More than 1,500 pineapple growers on Friday gathered in front of the Farmer Market Centre on Petchakasem highway at Ban Auo Noi in Prachuab Khiri Khan to wait for outcome of the meeting of National Pineapple Committee.
The pineapple farmers came from Prachuab Khiri Khan, Rayong, Chonburi, Uthai Thani, Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi. They brought with them about 34 pickup trucks fully loaded with pineapples.
The pineapple farmers said the rally today was aimed at calling for the government to help settle the problem of low pineapple price, now only three baht a kilogramme.
The farmers said they would not rally at the provincial city hall but will gather at the centre until the outcome of the pineapple meeting at the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives is known.
If the meeting agreed to approve a budget of 800 million baht to buy 100,000 tonnes of pineapple out of the market to reduce supply of the fruit as proposed, the pineapple farmers would peacefully disperse. Otherwise, the rally will be intensified and the Petchkasem highway, a main route to the South, could be blocked, said the farmers.
Prachuab Khiri Khan governor Veera Sriwattanatrakul told the framers not to block the highway as it would bring about hardship to commuters. Continue reading
A pitched battle about why bee populations around the world are declining so rapidly has been joined by two new studies pointing directly at the harm from insecticides most commonly used by grain, cotton, bean and vegetable farmers.
Pesticides were an early suspect, but many additional factors appear to be at play — including a relatively new invasive mite that kills bees in their hives, loss of open land for foraging, and the stresses on honeybee colonies caused by moving them from site to site for agricultural pollinating.
The new bee research, some of the most extensive done involving complex field studies rather than simpler laboratory work, found that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides did not kill the bees directly, but changed their behavior in harmful ways. In particular, the insecticide made the honeybees and bumblebees somewhat less able to forage for food and return with it to their hives.
While the authors of the studies published Thursday in the journal Science do not conclude that the pesticides are the sole cause of the American and international decline in bees or the more immediate and worrisome phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, they say that the omnipresent chemicals have a clearly harmful effect on beehives. Continue reading
Right about now, tiny goldfields and purple mat should be erupting in carpets of color on the desert floor at Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks. The gentle hills of the Antelope Valley poppy reserve should be turning bright orange with thousands of California poppy blossoms.
But so far this spring, wildflowers in local deserts and mountains are in short supply. Even the rainstorm that swept through Southern California last weekend won’t be able to rescue what flower watchers say is turning out to be a disappointing year.
“I have a feeling that if anything does happen, it’s going to be a late season and a short one,” says Helen Tarbet, a field ranger who leads wildflower walks at Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Lucia District of Los Padres National Forest.
Indeed, it has been a very dry year in California. In the Southland, the drenching winter rains critical for wildflowers to start germinating never materialized. The mid-March storm brought less than an inch to 4 inches of rain to Southern California, Santa Barbara area and the vicinity, but rainfall totals are still below normal for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service.
Statewide, the snowpack measured continues to be well-below last year’s record-setter.
“The pretty abysmal snowpack levels we have this year are going to impact a lot of recreational experiences,” says Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the state’s Department of Water Resources. Late rains in the Sierra could help, but the roaring waterfalls at Yosemite and the white-water courses of the Kern River probably will be less robust than usual.
Desert wildflowers might be one of the earliest harbingers of the low-water year. Continue reading
Bundled against the chill of a dewy morning, we settled on the lower slopes of Mauna Loa volcano, a landscape interrupted on Hawaii’s Big Island. Around us was a forest that had grown up over a centuries-old flow, but for half a mile in either direction were cindery stretches of bare lava from more recent events. In the greens and grays of the woods, little molten explosions brightened the ohi’a trees, whose brilliant red blossoms feed several species of endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers, small nectar-feeding forest birds.
Even before we’d spotted a single bird, we knew that we were in the right place, thanks to the ear of Jack Jeffrey, a former biologist with the State of Hawaii who now guides birding and photography tours. Just a few minutes from the parking lot of the Puu O’o Trail, he began identifying call after call. There were twittery trills, raspy kazoo blasts and what could have been R2-D2 chirps and beeps straight off the “Star Wars” soundtrack.
Jeffrey explained that recent research has traced the ancestry of nearly 60 species of nectar-loving Hawaiian honeycreepers back to a flock of finches from Asia that arrived nearly 6 million years ago (even before all the islands had formed). Of those 60 species, only 18 remain today. The honeycreepers, along with many other native animals and plants, have suffered pressures from development and from introduced predators and diseases. With so many unique species facing extinction, Hawaii is often described as the endangered species capital of the world.
Photographer Kim Hubbard and I spent eight days in Hawaii in December, mixing birding on Oahu and the Big Island with other sightseeing. We found that bird-watching served as a lens on the islands, allowing us to meet locals who were passionate and expert enough to share their insights and help us step off (or in one case very much onto) the beaten path. Continue reading
A federal court on Thursday ordered the FDA to follow through on a 35-year-old proposal that would have banned the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed because the agency was concerned that these drugs were overused in livestock and helped develop drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people.
The concern is that some antibiotics given to treat illnesses in people are widely used on animals to promote disease prevention and weight gain, as well as compensate for crowded conditions on ranches and farms. The prevalence of those antibiotics in livestock has been linked in several studies to the creation of drug-resistant “superbugs” that can spread to humans who work with or eat the animals.
In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracyline for growth promotion. But the proposal has been in limbo ever since. The agency never held hearings or took any further action, prompting the Natural Resources Defense Council and four other health and consumer advocacy groups to sue the government in May 2011.
