Agriculture news

Read Dietary Guidelines

Sixth-generation rancher urges USDA to include more beef in dietary guidelines

Last month, we brought you the story of Kiah Twisselman — a sixth-generation California rancher who recently lost over 125 pounds and used the benefits of beef to help her achieve her goals. Today, Twisselman told officials with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services about her first-hand experience with the benefits of beef in her diet and urged them to do more to encourage beef as part of a healthy diet as they finalize new federal dietary guidelines. Twisselman testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“I know firsthand how important it is for dietary guidance to be practical, flexible, and clear,” Twisselman said in a public online hearing today. “Two years ago, I began my journey to better health. I’ve lost over 125 pounds through small life changes, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. I’ve also built a successful weight loss and life coaching business to empower others to do the same.”

Twisselman urged federal officials to build on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to include lean meat in a healthy diet by clearly identifying beef as a lean meat option and highlighting ways to achieve that recommendation by naming specific lean meat cuts like sirloin or 95% lean ground beef. She also called on officials to highlight beef as a common, readily available source for essential nutrients like iron, zinc and B-vitamins.

“Lean beef is a versatile, affordable, nutrient-dense, and delicious protein source for a healthy and balanced diet. From my herd to yours, thank you for guiding Americans toward healthier diets with beef,” Twisselman concluded.

Over the past two years, NCBA has worked closely with the DGAC, USDA, and HHS to keep new dietary guidelines focused on sound science and nutrition, and as a result, the final draft guidelines recognize beef’s role in a healthy diet, including the essential role of beef’s nutrients at every life stage.

Read Asian giant hornet

Complete Asian giant hornet genome released by USDA

The first complete genome of the Asian giant hornet has been released by a team of Agricultural Research Service scientists. ARS has made the genome available to the research community in AgDataCommons and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, even before publishing the results in a scientific journal to make the data freely accessible as quickly as possible.

The goal is to produce the genome and make it available quickly after an invasive insect is detected so researchers will have this information immediately to help coordinate an effective response.

Asian giant hornets are the largest wasps in the world, ranging from 1.5 to 2 inches long. Their native range extends from northern India to East Asia. Now, they have been found in western Washington State as well as Vancouver Island and Langley, Canada.

Asian giant hornets concern beekeepers because they can attack honey bee colonies during the late summer and early fall.

Related: ‘Murder hornet’ or social media hysteria?

The team of ARS entomologists and DNA sequence experts began the task in May in collaboration with the biotechnology company Pacific Biosciences. They were able to rapidly produce the entire genome sequence from the thorax of a single insect frozen from the colony found in the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in September 2019.

Pacific Biosciences’ new technology platform Sequel II with HiFi or “High-Fidelity” fragments permitted more genetic information to be extracted more accurately from the single specimen, allowing the team to finish the genome in just two months. This is much faster than a genome is usually completed and from much less source material, demonstrating that genome sequencing can now be part of real-time response to invasive species.

Computational biologist Anna Childers, with the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, who coordinates the Asian giant hornet genome team, explained it is important to establish the sequence of the current colony in North America. This will help determine if any new finds come from the original source or to potentially signal a separate introduction from their Asian homeland.

Genomic data also are being gathered from populations of Asian giant hornets across its native range so differences in various sub-species can be mapped. Scientists can use the data to try and determine the origin of Asian giant hornets in North America.

“Having this reference genome will help provide a broader biological picture of the Asian giant hornet. It also will help build an understanding of the dynamics of any Asian giant hornet populations in this country and how they may adapt as well as possibly provide information to sharpen the development of controls to prevent them from becoming established,” Childers said.

This work is part of the Ag100Pest Initiative, an ARS program to produce reference quality genome assemblies for the top 100 arthropod agricultural pests, including foreign pest species that are potential invasive threats to U.S. agriculture.

More rapid development of reference genomes in response to the appearance of potentially harmful invasive pests is a paradigm shift for invasive species management.

With advances that have been made in DNA sequencing and data preparation as part of the Ag100Pest Initiative, a faster response to new pest detections such as the Asian giant hornet has become possible, removing limits that existed before due to sample size, DNA quality, and complexity. 

Read Derecho

Derecho windstorms rock rural Midwest communities

If you live in the Midwest, you felt the storms from yesterday. Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio felt the intensity of the derecho damage, however, surrounding states received wind damage as well. Rural communities were hit hard by the straight-line winds, especially their crops, barns, houses, and grain bins. 

Up until yesterday, crops were looking good across the Midwest. While some states were in need of a rain, this is not what they had in mind. However, as every farmer and rancher knows, Mother Nature does not care about what you need. The devastating photo below is just one of many scenes from the derecho damage in the Midwest. 

Absolutely flat. This Corn field is from northern Story County, not far from where I grew up near Roland, Iowa.Just sickening.

Posted by Eric Hanson KCCI on Monday, August 10, 2020

According to The Weather Channel, “Derechos are large clusters of thunderstorms that most commonly form in late spring and summer and cause widespread destruction to trees, power lines and sometimes structures. From the Spanish word for ‘straight,’ these windstorms leave wide, long areas of straight-line wind damage. The winds can be as strong as 60 to 100 mph or higher in extreme cases.”

Monday’s storm system started in southeast South Dakota and eastern Nebraska in the morning. From there the destructive winds traveled through Iowa, northern and central Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southwest Michigan, Indiana and northwest Ohio.

This rare storm system is similar to that of a hurricane with the large impact and high winds, but with no eye in the middle. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says the derecho tracked about 770 miles in 14 hours.

According to poweroutage.us, as of Tuesday morning at 7:30, there were still over 1 million homes and businesses out of power in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and Indiana.  It is still too early to know any type of structural damage total amounts, but with such a wide area impacted, it will be quite large.

A storm that blew through the Midwest on Monday crumpled grain silos near Luther, Iowa.Photo credit: Jackie Schmillen/WOI

Posted by Feed and Grain Magazine on Monday, August 10, 2020

So far, there have been no official reports of total storm-related injuries, but as more information comes to light, we will keep you updated. Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini told The Associated Press that, “Monday’s derecho will go down as one of the strongest in recent history and be one of the nation’s worst weather events of 2020.”

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hit hard by the derecho system. The local police department reported that about 50 people went to hospitals with storm-related injuries following Monday’s storms. The city also enacted a curfew, starting on Monday night at 10 p.m. and lasting until 6 a.m. today, and it could continue so crews can work to clean up fallen debris.

Not only where farmers trying to weather the coronavirus storm, but now they have to deal with damages from an actual storm and figure out their next step in the year that is shaping up to be one of the most trying in history. 

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