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AgTech Biotech

Precision injection system for plants

Oranges, olives, and bananas are already under threat in many areas due to diseases that affect plants’ circulatory systems and that cannot be treated by applying pesticides. A new method developed by engineers at MIT may offer a starting point for delivering life-saving treatments to plants ravaged by such diseases. The method uses an array of microneedles made of a silk-based biomaterial to deliver nutrients, drugs, or other molecules to specific parts of the plant. The work started in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for ideas on how to address the citrus greening crisis, which is threatening the collapse of a $9 billion industry.

The microneedles designed for human use were intended to biodegrade naturally in the body’s moisture, but plants have far less available water, so the material didn’t dissolve and was not useful for delivering the pesticide or other macromolecules into the phloem. The researchers had to design a new material, but they decided to stick with silk as its basis. That’s because of silk’s strength, its inertness in plants (preventing undesirable side effects), and the fact that it degrades into tiny particles that don’t risk clogging the plant’s internal vasculature systems.

The technology has potential to be used to bioengineer disease-resistant varieties of important crops. In experiments with tobacco the researchers were able to inject Agrobacterium to alter the plant’s deoxyribonucleic acid – a typical bioengineering tool, but delivered in a new and precise way.

Read more at MIT News

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Agriculture

Despite lockdown, producers didn’t change planting plans in USA

As compared to 2019, planted acreage in 2020 is as follows:

  • Corn Planted Acreage at 97.0 million acres Up 8 Percent
  • Soybean Acreage at 83.5 million acres Up 10 Percent
  • All Wheat Acreage at 44.7 million acres Down 1 Percent
  • All Cotton Acreage at 13.7 million acres Down Less Than 1 Percent

As compared to 2019, grain stocks on March 1, 2020 is as follows:

  • Corn Stocks totaled 7.95 billion bushels Down 8 Percent
  • Soybean Stocks totaled 2.25 billion bushels Down 17 Percent
  • All Wheat Stocks totaled 1.41 billion bushels Down 11 Percent

Read more at USDA Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks

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Uncategorized

How Satellites Can Improve Decision-Making For Agricultural Investments

USDA information about crop supply and demand estimates is fundamental to both policy-makers and agricultural investors. Nevertheless, the current situation with markets and crops is changing faster than USDA report releases, especially with the uncertainty around coronavirus pandemics. The uncertainty caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 reinforces the need for reliable, precise, politically neutral, and promptly available data for investors.

Here’s where digital tools can come in handy.

Geospatial intelligence, supply-and-demand estimates, crop tours, experimental plots, direct contact with grain producers are among the most effective ways to gather much-needed data. Agricultural investing is entering in the ‘remote prediction’ era where the one with superior AI tools has the edge. This is where satellite technologies can close informational gaps – and do it faster than once a month.

Read more at Investing.com

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Uncategorized

Future crops could make their own pesticides

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists are trying to design crops that kill weeds by exuding a natural herbicide from their roots. In other words, they’re creating oilseed and cereal crops that can control weeds — on their own. “It’s a complicated thing, because we’re trying to make plants produce something that is poisonous, and probably even poisonous to them,” said Scott Baerson, a molecular biologist in Oxford, Mississippi. Since 2000, Baerson has been studying sorgoleone, a natural herbicide released into the soil from the roots of sorghum plants. The chemical suppresses nearby plants, helping sorghum out-compete its rivals.

If they’re able to pull it off, the technology could be a game changer. It won’t eliminate the need for herbicides, but it should “significantly reduce the amount” applied to cropland. This agricultural technology is comparable to the technology of self-driving cars.

Read more at TheWesternProducer

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Uncategorized

USDA Authorizes Importation of Fresh Citrus Fruit from China

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is authorizing the importation of five types of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China into the continental United States. After thorough analysis, APHIS scientists determined that pummelo, Nanfeng honey mandarin, ponkan, sweet orange, and Satsuma mandarin fruit from China can be safely imported into the United States under a systems approach to protect against the introduction of plant pests. A systems approach is a series of measures taken by growers, packers, and shippers that, in combination, minimize pest risks prior to importation into the United States.

Read more at PerishableNews.com

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Uncategorized

Coronavirus causing more issues for people in food deserts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an area lacking assess to healthy-food options measured by distance to one or more grocery stores, as well as a person’s ability to access those food options, transportation and the average income of an area. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 13.41 percent of the state population lives in U.S. Census tracts with low income and low access to healthy food. That’s nearly 250,000 people. For people in food deserts, driving to the next county to shop for groceries is already a burden. That burden becomes even greater for people making minimum wage, seniors on fixed income or families that can’t afford a car.

With the virus and the kinds of social distancing and regulations that are put into place and issues with businesses shutting down and not continuing to be sources of employment for people, this can only make the situation worse in food deserts, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Read more at News and Sentinel

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Uncategorized

USDA Announces Loan Maturity for Marketing Assistance Loans Now Extended to 12 Months

Agricultural producers now have more time to repay Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL) as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities. Spring is the season when most producers have the biggest need for capital, and many may have or are considering putting commodities under loan. Extending the commodity loan maturity affords farmers more time to market their commodity and repay their loan at a later time

Eligible commodities include barley, chickpeas (small and large), corn, cotton (upland and extra-long staple), dry peas, grain sorghum, honey, lentils, mohair, oats, peanuts, rice (long and medium grain), soybeans, unshorn pelts, wheat, wool (graded and nongraded); and other oilseeds, including canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower seed, and sesame seed. Seed cotton and sugar are not eligible.

Read more at USDA