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Monarch Collaborative supports expanded habitat in ag landscapes

The Monarch Collaborative, a diverse and dedicated group of organizations working to support a sustainable population of monarch butterflies, unveiled Monday its official principles and resource list. These documents will provide the Monarch Collaborative’s members and others with essential guidance on ways to strengthen monarch habitat in agricultural landscapes.

The Monarch Collaborative’s principles document lays out a series of considerations for enhancing monarch habitat in agricultural landscapes, ranging from site selection to establishing milkweed — a plant uniquely important to monarch butterflies’ life cycles. The document, approved at the collaborative’s April meeting, also includes information on how to maintain and manage milkweed stands.

The collaborative’s resource list provides agricultural producers with relevant technical information on managing and restoring habitat for monarch butterflies. The resources list includes information from a diverse range of sources.

“Farmers, agricultural producers and the conservation community have a key role to play to help strengthen monarch populations and habitat,” said Wayne Fredericks, director of the American Soybean Assn. “The Monarch Collaborative is making important progress on this effort. These principles and resources will help guide our ongoing work to implement strategies to support monarchs in agricultural landscapes.”

“The Monarch Collaborative is making important progress toward identifying and implementing collaborative approaches to establish monarch butterfly habitat,” said Caydee Savinelli, pollinator and ipm stewardship lead for Syngenta. “These documents, developed by the members of the Monarch Collaborative, form the bedrock of our work to achieve a sustainable population of monarch butterflies.”

“Our experience has been that, absent regulatory disincentives, individuals and businesses that work and manage private land are largely willing to invest in wildlife habitat,” said Alex Echols, special projects consultant for Sand County Foundation. “The technical assistance and other tools under development by the Monarch Collaborative will be useful resources for those private land owners and managers.”

The Monarch Collaborative recently heralded encouraging signs for monarch butterfly populations while also urging stakeholders to continue working toward long-term strategies to support monarch butterfly recovery. The collaborative also is continuing its work to develop and implement agricultural practices to support monarch populations throughout North America, including supporting the planting of additional milkweed and nectar sources appropriately placed in rural areas. The organization’s efforts will focus on promoting awareness of how farmers, ranchers and land owners can support, conserve and enhance habitat for a sustainable monarch population.

To learn more about the Monarch Collaborative, visit keystone.org/monarch.

Global poultry production requires all-encompassing strategies

Merial, a global leader in animal health, hosted more than 500 participants at its fourth Merial Global Avian Forum in Barcelona, Spain, to address opportunities for meeting global demand for an abundant supply of safe and affordable protein.

Poultry and egg producers, top avian health researchers and experts from 70 countries shared information about solutions to efficiently prevent and control disease and strategies to increase the productivity of poultry flocks and maximize the efficiency of poultry producers’ businesses.

Global population growth and expanding middle class populations and incomes in many developing countries will require more than 30% more animal protein worldwide by 2030. As a result, poultry producers are advancing their business models to deliver a greater quantity of healthy chicken meat at affordable prices.

In a more complex and global environment, poultry production requires all-encompassing and evolving strategies that address infrastructure, production systems, disease prevention and sustainability, Merial said.

Presentations and workshops during the forum explored global and regional poultry management trends, the evolution of emerging and re-emerging avian diseases as well as current and future diagnostics and vaccine technologies.

In an opening session, Rabobank animal protein senior analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder discussed the opportunity for producers to benefit from poultry being the fastest-growing protein market due to the low production costs, the health benefits of chicken meat and consumer preference for affordability and convenience. He addressed the importance of production efficiency advances in the face of the increasing pressures of global animal disease, supply and distribution challenges, food safety, animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

Mulder also provided insight into the business models of different regions and the import/export dynamics in a globalizing poultry industry.

Merial said several interactive discussions focused on the prevalence — often with considerable differences by region — and evolution of emerging/re-emerging diseases in the world, including respiratory diseases (like avian influenza, Newcastle disease virus, Marek’s disease, infectious bronchitis, mycoplasmosis and infectious laryngotracheitis) and digestive diseases (caused by viruses, bacteria, coccidia, Histomonas and other parasites).

Other presentations examined strategies to prevent and control these highly endemic diseases, which have the potential to threaten entire flocks and cause significant quality, supply and economic losses. These sessions addressed a range of approaches to protect more birds from disease with greater convenience, less expense and reduced environmental impact, including:

* Disease diagnostic and vaccine monitoring tools;

* Current and new vector vaccines in development;

* Vaccination delivery methods and equipment solutions;

* Hatchery automation and management techniques, and

* Flock management, cleaning and disinfection.

