Wednesday, May 2, 2012

INPC - Climate Change and the Brazil Nut Industry

Poisonous Pitcher plant - The Private Life of Plants - David Attenborough

Are Plants Intelligent?

The Sequoia Tree

Giant Sequoia
Giant Sequoia Tree
Giant Sequoia Picture
Giant Sequoia Photo
Giant Sequoia Photograph
Giant Sequoia Fallen
Giant Sequoia Picture
Giant Sequoia Picture
Giant Sequoia Tree
Giant Sequoia Tree
Giant Sequoia Tree
Giant Tree
Giant Tree
Giant Tree Trunk
Sequoia Giant
Sequoia Giant Photo
Sequoia Giant Photograph
Sequoia Giant Pic
Sequoia Giant Pic

Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia, Sierra redwood, Sierran redwood, or Wellingtonia) is the sole living species in the genus Sequoiadendron, and one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods, classified in the family Cupressaceae in the subfamily Sequoioideae, together with Sequoia sempervirens (Coast Redwood) and Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood). The common use of the name "sequoia" generally refers to Sequoiadendron, which occurs naturally only in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
Giant Sequoias are the world's largest trees in terms of total volume (technically, only 7 living Giant Sequoia exceed the 42,500 cubic feet (1,200 m3) of the Lost Monarch Coast Redwood tree; see Largest trees). They grow to an average height of 50 to 85 metres (160 to 279 ft) and 6 to 8 metres (20 to 26 ft) in diameter. Record trees have been measured to be 94.8 metres (311 ft) in height and 17 metres (56 ft) in diameter. The oldest known Giant Sequoia based on ring count is 3,500 years old. Sequoia bark is fibrous, furrowed, and may be 90 centimetres (3.0 ft) thick at the base of the columnar trunk. It provides significant fire protection for the trees. The leaves are evergreen, awl-shaped, 3 to 6 mm long, and arranged spirally on the shoots. The seed cones are 4 to 7 cm long and mature in 18 to 20 months, though they typically remain green and closed for up to 20 years; each cone has 30 to 50 spirally arranged scales, with several seeds on each scale giving an average of 230 seeds per cone. The seed is dark brown, 4 to 5 mm long and 1 mm broad, with a 1 mm wide yellow-brown wing along each side. Some seed is shed when the cone scales shrink during hot weather in late summer, but most seeds are liberated when the cone dries from fire heat or is damaged by insects.

Giant sequoia cones.Giant sequoia regenerates by seed. Trees up to about 20 years old may produce stump sprouts subsequent to injury. Giant sequoia of all ages may sprout from the bole when old branches are lost to fire or breakage, but (unlike coast redwood) mature trees do not sprout from cut stumps. Young trees start to bear cones at the age of 12 years.
At any given time, a large tree may be expected to have approximately 11,000 cones. The upper part of the crown of any mature Giant Sequoia invariably produces a greater abundance of cones than its lower portions. A mature giant sequoia has been estimated to disperse from 300,000-400,000 seeds per year. The winged seeds may be carried up to 180 m (600 ft) from the parent tree.
Lower branches die fairly readily from shading, but trees less than 100 years old retain most of their dead branches. Trunks of mature trees in groves are generally free of branches to a height of 20 to 50 m, but solitary trees will retain low branches.
The natural distribution of giant sequoia is restricted to a limited area of the western Sierra Nevada, California. The giant sequoias are having difficulty reproducing in their original habitat (and very rarely reproduce in cultivation) due to the seeds only being able to grow successfully in mineral soils in full sunlight, free from competing vegetation. Although the seeds can germinate in moist needle humus in the spring, these seedlings will die as the duff dries in the summer. They therefore require periodic wildfire to clear competing vegetation and soil humus before successful regeneration can occur. Without fire, shade-loving species will crowd out young sequoia seedlings, and sequoia seeds will not germinate. When fully grown, these trees typically require large amounts of water and are therefore often concentrated near streams.
Fires also bring hot air high into the canopy via convection, which in turn dries and opens the cones. The subsequent release of large quantities of seeds coincides with the optimal post-fire seedbed conditions. Loose ground ash may also act as a cover to protect the fallen seeds from ultraviolet radiation damage.
Due to fire suppression efforts and livestock grazing during the early and mid 20th century, low-intensity fires no longer occurred naturally in many groves, and still do not occur in some groves today. The suppression of fires also led to ground fuel build-up and the dense growth of fire-sensitive White Fir. This increased the risk of more intense fires that can use the firs as ladders to threaten mature Giant Sequoia crowns. Natural fires may also be important in keeping carpenter ants in check.
The giant sequoia was well known to Native American tribes living in its area. Native American names for the species include Wawona, Toos-pung-ish and Hea-mi-withic, the latter two in the language of the Tule River Tribe.
Wood from mature giant sequoias is highly resistant to decay, but due to being fibrous and brittle, it is generally unsuitable for construction. From the 1880s through the 1920s logging took place in many groves in spite of marginal commercial returns. Due to their weight and brittleness trees would often shatter when they hit the ground, wasting much of the wood. Loggers attempted to cushion the impact by digging trenches and filling them with branches. Still, it is estimated that as little as 50 percent of the timber made it from groves to the mill. The wood was used mainly for shingles and fence posts, or even for matchsticks.
Giant Sequoia is a very popular ornamental tree in many areas. Areas where it is successfully grown include most of western and southern Europe, the Pacific Northwest of North America north to southwest British Columbia, the southern United States, southeast Australia, New Zealand and central-southern Chile. It is also grown, though less successfully, in parts of eastern North America.
Giant sequoias are grown successfully in the Pacific Northwest and southern US, and less successfully in eastern North America.
Immature seed (female) cones of cultivated tree in Portland, Oregon, USA (fall)Giant Sequoia cultivation is very successful in the Pacific Northwest from western Oregon north to southwest British Columbia, with fast growth rates. In Washington and Oregon, it is common to find giant sequoias that have been successfully planted in both urban and rural areas.