A federal district court in Manhattan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Thursday, compelling the FDA to press forward with its initial plan to start proceedings that could lead to a withdrawal of the drugs. Continue reading
By Karen DeYoung, Thursday, March 22, 4:19 AM
Fresh-water shortages and more droughts and floods will increase the likelihood that water will be used as a weapon between states or to further terrorist aims in key strategic areas, including the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, a U.S. intelligence assessment released Thursday says.
Although “water-related state conflict” is unlikely in the next 10 years, the assessment says, continued shortages after that might begin to affect U.S. national security interests.
The assessment is drawn from a classified National Intelligence Estimate distributed to policy-makers in October. Although the unclassified version does not mention problems in specific countries, it describes “strategically important water basins” tied to rivers in several regions. These include the Nile, which runs through 10 countries in central and northeastern Africa before traveling through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea; the Tigris-Euphrates in Turkey, Syria and Iraq; the Jordan, long the subject of dispute among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians; and the Indus, whose catchment area includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tibet.
“As water problems become more acute, the likelihood … is that states will use them as leverage,” Continue reading
A POTENTIALLY lethal tick infection newly identified in Australia has mysteriously emerged on the NSW south coast.
Doctors have revealed the first reported Australian case of human babesiosis, a tick-borne infection that carries a 5 to 10 per cent fatality rate, higher than the death rate from the most common tick bite infections.
The victim was a 56-year-old man from the south coast who died, it is thought, partly as a result of babesiosis.
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His infection was discovered only by chance, when his blood samples were re-checked four months after he had been admitted to Canberra Hospital with serious injuries after a car crash in November 2010.
In a report published today in the Medical Journal of Australia , doctors say the infection probably contributed to his death from multi-organ failure last April.
The report of the first babesiosis case in Australia thought to have been locally acquired had raised ”intriguing questions” about how the infection is spread in Australia, the lead author of the report, Sanjaya Senanayake, of the Australian National University, said.
The likely host or carrier would be a rodent. In the US, where babesiosis has been a not uncommon problem in recent years, the infection tick is carried by the white-footed mouse. Continue reading
On the front line of the brown marmorated stink bug invasion, Doug Inkley was overrun. Over nine months last year, he counted, bug by bug, 56,205 in his house and garden. They were everywhere.
“I literally have made homemade chili and had to throw it out because there were stink bugs in it,” said Inkley, who lives in Knoxville, Md., near the West Virginia border. “I have had people refuse to come over for dinner because they knew about my stink bug problem.”
Maybe now, they’ll come over. Entomologists say the population of this invasive species from Asia appears to have cratered in the Mid-Atlantic. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused flooding, drowning stink bugs and snuffing out nymphs before they could develop.
But there is also bad news. The bugs have marched to the Deep South. Recently they were detected in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, where farmers grow juicy vegetable and citrus crops the bugs are known to destroy.
It gets worse. Another type of Asian stink bug has established itself in Georgia. It eats invasive Asian kudzu, a good thing. But the kudzu bug also eats soybeans and other lucrative Georgia legumes.
On a working trip to Atlanta last week, Inkley, a senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, saw them flying about, attaching to walls by the hundreds.
“Here we go again,” he said.
Stink bugs come in a wide variety. Many are native to the United States, where prey insects keep them in check. Brown marmorated stink bugs native to China were first discovered in Allentown, Pa., in 1998, likely after crawling out of a cargo ship. Continue reading
Continued inefficient use of water could threaten Europe’s economy, productivity and ecosystems, a report has warned.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) said that the continent’s water resources were under pressure and things were getting worse.
It said limited supplies were being wasted, and nations had to implement existing legislation more effectively.
The EEA presented its findings at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseilles.
“The critical thing for us is that we are seeing an increasing number of regions where river basins, because of climate change, are experiencing water scarcity,” said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade.
“Yet behavioural change, and what that means, hasn’t really come about.”
Prof McGlade said the main purpose of the report was to raise awareness about the issue.
“Member states need to be clearer about the opportunities they can make in order to enhance their use of a scarce resource,” she told BBC News.
“Nations need to use different kinds of methods. Instead of just having a hosepipe ban to fix this year’s problem, you need to invest in a very different way.
“Long-term investment needs to recognise these different uses of how water is allocated, how it is used [and the need for] different water qualities.
“[The report] highlights all the different challenges as countries move from their historical position on water to where they are moving to [as a result of] climate change.”
Within the EU, agriculture uses about a quarter of the water diverted from the natural environment, and in southern Europe the figure is as high as 80%.
As there was an economic cost to farmers abstracting water to put on their crops, Prof McGlade said the sector was showing an increased awareness of where water was being used inefficiently. Continue reading
Orkin, the pest control company, recently said its agents nationwide are reporting a 30 percent increase in calls to treat ant infestations compared with this time last year. Termite swarms do not normally show up until the end of March, but Orkin received 85 termite-control calls in February.
An Orkin branch in Montgomery County, which serves the District, has already responded to mosquito sightings this year. And the National Pest Management Association, based in Fairfax, issued an early warning of ticks, possibly carrying Lyme disease, lurking in back yards.
County agricultural extension agents across the country are sending out bug alerts to farmers.
“These things are coldblooded,” said Mike Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. “Whenever we have a warm winter, they’re going to be out earlier. How do you stop them? You pray for cold weather.”
A mild winter is not great for all bugs, including some highly beneficial insects. Some were up and about when they should have been idle and hibernating, burning less energy, experts say. When this happens, they gobble the food they stored for the winter and emerge into a world where food is scarce. Many starve. Continue reading