At the meeting, Merial announced updates on the use of its novel NeO effervescent tablet vaccine formulation, which it said is a simple, convenient and eco-friendly vaccine formulation that launched in September 2015.

The Merial Global Avian Forum also recognized the 10-year anniversary of Merial’s VAXXITEK HVT+IBD vector vaccine that is used to protect flocks against Marek’s disease and Gumboro disease, two common yet threatening immunosuppressive diseases.

Bee research shows not all neonicotinoids alike

The group of chemical insecticides known as neonicotinoids has been identified as presenting a serious risk to bee populations, leading to bans on their use. However, at least one may be unfairly named among the offenders when it comes to risks to bumblebees, according to new research led by the University of Dundee in Scotland.

The new study found that one of the neonicotinoid insecticides — clothianidin — did not show the same detrimental effects on bee colonies as its close chemical relatives imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. All three neonicotinoids have been subject to a European Union-wide moratorium on their use.

Dr. Chris Connolly, a research associate at the Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resilience (CECHR) and reader in the Division of Neuroscience at Dundee’s School of Medicine, is an authority on the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. He led this new study, involving both the University of Dundee and the University of St. Andrews, which found that each of the different neonicotinoids leads to differential risks for bumblebees.

“There has been growing concern over the risk to bee populations from neonicotinoid insecticides and their long-term consequences to essential ecosystem services and food security,” Connolly said.

“Our knowledge of the risk of neonicotinoids to bees is based on studies of imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, and these findings have generally been extrapolated to clothianidin," he added. “However, in this study, we have looked at the three neonicotinoids in parallel. What we have found is that imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, but not clothiandin, exhibit toxicity to bumblebee colonies when exposed at field-relevant levels.

“There was also further variation in the effects on bees between the three insecticides. So, we can clearly see that the banned neonicotinoids are not the same, so they should be considered independently when considering risk and legislation," Connolly said. “From our findings, we consider that it is premature to place a permanent ban on the use of clothianidin. That said, a moratorium on its use should continue until the knowledge gaps are filled on its wider impact on other species.”

Funded under the Insect Pollinators Initiative, the researchers tested 75 bee colonies at five separate locations in Scotland.

Connolly said the study once again confirmed the threat to bumblebees from use of imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. “We have seen further evidence to indicate the risk from these insecticides, including deficits in colony strength,” he said.

“Given these findings, small changes in the pesticide structure or its target site in insects are likely to be critical to risk assessment, and each pesticide/insect combination needs to be considered independently; evidence should not be extrapolated to similar chemicals or insects. Real risk must be determined empirically,” Connolly noted.

The results of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The Insect Pollinators Initiative is jointly funded by the U.K.'s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, the U.K. Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Natural Environment Research Council, the government of Scotland and the Wellcome Trust.

Grant will explore genetics of stress resistance in corn

A $2.1 million grant will help plant scientists at Iowa State University and other locations to study how corn responds to environmental stress at the genetic level.

The three-year grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation, could set the stage for plant breeders to develop corn varieties that are more resilient to adverse environmental conditions, such as heat waves.

Stephen Howell, a distinguished professor of genetics, development and cell biology at Iowa State who is the primary investigator on the project, said researchers at Iowa State, Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington will try to build a better understanding of how corn plants deal with stress conditions that upset a delicate but vital process in plant cells called protein folding.

Protein folding is a process by which newly produced proteins acquire their shape and function inside a cell. The process occurs in every higher organism, and the success of the process is a matter of life or death in plant cells. For instance, an improperly folded protein may not be able to carry out its enzymatic function in plant metabolism or development.

Howell said prolonged exposure to environmental stress can disrupt protein folding in corn plants, causing the plants to produce misshapen proteins. The buildup of too many misshapen proteins sets off an alarm prompting the plant either to destroy the proteins or strengthen the genetic mechanisms involved in protein folding.

Howell’s lab will work to identify the gene pathways that are activated when misshapen proteins begin to pile up.

“Too many misshapen proteins can be toxic to the plant,” Howell said. “Learning about the alarm system may help future plant breeders to tweak the plant’s response and build in better tolerance for stress.”

Widely grown and globally important crops like corn face a wide range of climatic and environmental changes in modern agriculture, making this research even more important, Howell said.

However, the research, and similar efforts analyzing protein folding in other organisms, may have ramifications in medical science as well, he said. In humans, problems with protein folding lead to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and a range of other neurodegenerative disorders.