Report: Smoke from wildfires kills over 300,000 per year worldwide

Smoke from burning forests and grasslands kills on average 339,000 people a year worldwide, an international research team said Sunday in the first systematic global health study of air pollution from wildfires.
Every year, accidental and deliberate wildfires burn an area that, taken together, is larger than India. The dense plumes of fine particles and compounds released in the complex chemistry of combustion typically stay aloft for weeks and can travel hundreds of miles downwind. Smoke from fires in Central Siberia during 2003, for example, caused air pollution in the US.
To estimate the public health consequences, scientists led by fire researcher Fay Johnston from the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, studied the impact of the fine particulate matter released during such blazes between 1997 and 2006, using satellite data, computer models of wind patterns and mortality tables developed by the World Health Organization.
"I personally was surprised that the estimate of deaths was so high," said Johnston, who presented the findings at a symposium Sunday during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement for Science (AAAS) in Vancouver. The findings were also published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were hit hardest by the ill effects of smoke from wildfires and deliberate burning for clearing land, the research team said.
In Africa, about 157,000 people died annually as a consequence of smoke pollution, the scientists said. In Southeast Asia, 110,000 on average were killed every year by medical conditions related to inhalation of wildfire smoke.
By comparison, public health experts estimate that urban air pollution generally kills about 800,000 people every year, and the indoor fumes from household fuels cause about 1.6 million deaths annually.
The medical consequences of smoke from wildfires are likely to worsen in coming years, however, if predictions of long-term rising temperatures due to heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions come true, researchers at the AAAS meeting said.
Hotter and drier summers to come will result in longer fire seasons and more intense wildfire fires that may be harder to control, they said.
Researchers have estimated that for each additional degree centigrade in global mean temperature, there could be more storms and a five percent increase in the amount of lightning, which can ignite dry forests and savannahs.

Monday, April 30, 2012

USA Peanut Production

The top USA peanut producers for 2008 were Georgia with 45%, Texas 16%, Alabama 13%, Florida 9%, North Carolina 7%, South Carolina 5%, Mississippi 2%, Virginia 2%, Oklahoma 1% and New Mexico 0.5%.
Chart of USDA 2008 Peanut Production data by USA State

World Peanut Production

Total world peanut production for 2008 was 34.5 million metric tons (USDA data).
China led 2008 world groundnut production with 42%, India 18%, USA 7%, Nigeria 5%, Indonesia 4%, Burma 3%, Argentina 3%, Sudan 2%, Vietnam 2%, Chad 1%, Senegal 1%, Congo 1%, Burkina 1% and Brazil 1% of global peanuts for that year.

Mali, Malawi, Guinea, Cameroon, Egypt, Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda, Benin, Central Africa Republic, South Africa, Thailand, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Mexico and other peanut growing regions each provided less than 1% of the world's peanuts for 2008.

USDA 2008 world peanut production data by country

Wine Producing Countries

In both the northern and southern hemisphere the grapes are mostly grown between the latitudes of 30th and 50th degree. But some grapes grow beyond this latitude and minor amount of this grape is used to wine preparation. France, Spain, Italy, United States, and Argentina are the five largest producers of wine in the world in 2003.
The data is reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Wine production by country - 2007

Rank Country Production (tones)
1 Italy 8,519,418
2 France 6,500,000
3 China 6,250,000
4 United States 6,105,000
5 Spain 6,013,000
6 Argentina 2,900,000
7 Chile 2,350,00
8 South Africa 1,600,000
9 Australia 1,530,439
10 Brazil 1,341,806
11 Germany 1,300,000
12 Portugal 1,050,000
13 Greece 950,000
14 Romania 821,306
15 Moldova 598,000
16 Hungary 543,400
17 Ukraine 415,000
18 Austria 329,825
19 Russia 328,810
20 Bulgaria 200,000

Argentina exports 60% of its table grape production to the EU

Argentina exports 60% of its table grape production to the EU
  Rossella Gigli

After apples, pears and citrus, table grapes are the most important fruit crop in Argentina. At the occasion of the recent Southern Hemisphere Congress, Betina Ernst of the market analysis agency Topinfo has presented a report about the fruit production in Argentina. With regard to the table grape production, new orchards have been realized in the '90, with investments in modern technologies. The majority of the grapes is exported (60% toward EU countries).

As shown in the graph, the current table grape production amounts to over 60.000 MT, with a constant growth since the early 90s. According to Juan Martín Rosauer of C.A.F.I. (Argentinian chamber of fruit producers), custom duties for Argentinian grapes has weighted 8% on the final price in 2006, in comparison with a weight of 2,3% for the Chilean ones.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vermont Maple
Syrup Grades

Definitions for the different grades of Vermont Maple Syrup

Maple syrup grades vary depending on the tree and the time of season you are tapping.  The tap made early in the season generally produces a Grade A Fancy Syrup - the lightest shade and most delicate flavored Vermont Maple Syrup.  Sap gathered later in the season tends to produce a heartier Grade B Maple Syrup.
Following are the four grades of maple syrup as distinguished by the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food, & Markets:

Vermont Fancy, U.S. Grade A Light Amber Maple Syrup:  This light amber colored syrup has a delicate maple bouquet and a delightfully mild maple flavor.  Popular served over vanilla ice cream, in tea, or in any manner that complements its subtle maple flavor.  Many enjoy a slightly-cooled heaping spoonful fresh from the pot!

