Fall is the ideal time to plant shade trees


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Grace Smith | November 3, 2022

With moderate temperatures and sufficient ground moisture, fall is a great time to plant shade trees, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said in a press release on Oct. 18. Planting in the fall gives trees extra growing time before hot summer days, and fall’s cooler temperatures allow trees to form their roots. 

“Properly planted trees will have a better opportunity for a long healthy life,” Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh said. “Improperly planted trees can become stressed more easily or may look otherwise healthy, but then suddenly die in the first 10 to 20 years after planting.”

The Iowa DNR offers tips to keep shade trees healthy with a long life. 

  • Put additional soil far from the top of the root ball — the main mass of roots at the base of a plant — to identify the first primary lateral root before digging the hole.
  • The depth of the planting hole can be measured by the distance above the first lateral root to the bottom of the root ball. Health issues can arise if a hole is dug too deep. 
  • Remove roots growing around the root ball, as well as any roots on the bottom of the root ball. 
  • Dig the planting hole at least twice the width of the root ball. 
  • Use the soil from the initial hole to refill around the roots of the tree. 
  • Water the planting hole to settle the soil. Keep watering the expanding root system as the tree grows.

Mississippi River experiences record low levels


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Grace Smith | November 1, 2022

Central U.S. is experiencing the region’s worst drought in a decade, dropping the Mississippi River to record low levels in October. According to the National Weather Service, the river dropped 10.75 feet by the end of October, which is the lowest level ever documented in Memphis, Tennessee. This surpasses the previous low of minus 10.7 feet in 1988

The Mississippi River makes up 41 percent of the U.S. and drains water from 32 states. Many states in the Mississippi Basin are experiencing extreme droughts throughout June and September, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

In Cairo, Illinois, water levels are the lowest they have been since 1901. The Tennessee Valley Agency said it would add more water from two dams to even out the river’s low levels. “To help stabilize commercial navigation conditions on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, we are scheduling special water releases from Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River and Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River to help low river level impacts,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post. 

Through drought in central U.S. and the low levels of the Mississippi River, artifacts and land emerge. Citizens can now walk to Tower Rock, an island normally surrounded by the river and only accessible by boat. In addition, an old riverboat casino — The Diamond Lady — that was running in 1990 but sank in 2021 has submerged in Memphis, Tennessee because of the river’s low levels.

Current climate plans are not enough to avoid disastrous climate change, UN says


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Grace Smith | October 28, 2022

The world’s governments haven’t dedicated enough attention or promise to bypass the catastrophic climate change effects, the United Nations said in a released report on Oct. 26. This puts the world on course for a 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures by the end of the century. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that CO2 emissions need to be cut by 43 percent by 2030, but existing climate plans demonstrate a 10.6 percent increase instead.

“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world,” Stiell warned.

Cutting methane emissions — the second largest contributor to climate change — would be the quickest and most effective way to alter the fast pace of global warming. Methane emissions have an 80 times more significant warming effect than carbon dioxide over 20 years.

Stiell suggested an urgent call for global leaders to seal the gap between where emissions are leaning toward and where science displays levels should be, calling for nations to be focused on a few key aspects: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance.

Iowa corn harvest is two-thirds complete


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Grace Smith | October 27, 2022

59 percent of corn and 88 percent of soybeans have been harvested by Iowa farmers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Oct. 24. Both crops are ahead of Iowa’s five-year average, with corn being eight days ahead and soybeans being 11 days ahead.

“Soybean harvest is beginning to wrap up and Iowa farmers and are making big strides toward finishing corn harvest,” said Mike Naig, the state’s agriculture secretary. “While the persistently dry conditions have helped push harvest progress along, moderate drought continues to spread statewide and is now covering nearly half of Iowa.”

Although Iowa’s drought is about the worst it has been in nine years, Iowa farmers had 6.7 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending October 23,  according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

State Climatologist Justin Glisan said there was very little rainfall in the state this past week. “While several eastern Iowa stations reported trace amounts of rainfall, only a few National Weather Service co-op stations observed measurable totals,” Glisan said in the report. “Overall, statewide precipitation deficits were on the order of 0.40 inches to 0.60 inches.”

Panel discussion: Carbon pipelines across Iowa


Via HELI

Grace Smith | October 25, 2022

On Monday, Nov. 7 from 12:45 pm to 1:45 pm, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature policy experts, researchers, industry, landowners, and environmental representatives. Speakers will touch upon carbon capture and storage pipelines spanning across Iowa. HELI will provide lunch to all who choose to attend in person. Attendance is both in-person and virtual and open to all ages. All who wish to attend can register at: ​​https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0ImZceYO2qwkZYq

For more information, visit https://heli.law.uiowa.edu/carbonpipelines.

Climate change is a prominent force behind the global food crisis


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Grace Smith | October 21, 2022

Climate change and extreme weather are affecting the global food crisis significantly. Rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns like drought, wildfires, and floods make it extremely difficult for farmers to grow food to feed the hungry.

Samantha Power, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke on this topic during a Thursday night gathering at the Iowa Events Center.

