agriculture

WKAR file photo

Nitrogen plays an essential role in plant growth, but it’s a scarce resource in nature. Farmers used to have to use beans or legumes to fix the nutrient into their fields. But with the advent of artificial fertilizers, agriculture has been able to bypass that step and put the nitrogen directly into the soil. While this has allowed farmers to increase production of nutrient intensive crops like corn, it’s had some other, not so great, side effects.

http://www.humanesociety.org/

Michigan State University has always been known for its strong Agriculture and Natural Resources programs. The university is in the midst of its 100th annual ANR Week, which showcases the sciences of farming and environmental stewardship. One recent conference highlighted farm sustainability into the 21st century.

Wikimedia commons

It’s still too cold for spring planting, but the legislative issues Michigan farmers care most about are heating up again. Yesterday, dozens of crop producers from across the state met in Lansing for the annual Lansing Legislative Seminar, sponsored by the Michigan Farm Bureau. Farmers met in conference sessions to talk about a number of current issues, and many had a chance to speak one on one with their local lawmakers.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

The Greater Lansing Orchid Society’s annual show and sale is coming up this weekend. Current State’s Scott Pohl met up with a leading local orchid grower to learn more about these beautiful flowering plants. Bill Porter would say that successfully growing orchids isn't terribly hard as long as you treat them right.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

American agriculture is graying. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is now 58. Around a third are already over 65. That begs the question of what happens when those farmers retire? With fewer young people considering careers in agriculture, experts are worried about the future of food production here in the U.S. That’s why the most recent Farm Bill is setting aside more money to train and support fledgling farmers.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

Orange and yellow are the colors of the season across mid-Michigan, as the fall harvest continues. After a bone-chilling winter, many areas of the Lower Peninsula saw a cooler and wetter summer than usual. Some farmers are racing the clock to harvest corn and soybeans and plant winter wheat.

Flickr - Amy

Strange weather in Michigan continues to affect various kinds of agriculture. Current State’s Melissa Benmark has been checking into the effects of a hard winter and a cool summer on the wine industry in the state.

Detroit's honey bees offer lesson in working together

Aug 5, 2014
Hannah Meiklejohn

In urban areas, the importance of honey bees to a city’s neighborhoods and communities often gets overlooked. But in Detroit, honey bees are crucial to the city’s rebirth, says Joan Mandell. Mandell operates Green Toe Gardens, which has more than 100 beehives in community gardens, schools and yards all across the Detroit metropolitan area. Not only do bees help pollinate many plant species in Detroit, says Mandell, but their collective behavior could also serve as an example of how to work together for a common good.

Flickr - Parker Knight

If you’ve found yourself putting on a sweater or light jacket on cool evenings this summer, you’ve probably wondered what’s going on with the weather. The polar vortex that visited us so harshly last winter made a return visit a few weeks ago, dropping temperatures below normal. It turns out that there’s at least one upside to climate change; one that could help our farm economy.

Flickr

Thousands of farmers from all over Michigan will take some time away from the fields next week to visit the Michigan State University campus for Ag Expo. Starting Tuesday, the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be joined by MSU AgBioResearch scientists and MSU Extension educators to conduct education programs. And, farm equipment producers always bring the latest in farming technology to display.

Michigan State University Press

A new memoir from the MSU Press looks at what happens when a professional couple decides to get in touch with their agrarian dream of life in the country. Richard Gilbert teaches writing at Otterbein College in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He’s the author of “Shepherd”.

Wikimedia Commons

Pig farmers in Michigan and around the nation are losing piglets to a virus that is easily spread and almost always lethal to very young animals. So far, it’s killed over six million piglets.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

Spring planting season for corn in Michigan is still at least a month away, but scientists who study the crop’s amazing versatility want you to cast your vote for a “home-grown” project. The Michigan Biotechnology Institute, or MBI, is developing a process that seeks to get more use out of the leftover  residue of the plant that’s not fit for human consumption.

State proposes local control of backyard livestock

Feb 12, 2014
Flickr - Lost Albatross

   

An important debate over urban farming in Michigan continues today in Lansing. Officials from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and others will discuss proposed rule changes governing farm animals in developed, residential areas.

Flickr - Ethan Bloch

The 44th President will be in East Lansing today. Barack Obama will be at Michigan State University this afternoon to sign the federal Farm Bill. It's a long-awaited and sweeping law that will fundamentally change U.S. farm policy.

MSU to study viability of 'perennial grains' in Africa

Nov 18, 2013
www.anrcom.msu.edu

Hunger and malnourishment have plagued parts of Africa for generations. And nearly as long as the problem has existed, scientists have been looking for solutions to the vexing complexities surrounding mass hunger.

Flickr/Kathleen Tyler Conklin

With Michigan being such an agriculturally diverse state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a strong presence here, but not all having to do with cattle or crops.  The USDA's Rural Development office's purpose is to support smaller communities that, in turn, support the nation’s farmlands.

James Turner, the USDA Rural Development agency's state director, discusses its efforts to improve rural Michiganders' access to culture and technology. 

Wikimedia commons

The MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is releasing the first-ever Michigan Agriculture & Food Index, or MAFI.  It's designed to gauge the business climate for agriculture and food business within the state.

Current State #77 | April 30, 2013

Apr 30, 2013
msutoday.msu.edu

Today on Current State: a review of April's news while looking to May; Michigan sustainable food systems and a new exhibit features local architecture. 

Building sustainable food systems in Michigan

Apr 30, 2013
msutoday.msu.edu

This month, the Vermont-based local food advocacy group "Strolling of the Heifers" released its second annual Locavore Index. The index ranks states based on their commitment to local food. Michigan earned a spot at # 22 on the list.

 

Michigan farmers markets boost economy, health

Mar 5, 2013
Natalie Maynor/Flickr

The Michigan Farmers Market Conference takes place today and tomorrow as part of Agriculture and Natural Resources Week. The growth and expansion of farmers’ markets is one of the most visible aspects of Michigan’s vibrant local and regional food renaissance. This rapid market growth has created a need for educational and advocacy programs that protect and grow these venues and highlight the benefits and importance of Michigan agriculture.

More than 400 Michigan farmers had a chance to meet with state legislators this week to talk about their priorities for 2013.  The Michigan Farm Bureau has outlined three main focus areas for its agenda: access to markets, workforce development, and regulatory reform. 

Mark Bashore / WKAR

2012 is already unfolding as a year that many Michigan crop growers would like to forget. The state’s warmest March ever led to the destruction of almost all of its apples and tart cherries--a combined loss in the hundreds of millions of dollars. As summer settles in, a prolonged dry spell has thousands of mid- and south-Michigan corn growers praying for rain.

WKAR File Photo

U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager is praising the Senate’s passage of a $1 trillion farm bill.  Tonsager was in mid-Michigan Friday to meet with farmers and homeowners. 

The farm bill that cleared the Senate Thursday cuts some $24 billion over the next decade.  It would end direct federal subsidies to farmers who’ve relied on those payments since the 1980’s.  Tonsager says farmers are doing well enough economically that there’s less need now for government assistance.

Warm weather has promoted fruit trees in Michigan to bloom four or five weeks ahead of schedule.  That means that bees need to be here early, too, but most of the bees that pollinate orchards in Michigan are still wintering in Florida or are busy pollinating crops in California.