Vermont Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup:  This medium amber colored syrup with a pronounced maple bouquet and a characteristic maple flavor is most often used on pancakes, waffles, and as an all-around table syrup.  Medium Amber is also delicious by the slightly-cooled spoonful.

Vermont Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup:  A dark amber color with a robust maple bouquet and hearty maple flavor.  Most often used to accompany breakfast entrees and as an all-around table syrup.

Vermont Grade B Maple Syrup:  The strongest and darkest table grade syrup that is preferred by many for its pronounced maple flavor.  The most common grade used in cooking and to add flavor to processed foods.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Map of Indonesia

Indonesia and the Spice Islands


Official Name: Republic of Indonesia
Capital: Jakarta
Population: 192 million
Population Problems: Uneven distribution of population is a major concern to the government. Some 60% of the population live on the island of Java. The government hopes to relieve this congestion by attracting people to live on the outer islands. To facilitate this move grants, free travel and land has been made available.
Official Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Religion: 80% Muslim, 10% Christian, with the remainder comprising animists and other religions
Area: 1,904,570 sq km (735,555 sq miles)
Highest point: Puncak Jaya (5030 m above sea level)
Major Islands: Java, Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi (Celebes), Sumatra and the Moluccas (Group)
Currency: Rupiah
National Anthem: "Indonesia Raya" ("Great Indonesia")
Current Head of State (March 1996): President Suharto
Education: Primary education is compulsory but some regions do not have school buildings, textbooks or enough teachers to meet the needs of the expanding population. Over 90% of the country's children attend primary school. Attendance at secondary school is much lower at around 15% - 30%.
Indonesian Culture: Because of its sheer size the culture of Indonesia is highly varied. Perhaps the best known aspect are popular dances on Bali, gamelan orchestras, Dyak wood carvings to ward off evil spirits, Javanese puppet dramas and the batik method of dyeing cloth.
Major Industries: Rubber Production; Oil, gas and chemicals; Precious Timbers; Heavy Engineering and other high-technology industries on a smaller scale; Tin, copper and nickel; Cassava, Coconuts, Rice and Spices: Tuna and Prawns; Tourism.
Climate: Largely tropical monsoon. Rain falls all year round but the months from June to September are relatively dry everywhere except in the Moluccas which are very wet during this period.
Physical Description: Covering a distance of over 5000 km, Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. Estimates vary but it is thought the country is made up of over 13,000 islands. Less than 1,000 of these have permanent settlements. Many of Indonesia's islands are mountainous, have active volcanoes and are covered by dense rainforest. Outside of Amazonia Indonesia has the largest area of surviving primary rainforest in the world.
Natural History: Indonesia's natural history is widely regarded as the world's most varied and perhaps the most precious also. 20% of the bird species found in Indonesia are found nowhere else in the world and 40% of the archipelago's mammals are unique to this region. Modern farming, logging and mining techniques pose a serious threat to this area which is famous for its natural diversity.

The Spice Islands

The island region where Tim Severin and his crew will sail is known as the Spice Islands. Another name for this group is the Moluccas or Maluku. Although romantically named, the Spice Islands have a long and bloody history.
Today the importance of the Spice Islands is as one of the few surviving areas of primary tropical rainforest with a rich natural history. In previous centuries the islands' importance lay with their name. As the source of cloves and nutmeg they were the focus of attention from traders since 300 B.C. or possibly earlier. Chinese, Indian and Arab merchants sought out these riches long before the European powers came to Maluku. The Arab connection, in particular, meant that the Muslim Influence was very strong. Individual sultans amassed great wealth and came to control the precious spice trade. Indeed, by the early 1500s, Maluku was known as Jazirat-al-Muluk or "Land of Many Kings."
It was at this time that Europeans first came to the Moluccas in search of cloves and nutmeg. They were highly valued as food preservatives. Wealthy ladies used to keep spices in lockets around their necks so they could freshen their breaths easily. Gentlemen added nutmeg to food and drink. Spices were also used for medicinal purposes, especially in the relief of colic, gout and rheumatism. Such great demand meant that the prices of nutmeg and cloves soared. To offset this crisis expeditions were launched to find the source of these spices and bring them directly back to Europe.
Christopher Columbus was searching for the fabled route to the Indies when he arrived at the Americas in 1492. Not long after this the Portuguese enforced their rule on parts of the Moluccan Islands. Along with the spice traders came military forces and missionaries keen on converting the natives of the islands. Conflict soon broke out and the Portuguese brutally crushed the islanders. The natives continued to disrupt Portuguese trade and everyday life in the islands and within a century they were replaced by the Spanish. They did not last long either and lost out to the Dutch who governed the islands between 1605 and 1945.
The period of Dutch rule is marked by the usage of vast plantations as a means of producing vast quantities of spices for the European markets. All the land was under the control of the Dutch East Indies Company and anyone caught selling land, however small, was executed. By the early 1800s new plantations of spices in Africa and India meant that there was a greater choice of supply available to the traders. As a consequence, prices fell and the Dutch were in trouble. It was around this time that Alfred Russel Wallace arrived in the Malay Archipelago.
Today, the Spice Islands make up Maluku Propinsi (or Maluku Province) of the Republic of Indonesia.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