“Climate change is leading to ever-more disastrous shocks, and with so many of the harshest impacts falling on poor farmers, how do we break the cycle of lurching from food crisis to food crisis?” asked Power. “How can we harness the industry, the know-how, and just stubborn determination of farmers around the world as well as the work of tremendous innovators … to feed the planet without accelerating climate change even further?” 

Power brought up the Horn of Africa, where 828 million people go to bed hungry each night because of a drought-driven famine occurring in Somalia killing people and animals. Power said despite the aid received by the U.S., Somalia needs more help. 

At the gathering, Power suggested an idea to help control the global food crisis. Power mentioned World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug, who embraced agricultural innovation through research, which started the Green Revolution and saved many citizens from hunger. 

“Despite these trade-offs, the primary lesson of the Green Revolution was clear,” Power said. “With investments in agricultural productivity and publicly funded research, “food supply can grow faster than demand.”

Iowa drought and harvest, an update


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Grace Smith | October 20, 2022

For the first time in nine years, all of Iowa is undergoing a drought, ranging from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 27 percent of Iowa experienced a severe drought and around 7 percent of Iowa was labeled as extremely dry, including portions of northwest Iowa.

“For the first time since August 2013, all of the state is experiencing some form of abnormal dryness or drought,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig told the Iowa Capital Dispatch, “but weather outlooks through the end of [the] month are indicating potential shifts toward wetter conditions and warmer temperatures.”

Despite the extremely dry conditions, Iowa’s harvesting is ahead of its five-year average as of Oct. 17. Around 38 percent of Iowa’s corn and 74 percent of soybeans have been harvested this year. Normally, 29 percent of corn and 49 percent of soybeans are harvested this time of year. Farmers have had six days or more on average to harvest in the field in the past two weeks. 

23 percent of crops have been harvested as of Oct. 9, and some farmers are struggling to harvest a variety of wet corn and soybeans versus dry. Farmers can expect a larger expense to store dry corn with dry crops, while wetter crops are more difficult to harvest.

Greece ran on 100 percent renewable energy for the first time


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Grace Smith | October 18, 2022

The Greek electrical system ran on 100 percent clean renewable energy for the first time on Oct. 7.  That day, renewable energy sources ran Greece’s electrical system for five hours and reached a new record of 3,106 megawatt hours of electricity. 

The Independent Power Transmission Operator, which owns Greece’s electrical system and connecting power plants, said the success from Oct. 7 will bring about more success and hope for a greener country in the coming years. Greece hopes to use 30 million euros to elevate its electricity grid to double green energy capacity for at least 70 percent of the green energy mix by 2030. 

As of August 2022, natural gas and renewable sources like wind and solar power made up most of its power. In 2019, Greece’s energy consumption was ranked 52nd in the world and used a third of the amount of energy as the U.S. Greece used 108 million BTU and the U.S. used 304.41 million BTU. 

The U.S. is making progress since 2019 in using more renewable energy sources. The California Independent System Operator uses about 80 percent of the state. In addition to California, the U.S. exceeded coal and nuclear energy with wind power in 2022. 

New Zealand farm reduces cow burps, methane emissions


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Grace Smith | October 14, 2022

Trials in New Zealand suggest that calves emit 20 percent fewer methane emissions after receiving probiotics, according to Shalome Bassett, a scientist at Fonterra Research and Development Centre. Since the trial, New Zealand said it would cut biogenic methane emissions by 10% on 2017 levels by 2030 and up to 47% by 2050.

Cows in New Zealand are fed Kowbucha, a probiotic that reduces burps, or methane emissions. Scientists at Fonterra have been undergoing trials on cows since 2021 to determine if the Kowbucha reduces methane emissions.

“Probiotics are great because they’re a really natural solution,” Bassett told Reuters. “Whatever we do, it has to be something that’s easy for the farmer to use, has to be cost-effective, and we have to ensure that it’s good for the cow and doesn’t have any effect on the milk.”

In 2025, New Zealand will become the first country to charge for agricultural emissions, including cow and sheep burping. As of now, agricultural emissions account for over half of the country’s emissions. 

Fonterra hopes to have Kowbucha in stores by 2024 before prices are put on emissions.

High crop fire danger for portions of Iowa


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Grace Smith | October 13, 2022

The lack of rainfall at the beginning of October and the time period of harvesting crops has elevated the risk of cropland fires to “very high,” according to the National Weather Service. As of Oct. 3, three fires in the northwest and northeast Iowa have occurred. 

The Sioux City Fire Department was called to a cornfield fire on Sept. 29. The fire may have been caused by a hot combine bearing, which is normally used to provide motion for the combine with the least amount of friction possible. When fire department chief David Van Holland arrived at the scene, he said a lot of corn was burning. A fire the day before started with a baler and a hay bale, which traveled to cornstalks.

Northeast Iowa also experienced a fire on Sept. 27. The Sumner Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call for a combine fire. When they were at the field, a combine was partially engulfed in flames.

“Though portions of northern Iowa received its first widespread freeze last week, drier and warmer conditions are expected to persist for the foreseeable future and farmers should remain vigilant about combine and field fire risks,” Mike Naig, the state’s secretary of agriculture told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. 

Northwest Iowa conditions are labeled as being in an “extreme” drought. Less than one-fifth of farmland has adequate moisture for crops.