Agriculture

NC Sweet Potato Commission

Buyers of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina will likely pay more for them at the market this year. North Carolina sweet potato growers have led the nation for years in producing the root crop.  State agriculture estimates are that Tar Heels last year produced about 47 percent of the crop nationally.

But Sue Johnson-Langdon of the non-profit North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission says this year's yield fell victim to mid-year rainfall that ranks among the wettest in more than a century.  

Laura Candler

In the supermarket today, you can find about a dozen kinds of apples. But years ago, there were hundreds and hundreds of varieties grown all over the South. North Carolina native Lee Calhoun once had 3,000 apple trees growing in his backyard in Pittsboro. I visited him there recently and he showed what was left.

“This is a remnant of an old orchard I used to have,” he said. “Most of them are gone now. This is an Orange Cauley, a little bit different from a regular Cauley, and this is a Green River --that’s a Kentucky apple.”

An aerial view of BASF's Crop Protection and PlantScience site in Research Triangle Park.
BASF

Officials with a leading plant sciences company have expanded their presence in Research Triangle Park.  BASF cut the ribbon today on new lab, office and greenhouse space.  The expansion cost $33 million. 

The new addition includes an insect production facility, or an "insect zoo," to aid in testing bug-killing agents.  Nigel Armes is BASF's director of research and development.  He says the facility is key in establishing the company as a leader in insecticide production.

Visitors harvest lavender at Bluebird Hill Farm in Chatham County. Agritourism.
Bluebird Hill Farm

The Triangle foodie scene is growing its digital footprint. A new website called TriangleGrown launched by the Destination Marketing Organizations for Orange, Durham, Johnston, Chatham and Wake Counties aims to promote agritourism by being a go-to resource for people interested in exploring the local farming community.

Heavy rain could be reducing farm yields across the state, like this one in western NC.
mystuart via Flickr, creative commons

Record rainfalls across much of North Carolina have resulted in poor crop growth. When there's too much moisture, root systems often don't get a chance to develop fully, and certain nutrients, like nitrogen, also tend to be depleted.

Carl Crozier, soil science professor and extension specialist at N.C. State, says it's a complex issue because of all the different types of soil in North Carolina.

Potato late blight lesion, a fungus-like pathogen on a plant.
Jean Ristaino, NC State University

New research reveals the disease that wiped out millions of potatoes and led to widespread famine in Ireland is still around, and it’s more virulent than ever.  A new study led by NC State University plant pathologist Jean Ristaino investigates the history of the fungus-like organism that caused the Irish potato famine and how its genome has evolved since it first showed up in Ireland in the 1800’s.

Honey Bees
Clinton & Charles Robertson

The past year has been a bad one for America's honeybees, with commercial beekeepers reporting hive losses of up to 50 percent. Some blame the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder; others blame pesticides; and many scientists say we just don't know. 

Mercy for Animals

A bill in the state Senate could put an end to secret videos seeking to expose shoddy business practices.  The N.C Commerce Protection Act would stop advocacy groups from getting hidden-camera evidence of crimes unbeknownst to employers. 

Mercy For Animals made one such video at a Butterball plant in Hoke County in 2011 that led to charges.  The group's lead investigator Matt Rice says the bill would go beyond just animal cruelty.

Strickland Farms tobacco and house
Leoneda Inge

Farmers in North Carolina and around the country are keeping their eyes on Washington, where Congress is crafting a new Farm Bill

The Senate's version cuts more than $2 billion in agricultural spending per year, but includes about $100 billion in subsides over the next five years.  President Obama has asked Senators to find more ways to save money, including cuts to a farm insurance program.

strawberries
NC Strawberry Association

Researchers at N.C. State say oils extracted from herbs and spices could act as a natural disinfectant for fruits and vegetables. 

A joint project with the University of Tennessee aims to find an alternative to chlorine used on produce grown for mass consumption. Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie is a horticultural science professor at N.C. State's research campus in Kannapolis.  She says pungent spices tend to be best at fighting harmful germs.

"They have a very distinct odor, like cinnamon, for instance," Perkins-Veazie says.

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