All About Salt

There is much to learn about salt. Salt, sodium chloride, touches our lives more than any other chemical compound. The chemical properties and physical properties of sodium chloride are a treasure to mankind. Salt or salt-derived products are ubiquitous in our material world and the very cells of our bodies swim in a saline solution. We take for granted the salt crystals that make our foods safe and palatable and we give thanks for salt’s lifesaving properties when applied to slick winter roads. Most are unaware of the 14,000 known uses for salt, how it’s produced and our success in ensuring the environmental compatibility as it provides the foundation for the quality of our lives.
Mankind evolved from the sea and we have a saline “sea” within us as do all fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Environmental author Rachel Carson is best known for her book on birds, but she also wrote The Sea Around Us offering this insight: "When the animals went ashore to take up life on land, they carried part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origins in the ancient sea." Our blood has the same chemical balance of sodium, potassium and calcium found in the oceans.
Salt occurs naturally all over the world as the mineral halite, as well as in seawater and salt lakes. Some salt is one the surface, the dried-up residue of ancient seas like the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Surface salt depositions and man-made saltworks can be seen from space. In ocean coastal areas, saltwater can "intrude" on underground freshwater supplies, complicating the lives of those who provide our drinking water supplies. Scientists have also found salt in meteors and on Mars where its presence signals the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.
Chemical properties
Tight ionic bonding unites the elements sodium and chloride to make the chemical compound sodium chloride. Man has discovered a vast variety of ways to harness the chemical properties of salt to improve our lives. Chemically, there are many “salts;” the resulting compound created by reacting an acid and a base; positively charged metal atoms (the sodium ion in the case of common salt) replacing the negatively charged hydrogen atoms of an acid, leaving the chloride ion.
Physical properties
Sodium chloride crystals are cubic in form and salt crystals are commonly used to exemplify crystalline structure and many science students are familiar with the process of growing salt crystals. Its color varies from colorless, when pure, to white, gray or brownish when in the solid, halite, form. Salt dissolves readily in water. Salt crystals can be grown in various sizes and salt companies prepare particles in a wide variety of sizes to meet customer needs.
Where is salt found in nature ?
There is enough salt in the oceans of the world that we could use salt to sculpt a full-scale topographic map of Europe – five times over. Oceans contain an average of 2.7% salt, by weight (total solids in seawater average 3.5% and 77% of that is salt). In addition, evaporation of ancient oceans has left vast deposits of solid (rock) salt over huge areas of the world. These deposits can be in the form of bedded sedimentary layers or deep salt domes.
Will we run out of salt?
Never. Salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world; it is so abundant, accurate estimates of salt reserves are unavailable. In the United States there are an estimated 55 trillion metric tons. Since the world uses 240 million tons of salt a year, U.S. reserves alone could sustain our needs for 100,000 years. And some of that usage is naturally recycled after use. The enormity of the Earth’s underground salt deposits, combined with the saline vastness of the Earth’s oceans makes the supply of salt inexhaustible.
Facts & Statistics
Unlike other strategic minerals, salt is widely available and produced in countless production units spread around the globe. The rapid industrialization of East Asia and South Asia have propelled increases in world salt production with China just easing past the United States as the world’s largest salt producing country.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Difference Between Extensive and Intensive Farming

Extensive farming (as opposed to intensive farming) is an agricultural production system that uses little inputs on vast areas of land, such as the Great Plains. Extensive farming most commonly refers to sheep and cattle farming in areas with low agricultural productivity, but can also refer to large-scale growing of wheat, barley and other grain crops in areas like the Murray-Darling Basin. Here, owing to the extreme age and poverty of the soils, yields per hectare are very low, but the flat terrain and very large farm sizes mean yields per unit of labour are high. Nomadic herding is an extreme example of extensive farming, where herders move their animals to use feed from occasional rainfalls.
Intensive farming (or Capital Intensive farming) has a large investment and usually works with alot of food production at one time, Bernard Mathews is an example of a capital intensive farming system, with lots of animals in a small space.

 Hottest Peppers

Hottest Peppers
Pepper lovers are a unique breed of people that the vast majority of those on the outside have trouble understanding. There is something about the spice of a pepper; something about the burning sensation and the way it makes the body feel that drives people to eat them. More so, it drives some people to really push the limits of what peppers they can comsume as well as those growing them to create new and even more intense breeds of these vegetables. The Guinness Book of World Records even has a section rating which are the world's hottest peppers. Before jumping into the challenge of trying to consume these beasts of fiery fury, it is best to know a little bit about them.
The hotness of a pepper is measured not by the shade of red that a persons face turns when eating it, but by a system known as the Scoville scale. Developed in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville (hence the name) this scale rates peppers in terms of Scoville heat units (SHUs), which represent the amount of capsaicin (the chemical compound that makes something spicy) that a given pepper contains. Examples of commonly known peppers on the Scoville scale might be a mild Peperoncini rating in at 100-900 SHUs to a spicy habanero falling in the 100,000 to 350,000 SHU range.
There is a great deal of variation among peppers, even those coming off of the same plant. SHUs can rate drastically different depending on such things as climate, soil conditions, the lineage of the seeds used and just plain natural variation from pepper to pepper. Some pepper plants thrive in more humid conditions while others do better in a dry heat. Certain factors in fertilizer, such as high levels of nitrogen, will cause a plant to become healthier and larger but only at the expense of capsaicin levels. Therefore, even though one pepper may have been ranked as the hottest pepper in the world, it does not mean that the next pepper of the same type will be just as spicy.