Diane Bassham, a professor of genetics, development and cell biology and the Walter E. & Helen Parke Loomis professor of plant physiology at Iowa State, is a co-investigator on the project. Howell said collaboration with colleagues in Michigan and North Carolina-Wilmington will require regular video conferences and occasional travel to allow the team to work together.

Research institute

At Michigan State, a new Plant Resilience Institute will conduct fundamental research to identify mechanisms that contribute to plant resilience and impact plant productivity. Research will include understanding how plants cope with environmental conditions associated with climate change.

"Michigan State is a national and international leader in fundamental plant sciences and the application of cutting-edge science to address critical human and environmental needs,” said R. James Kirkpatrick, dean of the Michigan State College of Natural Science. “This institute will build on that strength and allow the university to maintain its leadership position in these critical areas.”

The institute will maintain a global perspective needed to translate discoveries made in the lab to the field and transfer knowledge to the international community through education, research training and outreach.

“To meet the challenge of feeding the global community of tomorrow, plants of the future must have greater resilience towards abiotic stresses such as drought and high temperature and biotic stresses, including attack by microbial pathogens and insect pests,” said institute director Michael Thomashow, a university distinguished professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences. “This must be accomplished in a sustainable fashion that doesn’t harm the environment."

Neogen acquires Preserve International, Tetradyne

Neogen Corp. announced May 2 that it has acquired Preserve International and Tetradyne LLC, sister companies owned and operated by the private, Nevada-based Preserve International corporation.

Founded in 1991, Preserve and Tetradyne offer cleaners, disinfectants and associated products for the livestock and food processing industries. Preserve has focused primarily on the swine, poultry and food processing markets, while Tetradyne's major focus has been on the dairy industry. The company holds patents on innovative disinfectant technologies and has more than 100 products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and Food & Drug Administration.

"Preserve has an exceptional catalog of innovative products, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and a proven staff for development and manufacturing who will now continue under Neogen's ownership in their existing locations," Neogen chief executive officer and chairman James Herbert said. "Adding Preserve's products, complementary expertise and customer base strengthens our cleaner and disinfectant presence. Their sales channels are almost identical to our existing animal safety distribution and represent an easy fit with our sales and marketing operations."

Neogen will now operate Preserve's manufacturing facilities in Memphis, Tenn., and Turlock, Cal., which will further expand its market reach.

"As we looked to take our 25-year-old business to the next level, Neogen was the optimum choice," Gary Gaumer, president of Preserve International, said. "Neogen's focus on biosecurity for the agricultural markets aligns very closely with our mission. We look forward to accelerating our growth now as part of a combined organization."

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Neogen develops and markets products dedicated to food and animal safety. The company's Food Safety Division markets dehydrated culture media and diagnostic test kits to detect foodborne bacteria, natural toxins, food allergens, drug residues, plant diseases and sanitation concerns. Neogen's Animal Safety Division is a leader in the development of animal genomics, along with the manufacturing and distribution of a variety of animal health care products, including diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, veterinary instruments, wound care and disinfectants.

Rock River launches mill quality assurance program

As compliance standards from the Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) increase in both severity and inspection frequency, Rock River Laboratory has launched the Mill Quality Assurance (QA) Program to proactively assist feed mills and feed manufacturers in meeting the new criteria.

This new feedstuff management program guides mill management teams to enact and maintain best manufacturing practices.

“Developing a program that would satisfy the FSMA compliance requirements without demanding additional time from the mill manager was our main goal,” said Lauren Meyer, quality control and product development director for Rock River Laboratory. “We believe that proactive FSMA programming control shouldn’t have to stack on top of this already lengthy manager to-do list — not without a trusted partner to help carry the load.”

The Mill QA program utilizes organizational scaffolding that automatically facilitates everything except gathering actual feed samples and incorporates management tools that are simple, easily incorporated into the mill and manufacturing schedule and help virtually eliminate paperwork. Built with help from feed mill managers and agriculture industry experts, the program provides participants with peace of mind from consistently scheduled sampling while saving time through checks and reminders.

Rock River Laboratory’s accurate analysis, combined with logical reporting, also ensures that any outliers or failed feedstuffs are quickly identified so quality corrections can be made.

"The Mill QA Program’s reporting, monitoring and recording system for feed components and complete feeds is set to correspond to The Association of American Feed Control Officials' range of compliance,” explained Don Meyer, president and owner of Rock River Laboratory. “Not only does this association’s recommendations provide the foundation for compliance, but adhering to these ranges helps solidify customer trust in the overall quality of feeds coming from the participating facilities.”

Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Rock River Laboratory provides production assistance to the agriculture industry through the use of advanced analytical systems, progressive techniques and research-supported analyses.

