andy Vance, grains editor, Feedstuffs tackles the top drought news of the day. And Bryce Knorr, senior editor, Farm Futures, looks at the "forced march" of commodity prices as they rise in the face of the 2012 Drought. Keep up on the drought by visiting

Mississippi River Well Below Normal : stretch of the river just south of Memphis, Tennessee

August 8, 2012

August 14, 2011

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acquired August 8, 2012 download large image (5 MB, JPEG, 3170x3170 - left)
acquired August 14, 2011 download large image (5 MB, JPEG, 3170x3170 - right)
acquired August 14, 2011 - August 8, 2012 download Google Earth file (KML) 

View Both Images

In the spring of 2011, the Mississippi River swelled to historic levels, rising out of its banks, rolling across a wide flood plain, and eating at flood barriers. The story in 2012 could not be more different: the river has reached record-low levels in places.

The contrast is illustrated in these two images, which show a stretch of the river just south of Memphis, Tennessee. Landsat 7 captured the top image on August 8, 2012, while Landsat 5 took the lower image on August 14, 2011. (The images are rotated so that north is to the left.) In the August 2011 image, the river was three months removed from the peak of the floods, and close to its normal level for the month. In August 2012, the river was several feet below the river stage for Memphis, and many sandbars were newly exposed or greatly expanded.

On August 17, 2012, water levels in the Memphis region were 2.4 to 8.3 feet below river stage. At the time of the August 2011 image (lower), the river was 11.7 feet above river stage. (In May 2011, the river peaked 56.6 feet above river stage in the same location.)

The Mississippi River is a major North American transit route, carrying goods to and from ports in New Orleans and Baton Rogue. The top image shows that low water levels have narrowed the river from a superhighway to a small road. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers maintains a 9-foot shipping channel in the lower Mississippi and has dredges working around the clock to keep the channel clear. Not only are water levels low in 2012, but the floods of 2011 dropped a layer of sediment on the riverbed, reshaping previously open channels.

The reduced river flow in 2012 has translated into millions of dollars in extra shipping costs, as the loss of just one inch of draft means that a barge can carry 17 tons less than it otherwise would. The result is decreased shipping capacity.

Reduced water levels had one positive impact: The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has been able to access and repair levees that were damaged in last year’s floods. The levees are the tan lines that surround the river in these images.

The low water levels followed record-setting temperatures and dry weather. By the end of July, 63 percent of the contiguous United States was in drought, affecting both crops and water supplies.

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. (2012, August 17). Mississippi River at Memphis. NOAA National Weather Service. Accessed August 17, 2012.
Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. (2012, August 17). Mississippi River at Helena. NOAA National Weather Service. Accessed August 17, 2012.
American Waterways Operators. (2012, July 20). Nation’s waterways operators concerned about the impact of drought conditions, low water levels. Accessed August 17, 2012.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. (2012, August 1). Mississippi River Facts. National Park Service. Accessed August 17, 2012.
National Climate Data Center. (2012, August). State of the Climate National Overview for July 2012. NOAA. Accessed August 17, 2012.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2012, August 9). Communication, cooperation and coordination key to keeping Mississippi River open for commercial navigation. Accessed August 17, 2012.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2012, August 3). Mississippi-Ohio River confluence update. Accessed August 17, 2012.
Yang, J. (2012, August 15). Drought sends Mississippi into ‘uncharted territory.’ NBC News. Accessed August 17, 2012.

NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Landsat data provided by the United States Geological Survey. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Aug 19, 2012

8 Reasons Not To Trust Monsanto With Your Food [Infographic] | Care2 Causes

Full Article:
by Beth Buczynski
September 21, 2011

Here’s how Monsanto characterizes itself on its official Twitter profile:

“Monsanto is an agricultural company using innovation to help farmers produce more while conserving more.”

Sounds great, right?

What Monsanto doesn’t tell you is that their specialty is actually agricultural chemicals. Dangerous, untested chemicals. And genetic modification of food crops that’s been scientifically proven to be harmful to human health and the environment.

In the infographic below, artist Joe Mohr chronicles the company’s toxic and deadly past, and reasons why local, organic food should be the only thing gracing your cupboards and fridge.

More info on Monsanto’s past, present and future, including sources for this graphic, can be found here.

Related Reading:

Monsanto Corn At Farmers’ Markets?
Anonymous Activists Shut Down Monsanto Website
Research Links Monsanto’s Roundup To Root Fungus

Read more: agent orange, biotech, chemicals, ge, genetically modified, gmo, monsanto, organic

2012 US Biochar Conference | 2012 US Biochar Conference Presentations

These selected presentations are available for review. The work is owned by the authors and you should not repost the sildes without the premission of the author.