The title of Worlds Hottest Pepper has passed from pepper to pepper and the SHUs are rising with each year. More people are creating hybrid peppers which top the naturally grown peppers or other hybrids that held the title previously. This list of spicy champions therefore begins with the earlier champions and proceeds to the present.

Red Savina Habanero (1994 - 2006)

Also known as the Dominican Devils Tongue Pepper, these little red bites of spice ranked in at 700,000 SHUs and held the Guinness World Record for more than ten years. They originated in California at the hands of Frank Garcia, owner of GNS Spices, when he selectively bred various habaneros to get the hottest that he could find. Those who have little problem eating a normal habanero might find these to be a bit more of a challenge.

Bhut Jolokia Chili Pepper (2007 - 2010)

This pepper is known by a great many other names, including Naga Jolokia and Ghost chili. It is a hybrid pepper cultivated in the Assam region of northeastern India. A typical Bhut Jolokia is around three inches long, one inch wide, and ranges in color from bright red, to yellow, orange and chocolate. In 2007 one of these fiery vegetables stole the title by ranking in at just over 1 million SHUs.

The Bhut Jolokia is so potent that people living in northeastern India smear its juices on the fences around their houses in order to deter wild elephants from causing problems. It is currently being developed into a pepper spray for personal defense as well as tactical military use. Eventually, even this marvel of chili fire-power was forced to admit defeat, however. In December of 2010, the Naga Viper would become the next world champion.

Naga Viper Pepper (Dec. 2010 - Feb. 2011; Feb. 25th, 2011 March 1st, 2011)

The glory of the Naga Viper was short-lived. It managed to remain the worlds hottest pepper for about two months before losing the title, only to regain it again two weeks later and then surrender it in less than a week. Its SHUs measured at just over 1.36 million the second time around.

The Naga Viper is a hybrid pepper, created in Cark, England at the hands of a farmer by the name of Gerald Fowler. It is a three-way hybrid composed of the Naga Jolokia, the Naga Morich and a Trinidad hybrid. Unfortunately, the plant fails to produce reliable offspring and makes the Naga Viper difficult to cultivate. Still, this bright red fireball is so hot that when Fowler decided to try it in its first recipe, he had to make those who wanted a taste of the meal sign a waiver, just in case it turned out to be more than they could handle.

Infinity Chilli
(Feb 2011)

While the Infinity Chilli did make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, it only did so for two weeks in the month of February, 2011, before it was beaten out again by the very same competitor it had defeated. The Infinity Chilli in question was grown in Grantham, England, and ranked at over a million on the Scoville scale. These peppers range in color from red to yellow to green.

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T (March 2011 current)

The reigning champion of all spicy peppers is now the mouth-burning menace known by the name of Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. It is a specific strain of Trinidad Scorpion (so named because the end of the pepper resembles a scorpions stinger) developed by Butch Taylor, the owner of a hot sauce company. Grown in Australia, the world record was set by this pepper at almost 1.5 million SHUs.

The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T ranges in color from red to yellow to orange and is so volatile that to even handle it, protective gloves are needed. Exposure of the peppers juice to the eyes can cause temporary blindness. When these peppers are prepared, a mask or body suit needs to be worn in order to protect against the highly potent fumes that are given off while it is cooking. This is not a pepper recommended to eat straight for even the hardiest of chili pepper aficionados.

There are many other peppers which, while not the hottest peppers out there, are still pretty intimidating to the average person (or even the average pepper lover). The habanero, the Scotch bonnet and the Datil pepper are just a few famous names. While not everyone may be ready to take on the challenge of putting one of the more potent peppers into their mouth, there are plenty of less-intense options for those who wish to explore the diversity of these healthy and deliciously spicy vegetables.

Vegetation Index

What Do America's Farmers Grow?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ct Farming: Next Ct Battleground – Where Small Farms Can Be Located

July 21, 2011
The right to grow food and raise animals in one’s backyard could become the new battleground in Connecticut.
States across the country, including Connecticut, have “Right-to-Farm” laws to protect farmers against nuisance complaints or lawsuits resulting from farm operations. Nuisances may include noise, odors and visual clutter — all part of standard farming practices.
As the small farm movement continues to grow, some of Connecticut’s 169 towns are either considering or changing their right-to-farm ordinances. Towns such as Monroe and New Haven have adopted right-to-farm ordinances that are supportive of farming, while others, including Middletown, have changed their ordinances, reducing the land residents have to use, citing concerns over health and safety. Other towns in Connecticut are supportive, but don’t have right-to-farm ordinances.

 Some Town Right-to-Farm Ordinances Outdated
Connecticut has had a right-to-farm statute in place since the 1980s to protect farmers against potential litigation related to nuisance complaints, says Joan Nichols, government relations specialist at the Connecticut Farm Bureau.
“Towns have adopted right-to-farm ordinances, and we suggest they model it after the state law.”
Nichols suggests towns consult with the Farm Bureau before they implement an ordinance. Sometimes town planning and zoning and other non-farm committees will draft the ordinance, which may not be beneficial to farmers, she says.
“Sometimes towns write their own ordinances and then they come to the Department of Agriculture and say, ‘What do you think?’, Nichols says. “Towns have to remember that agriculture is fluid and that it doesn’t fit into the ‘neat’ zoning laws. If we’re brought in from the beginning, we can work together.”
Towns such as Monroe and New Haven have adopted right-to-farm ordinances that are supportive of farming, while others, including Middletown, have changed their ordinances, which some farmers say aren’t as supportive to farming and people who want grow their own food. Other towns don’t have right-to-farm ordinances, but are still supportive of farming.
“Ledyard is pretty friendly toward farming,” says Sharon Stegall, who built a chicken coop with her husband in their backyard. “Sometimes you might see a stray chicken or goat cross the street in the middle of town. We don’t think much about it,” she says.

Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology at Wesleyan University, and son Clark. The Devoto's like to grow their own food.

During the spring the unmistakable sound of baby chicks can be heard coming from the post office. Many residents, including Stegall, order their chickens through the mail. It’s not a crazy as it sounds, says Stegall, who recommends the Internet site Backyard Chickens as a great resource for new chicken farmers.
“A lot of Connecticut towns are embracing farming, such as New Haven, which passed an ordinance allowing backyard chickens,” says Ben Bowell, New England’s field representative for American Farmland Trust, a national non-profit whose mission is to preserve farmland. “People are allowed to have six chickens, but no roosters.”
Towns Aren’t ‘Evil’
Other towns are dealing with “outdated” planning and zoning regulations, which can be restrictive because agriculture is fluid and changing, says Bowell. “In most towns you can grow vegetables in your backyard. But problems arise when people start selling what they grow, and now towns have to start looking at the rules. So I don’t think towns are necessarily evil when it comes to ‘right-to-farm’ issues; it’s just that they haven’t considered how to deal with these issues.”
Communities don’t necessarily understand farmers and the role they play in the community, says Patrick O’Hara, owner of O’Hara’s Nursery in Monroe. O’Hara, who was behind the push to pass Monroe’s right-to-farm ordinance earlier this year. Although he says people want to understand farming and famers, he says, some people can be misguided in their beliefs. For instance, in 2007, Monroe’s Planning and Zoning Commission, of which O’Hara is now a member, tried to “ban” roosters in the town.

Clark weeding on his family's 4.5 acre "hobby" farm.

O’Hara waged an offensive, drawing over 400 residents together one night at a local school, to shoot it down. “I asked the police, ‘How many complaints have you had over a six-year period?’” O’Hara says. “Maybe one a year, versus the number of complaints for dogs. So why not ban dogs? It’s just plain silly. So put the roosters in at night so you don’t have a [noise] problem.”
Communities have to remember that farms were here before suburban developments, O’Hara says. “People think if they put up an expensive house, it supersedes everything else.”
O’Hara recently started selling eggs from his 15 chickens and like many new chicken owners he asked local farmers and did research over the Internet to learn how to raise chicken. “It’s not hard,” he says. “They’re like pets and not noisy like many people think.”
They greet him when he comes into the cage, and there is no hysterical and constant chatter. Does he name his “pets?” No, at least not yet, he replied.

 Middletown Farmers Not Too Happy
Other towns are changing their ordinances, including Middletown, but farmers in that town aren’t too happy with the changes. Stephen Devoto, an associate professor of biology at Wesleyan University, who has a 4.5-acre “hobby” farm, says some of the changes don’t make sense. Middletown’s Common Council in March approved an amendment to the ordinance regulating livestock.
Devoto, his wife and two children, raise much of their food on their land, including meat. Devoto, who writes extensively about local issues on his blog Middletown Eye, says animals have to be at least 25 feet from the property line, which takes a “huge swath of land” from farmers.
In addition, grazing is now prohibited near water, Devoto says. There are other problems with the new ordinance, he says, including a reference to a federal law that doesn’t exist. Middletown officials didn’t return calls.
Emily Brook, of Edibles Advocate Alliance and author of Connecticut Farmer & Feast, says that the very people who have a dispute with farmers are the very ones who want to preserve the land because they like the bucolic look. If you just rewind the clock, everybody had a garden and chickens in their backyard,” she says. What we need to do is educate people.”

   Misconceptions About Farming
In Connecticut, the farming isn’t large scale, Brook says. “We’re not talking about massive scale productions that are going to reduce property values. We’re talking about small farms, sustainability, and working with the eco system.”

Patrick O’Hara, owner of O’Hara’s Nursery in Monroe

City and town officials need to revamp their zoning codes to incorporate the increasing presence of agriculture, says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Nestle, who also blogs at, says “It doesn’t take much land to grow food, and people love doing it once they catch on. It makes for much livelier community interactions.”

Journey of a Coffee Bean

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Agriculture and Food Supply

Climate Factors | Implications for North America
Agriculture is highly sensitive to climate variability and weather extremes, such as droughts, floods and severe storms. The forces that shape our climate are also critical to farm productivity. Human activity has already changed atmospheric characteristics such as temperature, rainfall, levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and ground level ozone. The scientific community expects such trends to continue. While food production may benefit from a warmer climate, the increased potential for droughts, floods and heat waves will pose challenges for farmers. Additionally, the enduring changes in climate, water supply and soil moisture could make it less feasible to continue crop production in certain regions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded:
Recent studies indicate that increased frequency of heat stress, droughts and floods negatively affect crop yields and livestock beyond the impacts of mean climate change, creating the possibility for surprises, with impacts that are larger, and occurring earlier, than predicted using changes in mean variables alone. This is especially the case for subsistence sectors at low latitudes. Climate variability and change also modify the risks of fires, pest and pathogen outbreak, negatively affecting food, fiber and forestry.