Link cities, farmers to feed increasingly urban world

The global food system must transform to feed growing cities, a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs argues, and this transformation creates an opportunity to raise the incomes of rural farmers throughout the world.

The report, “Growing Food for Growing Cities,” was released April 26 at the council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium and recommends that the U.S. lead efforts to invest in policies, infrastructure, enterprises, trade capacity and research to transform agricultural supply chains in low- and middle-income countries.

“Two-thirds of the world’s population — 6.3 billion people — will live in urban areas by 2050, creating a staggering demand for food,” said Alesha Black, director of the council’s Global Food & Agriculture Program. “Delivering safe, nutritious and abundant food will be a challenge, but it also stands to be an enormous business opportunity for hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers and rural entrepreneurs, with potential to lift millions of rural residents out of poverty and address a devastating lack of jobs for youth in many countries.”

To supply more food to growing urban markets, supply chains must lengthen and reach further into remote production areas. This presents growth opportunities for others in the supply chain, such as wholesalers, transporters, processers and input suppliers, as well as larger companies interested in investing in emerging markets, including U.S. firms.

The report urges the U.S. government and U.S. businesses to:

* Bolster earnings and opportunities in low- and middle-income countries through infrastructure development, land tenure, food safety and gender- and nutrition-sensitive agricultural policies;

* Support private-sector investment by U.S. firms, particularly in partnership with local small and medium-sized enterprises to foster employment and build rural economies;

* Improve regional trade capacity and integration, and

* Expand and strengthen investments in research on sustainable, efficient, safe food systems.

“The coming years will bring about a total transformation of the food system — from farm to fork. We must emphasize inclusive growth, especially of small-scale farmers who could otherwise be left behind,” said Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture and co-chair of the advisory group that informed the report.

“The United States has national security and economic interests at stake as the system changes,” added Doug Bereuter, the advisory group’s other co-chair, president emeritus of the Asia Foundation and former U.S. representative from Nebraska. “Feeding urban populations has become an urgent and critical challenge around the world that demands our attention.”

This study builds on the council’s global agriculture and food work that has informed policies on malnutrition, climate change, science and innovation, international development and non-communicable diseases.

The Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium has been convened annually since 2010 to identify opportunities for U.S. leadership in alleviating hunger and poverty through agricultural development.

Livestock industry GHG emissions small

With the support of the American Feed Industry Assn., University of California-Davis professor Frank Mitloehner has released a white paper, "Livestock's Contributions to Climate Change: Facts & Fiction," that dissects animal agriculture and other areas that produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with the consensus that the livestock industry is not a driving force in climate change.

"Efficiencies in U.S. livestock agriculture have lowered this industry's combined greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low of about 4% of the nation's total," Mitloehner said. "Furthering recent advances will be paramount to satisfy a growing global demand for animal protein without depleting natural resources."

In the white paper, available at blogs.ucdavis.edu/egghead/2016/04/27/livestock-and-climate-change-facts-and-fiction, Mitloehner said comparing the 4.2% GHG contribution from livestock to the 27% GHG contribution from the transportation sector or the 31% from the energy sector in the U.S. brings all contributions to GHG into perspective.

"Rightfully so, the attention at (the November 2015 Global Climate Change Conference COP21 in Paris, France) was focused on the combined sectors consuming fossil fuels, as they contribute more than half of all GHG in the U.S.," Mitloehner said.

For perspective, he explained that if Americans adhered to "Meatless Mondays," there would be only a 0.6% decrease in U.S. GHG emissions. However, replacing incandescent lightbulbs with Energy Star bulbs would be twice as effective, decreasing emissions by 1.2%.

This week in Washington: May 2-6

Members of both chambers of Congress will return to their home states and districts for a weeklong recess before returning to Washington on May 9-10 until their next recess, which follows Memorial Day.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver remarks on rural opioids Thursday to the 2Gen Administration Conference. Later that day, Vilsack will give remarks to the Congressional Fire Services Dinner.

Following the historic Paris Agreement signing ceremony at the U.N. on April 22, the Climate Action 2016 Summit will convene global leaders from government, business and civil society on May 5-6 in Washington, D.C., to showcase and discuss actions all sectors are already taking to make the agreement a success. The national governments that have signed on to the Paris Agreement will need the support of international organizations, the private sector and civil society, and Climate Action 2016 will provide the forum for demonstrating actions currently underway. Vilsack plans to attend the summit. For the full list of speakers and the summit agenda, go to http://www.climateaction2016.org/#program.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market opens, where Vilsack will give remarks.