Study shows bees adjust diet according to season

Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that honey bees alter their diet of nutrients according to the season, particularly as winter approaches. A spike in calcium consumption in the fall, and high intake of potassium, help prepare the bees for colder months when they likely need those minerals to generate warmth through rapid muscle contractions. A careful inventory of the bees’ nutrient intake revealed shifting sources (from flowers to mineral rich ‘dirty water’) and how limitations in nutrient availability from these sources can have implications for the health of both managed and wild colonies.

The study, which is available in the May print edition of the Journal of Insect Physiology, examined mineral content gathered by and contained in adult bees and in their sources of food, exploring how they maintain the right nutritional balance of micronutrients. For most of the minerals tracked, it was found that the bees sought alternate sources to complement variation in the floral supply. Continue reading

APHIS Makes Pest Risk Assessment for Dandelion Greens From Mexico Available for Review

The government of Mexico has asked USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to authorize the importation of fresh dandelion greens for consumption into the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. APHIS has drafted a pest risk assessment that lists potential pests likely to remain on the commodity upon importation if no mitigations are applied.

APHIS shares draft pest risk assessments to determine whether stakeholders have information that might lead us to revise the draft assessment before we identify pest mitigations and proceed with official rulemaking. Continue reading

Pepper weevil is the new big threat to vegetables

In Southeast Farm Press

by Clint Thompson, University of Georgia

Pepper weevils are such a threat to Georgia’s pepper crop that University of Georgia vegetable entomologist David Riley says Georgia farmers and agricultural workers should immediately kill any weevils found on fruit, equipment or clothes.

This year’s cold winter temperatures helped to wipe out fall vegetable plants like peppers and eggplants that host the weevils. However, weevils can hitchhike on peppers that the U.S. imports from Mexico and infect Georgia’s pepper fields. Seventy percent of the winter peppers imported into the U.S. are grown in Mexico, where pepper weevils originate. Continue reading

Increase in bee deaths this year could be from climate change

In Southwest Farm Press

Beekeepers in the U.S. reported an increase in honeybee deaths over the last year, possibly the result of erratic weather patterns brought on by a changing climate, according to the scientist leading an annual survey on the insects.

U.S. beekeepers said 40% of their hives, also called colonies, died unexpectedly during the year that ended March 31, according to a survey released Wednesday by researchers from Auburn University and the University of Maryland. That’s up from 33% a year earlier. Continue reading

AFRI Foundational & Applied Science RFA Released

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s AFRI Foundational and Applied Science (FAS) Request for Applications has been released. The FAS program supports grants in six AFRI priority areas to advance knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. The six priority areas are: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities. Research-only, extension-only, and integrated research, education and/or extension projects are solicited in this RFA. Please refer to the individual program area descriptions for either letter of intent deadlines or application deadlines.

NIFA’s funding opportunity page: https://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/agriculture-and-food-research-initiative-foundational-applied-science-program

Grants.gov page: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=305681

Florida working group takes a big bite out of conehead termites

An invasive termite in southeastern Florida is losing its grip on the area, thanks to successful eradication efforts by a multi-agency working group.

Sue Alspach, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), used funding from a Southern Integrated Pest Management Center IPM Enhancement grant to gather experts from many agencies in Florida to form a working group to deal with the pest. Continue reading

Cover crops help with weeds in high tunnels

by Candice Pollock-Moore, Southern SARE

Barley and hairy vetch growing vigorously in a high tunnel at Lola’s Organic Farm in southeast Georgia were going to seed. It was mid-April. Time to mow and prepare the soil for the summer’s cash crops: ginger and turmeric.

Since last year, couple Jennifer Taylor and Ron Gilmore – USDA certified organic farmers – have been playing around with growing cover crops in high tunnels, following the positive results of a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE)-funded Producer Grant project that showed cover crops grown in the field ahead of a cash crop can suppress weeds and build soil health. Continue reading