Climate Factors

Several factors directly connect climate change and agricultural productivity:
  • Average temperature increase
  • Change in rainfall amount and patterns
  • Rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2
  • Pollution levels such as tropospheric ozone
  • Change in climatic variability and extreme events
Most agricultural impact studies have considered the effects of one or two aspects of climate change on a particular farming activity. Few, however, have considered the full set of anticipated shifts and their impact on agricultural production across the country.
Average temperature increase: An increase in average temperature can 1) lengthen the growing season in regions with a relatively cool spring and fall; 2) adversely affect crops in regions where summer heat already limits production; 3) increase soil evaporation rates, and 4) increase the chances of severe droughts.
Change in rainfall amount and patterns: Changes in rainfall can affect soil erosion rates and soil moisture, both of which are important for crop yields. The IPCC predicts that precipitation will increase in high latitudes, and decrease in most subtropical land regions—some by as much as about 20 percent. While regional precipitation will vary the number of extreme precipitation events is predicted to increase (IPCC, 2007).
Rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2: Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels, driven by emissions from human activities, can act as a fertilizer and enhance the growth of some crops such as wheat, rice and soybeans. CO2 can be one of a number of limiting factors that, when increased, can enhance crop growth. Other limiting factors include water and nutrient availability. While it is expected that CO2 fertilization will have a positive impact on some crops, other aspects of climate change (e.g., temperature and precipitation changes) may temper any beneficial CO2 fertilization effect (IPCC, 2007).
Pollution levels such as tropospheric ozone: Higher levels of ground level ozone limit the growth of crops. Since ozone levels in the lower atmosphere are shaped by both emissions and temperature, climate change will most likely increase ozone concentrations. Such changes may offset any beneficial yield effects that result from elevated CO2 levels.
Change in climatic variability and extreme events: Changes in the frequency and severity of heat waves, drought, floods and hurricanes, remain a key uncertainty in future climate change. Such changes are anticipated by global climate models, but regional changes and the potential affects on agriculture are more difficult to forecast.

Implications for North America

The IPCC concluded that, for North America as a whole (IPCC, 2007):
Moderate climate change will likely increase yields of North American rain fed agriculture, but with smaller increases and more spatial variability than in earlier estimates. Most studies project likely climate-related yield increases of 5-20 percent over the first decades of the century, with the overall positive effects of climate persisting through much or all of the 21st century.
  • Food production is projected to benefit from a warmer climate, but there probably will be strong regional effects, with some areas in North America suffering significant loss of comparative advantage to other regions.
  • The U.S. Great Plains/Canadian Prairies are expected to be particularly vulnerable.
  • Crops that are currently near climate thresholds (e.g., wine grapes in California) are likely to suffer decreases in yields, quality, or both.
  • Climate change is expected to improve growing conditions for some crops that are limited by length of growing season and temperature. (e.g. fruit production in the Great Lakes region and eastern Canada).
Agriculture in the U.S. and other industrialized countries is expected to be less vulnerable to climate change than agriculture in developing nations, especially in the tropics, where farmers may have a limited ability to adapt. In addition, the effects of climate change on U.S. and world agriculture will depend not only on changing climate conditions, but will also depend on the agricultural sector's ability to adapt through future changes in technology, changes in demand for food, and environmental conditions, such as water availability and soil quality. Management practices, the opportunity to switch management and crop selection from season to season, and technology can help the agricultural sector cope with and adapt to climatic variability and change.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has commissioned a federal study on the potential effects of climate change on agriculture. The USGCRP Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3 will address the following questions:
  • What factors influencing agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity in the United States are sensitive to climate and climate change?
  • How could changes in climate exacerbate or ameliorate stresses on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity?
  • What are the indicators of these stresses?
  • What current and potential observation systems could be used to monitor these indicators?
  • Can observation systems detect changes in agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity that are caused by climate change, as opposed to being driven by other causal activities?


  • IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and VulnerabilityExit EPA Disclaimer. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, Martin L., Canziani, Osvaldo F., Palutikof, Jean P., van der Linden, Paul J., and Hanson, Clair E. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1000 pp.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Crop Farms

A Crop Farm grows something.  This ‘something’ might be grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, tobacco, cotton, food for cattle, or even flowers.  Some examples of these might be:  

    People have been growing crops all through history.  As people traveled from one continent to another, they took seeds with them so that they could grow food in their new country.   Early settlers knew that they needed to be able to grow their own food if they wanted to live.
Today, farmers know much more about growing crops than they did then.  Different crops are grown so that the farmer will get larger fruit or larger seeds.  There is a lot of science in agriculture today.  Growing a better grain, fruit or vegetable means that the farmer needs to know:  1.  What kind of plant will grow well in their soil, 2. How to get the soil ready for planting, 3.  How to grow, harvest and store the crop, 4.  How to get rid of weeds and crop pests, and 5.  How to sell it once it's been grown.
Three-fourths of the world eats grain products as an important food source.  Grains are the oldest kind of crop.  Most grains belong to the grass family and are grown for their seeds.  Some of these are corn, wheat, rice, barley, oats and rye.  Grains are usually used to feed people, but sometimes they are used to feed animals. 