2012 Conference Presentations

Making Soils Smarter and Plants Happier with VermiChar Mike Flynn - Presentation File

Improving Soil Systems

High nitrogen supply alleviates reduced sugarbeet growth caused by hydrochar application Heinz-Josef Koch, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Biochar Use in Specialized Agricultural Settings

Biochar production by pyrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass in a conical spouted bed reactor Martin Olazar, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Mid-Sized Biochar Production Technologies

Make biochar for both public welfare and economic benefit Jun Meng, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Special Presentations by Chinese Delegation

Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate Erich J. Knight - Presentation File

Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate

Capturing Heat from a Small Biochar Production System Wayne S. Teel, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Small Biochar Production Technologies

Soil and Plant yield responses to Biochar application on temperate soils Stefanie Kloss - Presentation File

Biochar Use and Temperate Agriculture

Anaerobic Treatment of HTC Waste Water Benjamin Wirth - Presentation File

Special Issues in Biochar Use

Biochar, more than a soil amendment: Using Biochar to clean up flue gases in energy generation activities K. Thomas Klasson, Ph.D.

Reclamation Using Biochar: Mines and Industrial Sites

Conservation of Feedstock Nutrients in Pyrolysis Biochars Jatara Wise - Presentation File

Special Soil Effects II

Hydraulic Conductivity and Soil Water Retention of Soil-Biochar Mixtures Zuolin Liu - Presentation File

Biochar Science

Biochar Trials with Depleted Hawaiian Soils Adam Asquith, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Special Soil Effects I

Producing Backyard Biochar Dan McKenzie, PhD - Presentation File

Small Biochar Production Technologies

Northwest Perspective on Developing a Biochar Industry Presentation File

Biochar Remediated Reduction of Nitro Herbicides and Explosives Seok-Young Oh, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Non-Agricultural Uses of Biochar

Making biochar with specified properties Kelly Sveinson - Presentation File

Special Chars and Feedstocks

Using Lump Charcoal Byproducts as a Soil Amendment Michael Urban - Presentation File

Special Chars and Feedstocks

Biochar Application to Subarctic Soils Sunny Castillo - Presentation File

Improving Soil Systems

On-farm field experiment to investigate biochar effects on soil structure and N2O emissions Engil Isadora Pujol Pereira - Presentation File

Biochar Impacts on Nitrogen

Can biochar help save Sonoma County from climate change Alex Dolginow - Presentation File

Biochar 101

Stability and Safe Application of Fast Pyrolysis Biochar Bernardo del Campo - Presentation File

Char Characterization

Evaluation of sorbed PAH compounds on biochar Kurt Spokas, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Char Characterization

A survey of biochars: Interactions with dissolved ammonia and nitrate Kurt Spokas, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Biochar Impacts on Nitrogen

Impact of Biochar on Specialty Crop Production: Potential Positive and Negative Effects Kurt Spokas, Ph.D. - Presentation File

Biochar Use in Specialized Agricultural Settings

Biochar Industry Status Update Lopa Brunjes - Presentation File

Biochar Industry Status Update Presentation File

Farm Scale Skid Mounted Biochar Reactors in 2013 - Geoengineering: A Potential Biochar Application?



Could biochar potentially be used to fix nutrients to sustain and increase C Storage in thawing - decompositioning soils?

Higher temperature and decompo- sition rates can also increase nutrient availability, which often has a greater effect on plant growth than temperature (Chapin and Shaver 1996). Decomposition of soil C (in- cluding thawed permafrost C) with concomitant nutrient release could actually increase total ecosystem C storage if low C:N soil organic matter is replaced by higher C:N plant biomass (Shaver et al. 2000).

SOIL AMENDMENTBiochar can be used as a soil amendment to improve yield, improve water quality, reduce soil emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce nutrient leaching, reduce soil acidity, and reduce irrigation and fertilizer requirements

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported Biochar as a key technology for reaching low carbon dioxide atmospheric concentration targets. The negative emissions that can be produced by Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has been estimated by the Royal Society to be equivalent to a 50 to 150 ppm decrease in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Annual net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide could be reduced by a maximum of 1.8 Pg CO2-C equivalent (CO2-Ce) per year (12% of current anthropogenic CO2-Ce emissions; 1 Pg=1 Gt), and total net emissions over the course of a century by 130 Pg CO2-Ce, without endangering food security, habitat or soil conservation. WikipediaRelated Nitrous oxide emission reduction in temperate biochar-amended soil (2011) - Climate Change Mitigation from Pyrolysis- - Beaulieu and Tank suggest that reductions in nitrous oxide emissions from stream and river networks can be achieved through changes in urban and agricultural land use patterns, such as reduced agricultural fertilizer application.

