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Weekly Environmental Updates
Climate change is having an effect on how corn, America's largest crop, is grown. New techniques for reducing erosion caused by heavy rains have been developed and new equipment for getting crops in are being used by farmers. Two studies issued this summer warn that weather changes will threaten corn production in the coming decades in western Kansas and Nebraska.
Four of the most popular brands of bottled water are produced in drought-stricken California and shipped out of state. While the amount of water bottled is only a fraction of what is used for farming, some critics are asking why the parched state is producing water for the rest of the U.S. Lack of groundwater regulations and management in California makes it possible for water companies to use water as they wish.
Librarians in Pennsylvania who tried to operate a seed library were shut down when the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture informed them that they were in violation of the Seed Act of 2004. Among the mandates dictated by the act are that individuals who drop off seeds buy a seed license, use tested seeds, and keep complete records for two years that are available for inspection. One of the Agriculture Department's commissioners said that the protection of American food sources was a prime concern as was the possibility of what she referred to as "agri-terrorism".
Several species of turtles are now extinct or in danger of becoming so due to widespread use of the turtles in traditional Chinese medicine. All parts of a turtle are utilized, including the shell, skin, heads, and excretions. Despite the fact that turtles have been used for thousands of years, scientists say there is no evidence of medicinal benefits.
Super bananas that contain extra vitamin A and apples that don't turn brown when cut could be on store shelves soon, due ti improved genetic editing of GMOs. Researchers report that changes to the characteristics of fruit can be achieved without the introduction of foreign genes. Other crops could be similarly modified to capitalize on positive characteristics.
In other fruit news, scientists at the University of California are hoping to reduce labor costs on peach and nectarine farms by developing shorter trees. Currently, orchard workers have to carry around tall ladders to reach the 13 foot trees and climbing them is driving up the cost of Workman's Compensation. An experimental orchard near Fresno is growing fruit trees that get no taller than seven or eight feet.
Roman Hills