Farmers today depend on science a lot.  They study the soil to be sure it is right for the crops they plan to grow.  A farmer tests his soil and uses chemicals to fix or add what might be missing from it.
Crops depend on water.  A good farmer grows crops that use the water that is available.  Crops might use a combination of rainfall and irrigation.  A farmer wouldn’t grow a crop that needed tons of water in a place where it never rains.  He wouldn’t plant a crop that needs to be drier on land that is marshy or doesn’t drain rainwater well. 
    The picture to the right is an example of irrigation on a farm.    Irrigation is when a farmer has to spray water on his crops because the rain isn't enough.  These sprayers travel over the fields on wheels, spraying as they move.
Watering the Crops
    Farmers also have to watch for pests.  Pests might be plant diseases, weeds, or insects that can ruin a crop.  The farmer has to know what is ruining the crop and what to do about it.  This might mean putting just the right kind and right amount of pesticide on it.  Farmers use scientists and agricultural experts to help them figure these things out.
    Sometimes birds and rodents will eat the seeds or plants.  In the past, scarecrows were used to scare away these animals. 
    Crop farmers have to:
Get the soil ready to plant [make a place for the seeds or plants to be planted.]
Plant the crop.
Cultivate the crop.  [Pull out and bury the weeds between plants.]
Pick the crop and separate it into its usable parts.
Sell the crop, store it, or make it into food.  Some crops become feed for animals and are stored in silos.

Major Crops Grown in the United States

In round numbers, U.S. farmers produce about $100 billion worth of crops and about $100 billion worth of livestock each year. Production data from the year 2000 for major agricultural crops grown in this country are highlighted in the following table:
Major agricultural crops produced in the United States in 2000 (excluding root crops, citrus, vegetable, etc).
Crop Harvested Area
(million acres)
Cash Receipts from Sales
($ billion)
Corn (grain)
Sorghum (grain)
Corn: The United States is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world. Corn is grown on over 400,000 U.S. farms. In 2000, the U.S. produced almost ten billion bushels of the world’s total 23 billion bushel crop. Corn grown for grain accounts for almost one quarter of the harvested crop acres in this country. Corn grown for silage accounts for about two percent of the total harvested cropland or about 6 million acres. The amount of land dedicated to corn silage production varies based on growing conditions. In years that produce weather unfavorable to high corn grain yields, corn can be “salvaged” by harvesting the entire plant as silage.
According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the U.S. corn crop ends up in foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). It also has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels.
Soybeans: Approximately 2.8 billion bushels of soybeans were harvested from almost 73 million acres of cropland in the U.S. in 2000. This acreage is roughly equivalent to that of corn grown for grain. Over 350,000 farms in the United States produce soybeans, accounting for over 50% of the world’s soybean production and $6.66 billion in soybean and product exports in 2000. Soybeans represented 56 percent of world oilseed production in 2000.
Soybeans are used to create a variety of products, the most basic of which are soybean oil, meal, and hulls. According to the United Soybean Board, soybean oil, used in both food manufacturing and frying and sautéing, represents approximately 79 percent of all edible oil consumed in the United States. Soybean oil also makes its way into products ranging from anti-corrosion agents to Soy Diesel fuel to waterproof cement. Over 30 million tons of soybean meal are consumed as livestock feed in a year. Even the hulls are used as a component of cattle feed rations.
Hay: Hay production in the United States exceeds 150 million tons per year. Alfalfa is the primary hay crop grown in this country. U.S. hay is produced mainly for domestic consumption although there is a growing export market. According to the National Hay Association, the most common exports are timothy, some alfalfa, sudangrass, and bermudagrass hay. Hay can be packaged in bales or made into cubes or pellets. Hay crops also produce seeds that can be used for planting or as specialized grains.
Wheat: Over 240,000 farms in the United States produce wheat. The U.S. produces about 13% of the world’s wheat and supplies about 25% of the world’s wheat export market. About two-thirds of total U.S. wheat production comes from the Great Plains (from Texas to Montana).
Wheat is classified by time of year planted, hardness, and color (e.g. Hard Red Winter (HRW)). The characteristics of each class of wheat affect milling and baking when used in food products. Of the wheat consumed in the United States, over 70% is used for food products, about 22% is used for animal feed and residuals, and the remainder is used for seed.
Cotton: Fewer than 32,000 farms in the United States produce cotton. Cotton is grown from coast-to-coast, but in only 17 southern states. Farms in those states produce over 20% of the world’s cotton with annual exports of more than $3 billion. The nation’s cotton farmers harvest about 17 million bales or 7.2 billion pounds of cotton each year.
Cotton is used in a number of consumer and industrial products and is also a feed and food ingredient. Over 60% of the annual cotton crop goes into apparel, 28 percent into home furnishings, and 8 percent into industrial products each year. Cottonseed and cottonseed meal are used in feed for livestock, dairy cattle, and poultry. Cottonseed oil is also used for food products such as margarine and salad dressing.
Grain sorghum: In the United States, grain sorghum is used primarily as an animal feed, but is also used in food products and as an industrial feedstock. Industrial products that utilize sorghum include wallboard and biodegradable packaging materials. Worldwide, over half of the sorghum grown is for human consumption.
Some farmers grow sorghum as a hedge against drought. This water-efficient crop is more drought tolerant and requires fewer inputs than corn. Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri produce most of the grain sorghum grown in this country. The U.S. exports almost half of the sorghum it produces and controls 70% to 80% of world sorghum exports.
As much as 12% of domestic sorghum production goes to produce ethanol and its various co-products. With demand for renewable fuel sources increasing, demand for co-products like sorghum-DDG (dry distillers grain) will increase as well due the sorghum's favorable nutrition profile.
Rice: Just over 9,000 farms produce rice in the United States. Those farms are concentrated in six states: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. U.S. rice production accounts for just over 1% of the world’s total, but this country is the second leading rice exporter with 18% of the world market.
About 60% of the rice consumed in the U.S. is for direct food use; another 20% goes into processed foods, and most of the rest into beer.
This page is sponsored by EPA's Ag Center.