How biochar production could help climate change fight


Editor in chief at Climate Progress Network.

10 August 2012 at 03:07 | #
To review the broad scope of Biochar applications please read the text of my opening talk at the Sonoma Biochar conference.

If it intrigues you, you may hit the links and many citations, these cover the paleoclimatic rationale, the carbon conservation philosophy, many of the industrial practitioners and long-term academic programs & field trials.

If you are tantalized by the Biochar platform for biofuels, the cutting edge Big dog, Elephant in the room, at the Sonoma Biochar conference was CoolPlanet Energy Systems. In a nutshell, they have such control over carbon bonding in their thermal conversion process, they can squeeze out 75 gallons of bio- gasoline and 1/3 ton of Biochar from one ton of biomass.Their tag line; "The more you Drive… The Cleaner the Atmosphere". They state their production cost at $1.25/gallon, they turn a dial and can produce $2/gallon jet fuel. I can hear you saying this is too good to be true, however Google, GE, BP and Conoco believe it is true.
CoolPlanet Biofuel's CEO Explains his energy cycle:

This all leaves me very optimistic, for the CEO and Google share the same ethos, farm scale skid mounted reactors will be the first to production next year. This farmer friendly, scalable reactor, they plan to deploy at the village scale in the Third World and at the farmer scale here.

I believe this technology will allow the American public to have their carbon free energy lunch without paying a premium for it.


Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
1047 Dave Berry Rd. McGaheysville, VA. 22840

In case you are having a problem finding my presentation PDF file with the PowerPoint slides, navigation is a little awkward, here is the link:


Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate

10 August 2012 at 12:00 | #
Thank you for this insightful comment Erich. I blogged about it here and will later check out the conference presentations.



Farm Scale Skid Mounted Biochar Reactors in 2013... Everyone who cares about a sustainable future should be excited!!!  Monte & Eileen Hines

Compliments of Monsanto "Roundup Ready" Pigweed - Weeds take root in crops, climate change, cuisine - CBS News

Compliments of Monsanto "Roundup Ready" Pigweed

"In 2012, we confirmed it in 76 Georgia counties, so we went from 500 acres to well over 2 million acres," Culpepper said.

How did it happen?

Ever hear of Roundup, yup that stuff that's advertised on TV.

Roundup, the commercial name for an herbicide called glyphosate, was marketed to farmers as a miracle weed killer. Monsanto, its manufacturer, genetically engineered cotton and soybean seeds so they were Roundup-resistant.

"Roundup used to be just a cure-all for everything," said farmer Harold Johnson.

Johnson farms 1,000 acres in Macon and neighboring Dooly counties. All he had to do was spray on Roundup. His Roundup-resistant crops lived. The pigweed died - until it didn't.

"Just all of a sudden, they would lay down, and then they'd stand right back up, and then it got to the point where they wouldn't even lay down," Johnson said.

The pigweed had genetically engineered itself and become Roundup-resistant too.

Now here's the terrifying part.

"This plant's gonna produce in excess of 500,000 seeds, one female plant," said Culpepper, "and if it survives, it produces a half-a-million seeds."

Desperate growers have deployed their own army against their enemy, like footsoldiers from another century, to hand-weed huge fields. And Dr. Pigweed has a warning.

"This plant has absolutely adapted to everything that we have done so far," Culpepper said.

Related Links:

Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives - Global Warming - YouTube

Published on Jul 9, 2012 by greenman3610

Don't miss the Companion video at the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media

Dallas Hail Storm

Kevin Trenberth on PBS News hour

MIchael Oppenheimer on MSNBC

Rex Tillerson speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations

Peter Hoppe of Munich Re, Berlin 2011

CNN expert on Derecho event

Global Warming: 2012 Drought Update - YouTube

Published on Aug 19, 2012 by ClimateProgressWorld

A video edited by Peter Sinclair. The Drought of 2012 rivals the Great Dust Bowl years of the 30s and is coming at a time of melting arctic ice, shrinking ice sheets, and extreme events across the planet, matching the projections of Climate models for global warming.

Don't miss the Companion video "Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives" - featuring Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who claims we can adapt...

Visit Peter Sinclair's blog "Climate Crocks"

Following are video content links:

Dallas Hail Storm

Kevin Trenberth on PBS News hour

Michael Oppenheimer on MSNBC

Rex Tillerson speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations

Peter Hoppe of Munich Re, Berlin 2011

CNN expert on Derecho event

Heatwaves blamed on global warming

For further coverage visit "Climate State" - documenting climate change.

Biochar - Josiah Hunt on Vimeo

Josiah Hunt from Sonoma Biochar Initiative on Vimeo.

Related Videos: