Agriculture

Photo: Apples in a farmer's market
Amber Carnes via Flickr

North Carolina lawmakers are looking for ways they can help get fresh fruits and vegetables to corners of the state -- urban and rural -- where they’re difficult to access.

Non-profit organizations and local governments across the country have for years identified areas known as “food deserts” across the country, but the House Committee on Food Desert Zones is the first effort by state lawmakers to address the issue.

Sweet potato fields in Eastern NC.
Bob Is Traveling / Flickr Creative Commons

Many farms spread human waste on cropland to fertilize it. In this case, the waste is called "biosolids". It can carry household chemicals that affect important bacteria, and that can hurt soil health.

The government has had a hard time regulating chemicals in biosolids, because the equipment that measured bacterial gases was very expensive.

But a new report from Duke University's school of engineering shows that bacterial reactions to chemicals can be assessed by changes in color. That's a cheaper test to administer.

USDA protest
USDA photo by Anson Eaglin. / flickr

Starvation is often considered a problem distant from the American experience.

But for many United States citizens, hunger is a way of life. And many of them live right here in North Carolina.

The NC National Guard visits a 4-H camp.
NC National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension wants communities across the state to help the organization change its business strategy. 

The Cooperative Extension is in the middle of a series of 12 meetings to adjust to budget cuts.  The group funds agricultural, nutrition and youth education programs like 4-H camps.  Four of those camps are shutting down by the end of the year. 

Cooperative Extension director Joe Zublena  says he's asking people for feedback about which programs matter the most.

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.

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