India is experiencing a heatwave that is impacting the wheat harvest


Wheat field
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Elyse Gabor | May 3, 2022

India is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. Dangerous temperatures have affected millions of people. Some regions are predicted to reach 120 Fahrenheit, which will have detrimental effects on the country’s wheat harvest.

India and the United States make up nearly a third of wheat exports. India was expected to produce around 122 million tons, a record amount. However, the country has just experienced its hottest March to date. The heatwave hit the central wheat-growing regions and is expected to last long into harvest season. 

The hot spell has affected India’s farmers, with many of them experiencing a depletion in their wheat crop. A farmer from the Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, Devendra Singh Chauhan, said in a text message to NBC News, “If such unreasonable weather patterns continue year after year, farmers will suffer badly.”

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network, said, “[Wheat] prices will be driven up, and if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India.” 

Farmer in northeastern Iowa fined for creek pollution


Iowa
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Elyse Gabor | April 19, 2022

A farmer near Ossian, a town in northeastern Iowa, is fined $18,000. According to the DNR, the farmer knew that one of his soil conditioner pits was possibly leaking but continued to fill it with the conditioner regardless. The conditioner leaked into the Dry Branch Creek, which flows into the Turkey River.

A report of dead fish in Dry Branch Creek was reported last July. Upon examination of the creek, the DNR found almost 20,000 dead fish. The foamy water had an unpleasant scent, high ammonia levels, and contained larvae. These abnormalities were traced to Milan Hageman.

Milan Hageman’s small livestock operation contained two storage pits that were leaking into the underground tiling. These pits had soil conditioner that was used as fertilizer.
At the time, Hageman created ridges from gravel and earth to stop the flow and pumped the conditioner out of the storage containers. According to the DNR administrative order, Hageman “thought the creek looked cloudy and wondered if the below building pit was leaking last fall.”

Specialists at the DNR are unsure how long the leak has been occurring. The amount of conditioner that reached the creek is unknown as well.

Hageman has agreed to pay a fine of $18,280 for the investigation and fish kill. He also agreed to hire an engineer to examine the storage pits.

Iowa farmers will soon be fined for drifting weedkiller


Pesticides
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Elyse Gabor | April 12, 2022

Senate File 482 was passed over a year ago, allowing farmers to be fined if pesticides on their crops drifted into neighbors’ fields. Farmers and pesticide suppliers were fined up to $500 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before the Senate File was signed, only the pesticides service companies could be fined.

According to experts, the weedkiller dicamba was responsible for damaging more crops and trees in 2020 since it was created in the 1960s. Dicamba is notorious for being a drifting pesticide. It is used in many well-known pesticide brands that combat broadleaf weeds.

Since the bill was signed, measures need to be taken so the state can adopt a new concept on how to enforce the law. However, the law will not go into effect until after the current growing season.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Agriculture Department, Chloe Carson, said, “We are currently in the process of updating our state pesticide plan, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to include rules/procedures for the private applicator penalty in this rules package once we have received feedback from EPA.”

Once the bill is in effect, it will construct a peer panel of five members to help manage and control the fines.

Unknown amount of manure leaked from Iowa dairy farm into


Cows in barn
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Elyse Gabor | March 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR, workers at Black Soil Dairy, located near Granville, observed manure water flowing from a barn and into a sewer drain. Unaware that the contamination would flow into a nearby creek, they did nothing to stop the leak. The dairy owner noticed the overflow and stopped it a few days after it had begun. The amount of escaped manure is unknown. 

The farm, which houses 4,500 dairy cows, has a flush flume system that helps clear manure from its three barns. The system utilizes fast flowing liquid to transfer waste across the width of a barn. A clog in the system caused the overflow due to sand. 

The DNR investigated the overflow and noticed that manure traveled five miles down from the dairy farm. This creek is home to little fish like minnows and chubs, which were harmed due to the pollution. Jennifer Christian, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said that the leak was significant enough to cause a fish kill. The overflow’s overall impact on the environment is unknown as ice was covering some of the creek. 

Flock of turkeys in Buena Vista County test positive for bird flu


Turkey
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Elyse Gabor | March 15, 2022

Tests confirmed that a flock of 50,000 turkeys was infected with the bird flu early last week. According to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the highly contagious and deadly disease caused the turkeys to be slaughtered in Buena Vista County. The virus was likely to have come from wild birds migrating through the state. 

This was the second time the disease had affected birds in a week. The first outbreak was detected in Pottawattamie Country in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks. Poultry facilities near the Buena Vista site are being watched as well as 37 backyard flocks. 

The turkeys will be buried near the Buena Vista site to reduce the spread of the disease. 

Iowa State’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig warned that it is a time of caution, saying, “It is critically important that livestock producers and their veterinarians closely monitor the health of their animals.” 

The last outbreak occurred in 2015, causing the slaughter of more than 30 million birds in the state. Naig said that in order to avoid a similar scenario, it is essential to have early detections and swift responses. 

Investigation over the rise in fertilizer costs to be conducted by Iowa attorney general


Corn Field
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | March 1,2022

The extreme rise in fertilizer prices is causing a decrease in corn production for the upcoming growing season and harming farmers. On Thursday, Attorney General Tom Miller announced that they would investigate the rise in prices. 

In the past year, many fertilizers have doubled or tripled in cost. Miller’s office frequently looks into companies that inflate their profits and rates due to low competition. He has requested data from major fertilizer companies to try and explain the increase in prices. 

On Thursday, Miller said, “It’s possible that these increases could be legal, but not justified, not right.” 

The investigation will be sped up as spring and the start of the growing season is near, but it is expected to last many months. Miller hopes that bringing awareness to the situation will discourage an unjust rise in prices. 

Miller has found research that suggests that the price of fertilizers rises in years that farmers brought in higher revenue. 

“If that’s what’s going on, we want to find out about that. That may not be illegal, but it’s not a good policy,” said Miller. 

Last year, farmers said they received quotes on fertilizers multiple times higher than in the past years. Since corn yields are high enough to support the increase in prices, Iowa’s corn production will have a delayed effect. Other states that lack fertile soil may choose to plant other crops. 

Environmentally friendly facility leaked manure into northwest Iowa creek


Manure digester at Lochmead Farms
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 15, 2022

According to the DNR, a facility near Rock Valley polluted a creek after it leaked around 376,000 gallons of contaminated water. The facility was constructed by Colorado company, Gevo, which creates environmentally friendly fuels from manure. 

The polluted water moved to a crop field and drained into Lizard Creek. The creek flows into Rock River, and as of now, the extent of contamination is unknown. 

Gevo creates renewable fuel by extracting methane from manure produced by cattle. The gas is then transported to California, where it fuels low-emissions cars. The company plans to operate this year. 

The Rock Valley digester, one of three manure holding sites in the area, was contaminated early last week. As the leak began to seep into the ground, someone discovered the polluted water and traced it back to the new facility. According to Gevor spokesperson Heather Manuel, facility workers are trying hard to find the source of the leak. The company will also be checking all digesters moving forward. 

The DNR is unsure of what caused the leak to happen. They are also unclear as to how long the digester has been leaking.

The USDA Plans to Send $1.4 Billion Into Rural Communities


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Josie Taylor | February 3, 2022

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, announced Wednesday that the USDA is investing $1.4 billion into rural economies. They are doing this through job training, business loans and the expansion of technical assistance.

Eight programs will give out 751 awards across 49 states. Vilsack believes these programs will help create wealth in rural communities.

“The rural economy, which plays an important role in our national economy, has historically lagged behind the urban and suburban counterparts,” he said, “That’s why it’s important for us to focus on building back that rural economy better.”

The grants and loans will assist with many needs such as housing, the expansion of small businesses and family farms, and providing capital for new small businesses owners. 

One of the programs, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, allocated $8.4 million in grant awards and $1.7 million in loans.  In Iowa, the Pella Cooperative Electric Association received a $300,000 grant from that program to replenish the association’s revolving loan fund. That money will help fund the construction of a women’s housing and health care facility. 

Several universities also received those grants, such as The Ohio State University, which received nearly $200,000, and the governing body at the University of Nebraska, which was awarded $200,000. 

Common Pesticides are More Harmful than We Once Thought


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | November 28, 2021

A new study found that pesticides are even more harmful to pollinators than previously thought. 

A study by Stuligross and colleagues tallying the detrimental impacts of a key pesticide on reproduction of a bee species adds to growing evidence that such insects, which make up the vast majority of bee species, are vulnerable to the compounds. 

Their findings suggest the harm of pesticides can accumulate over multiple generations, which could exacerbate the loss of species that provide valuable pollination for farms and ecosystems. Pesticides can harm both larva and adult bees. 

The work demonstrates that chronic pesticide poisoning can cause “meaningful and significant impacts” on bees, says Nigel Raine, a bee ecologist at the University of Guelph who was not personally involved with the study. 

Neonicotinoids pesticides which are sprayed on soil and seeds were found to be the most harmful. They affect both the memory of most bees and the ability to reproduce. Pesticides like these were found to be more harmful to these aspects than scientists had once thought. 

Pollinators are necessary to plant and crop growth. A lack of pollination will ultimately lead to a lack of food and necessary plants. 

Most of Iowa’s Drought has Been Lifted in the Past Month


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | November 8, 2021

For the first time in over a year, many parts of Iowa are no longer in a drought. This is thanks to widespread rainfall last month that made it one of the wettest Octobers on record.

An average of about 5 inches of rain fell across the state, according to a water summary update from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor this week shows less than half of the state is abnormally dry or in moderate drought. Just 4 months ago, it was more than half. 

This week was the first since July 2020 that no part of the state was suffering from severe drought. Many areas of the state had more than double their normal amounts of rainfall. This is a massive improvement. 

The persistent rains did slow harvesting, however farmers are still ahead of the five-year average for completion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 88 percent of the soybean crop was harvested as of Sunday, and 70 percent of corn had been harvested.