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The top five AGDAILY stories of the week … did you follow the action? This week Farmer’s Life shares what he’s learned from planting cover crops, an Arizona National FFA Officer candidate reflects on his time in the blue jacket, and we examine why health insurance for farmers is truly a matter of national security. Don’t miss a moment at AGDAILY. Sign up and push your passion for agriculture further!

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Better beans? NDSU releases two new kidney varieties

Two new varieties of kidney beans – Talon and Rosie – have recently been released by a team of researchers at North Dakota State University.

Both new varieties “possess improved resistance to root pathogens and bacterial diseases,” says lead researcher Juan Osorno. “They also show higher seed yields and superior performance compared to older varieties.”

Improved resistance to root rot, which is caused by fungal pathogens, is especially important for kidney beans. “Their root systems are often weaker than other beans,” says Osorno. “They are more susceptible to root diseases. So anything we can do to improve these root systems is very helpful for farmers.”

Osorno and his colleagues tested how Rosie and Talon performed in 24 different field testing sites across North Dakota and Minnesota (the leader in kidney bean production in the U.S.) While they are both kidney, Talon and Rosie belong to different market classes. Talon is a dark red kidney bean, which are the most extensively cultivated sub-class of kidney bean in the U.S. Rosie is a light red kidney bean – the second most important sub-class.

“It’s important that we develop new varieties of kidney beans, irrespective of market class,” says Osorno. Kidney beans have less genetic diversity than other beans. That makes them more vulnerable to a single pathogen or disease.

“Less genetic diversity also makes breeding new varieties more challenging,” says Osorno. There are simply fewer trait choices from which to build.

Part of the challenge is matching consumer expectations. “When consumers think of kidney beans – or any kind of beans – they already have something in mind,” says Osorno. New varieties have to look and taste like consumers expect.

“If the consumer doesn’t like them, other traits like higher yields won’t be useful,” says Osorno.

Osorno has made Rosie and Talon seeds available for research purposes. “As a breeder, I am always looking for new varieties to cross,” he says. “Plant breeding can be a bit like rolling dice – you never know quite what to expect. The more plants you breed, the greater the chances of generating a useful variety.”

It’s also important to protect the existing varieties. Seeds of Talon and Rosie have been deposited for safekeeping with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation.

In 2014, farmers in the United States produced more than 86,700 metric tons of kidney beans. While other kinds of beans are farmed more, kidney command the highest market price by weight.

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Corn as a component of tractor tires? It’s not so far-fetched

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of raw materials that go into the manufacturing of tires — so would it be a shock to learn that corn could become one of them.

That is the hope of a team from three research universities who set out to produce a more sustainable tire. The result was making, butadiene, the chemical common to synthetic rubber, out of renewable resources such as trees, grasses, and corn. Sustainability, the road is now yours.

The scientists, who hailed from the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts, published their findings online with the American Chemical Society, and it will be in the ACS’ printed Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering journal.

The past 10 years have seen a shift toward an academic research focus on renewable chemicals and butadiene, in particular, due to its importance in commercial products, said Dionisios Vlachos, a co-author of the study.

“Our team combined a catalyst we recently discovered with new and exciting chemistry to find the first high-yield, low-cost method of manufacturing butadiene,” Vlachos said. “This research could transform the multi-billion-dollar plastics and rubber industries.”

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Proposed amendment allows humane wild horse euthanasia

An amendment to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that would allow for humane wild horse and burro euthanasia is just what western ranchers need according to the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), would rein in burdensome regulations that failed to allow for proper management, the groups said.

“As a native of Utah, I’m very proud of the leadership that Congressman Stewart has exhibited,” PLC president and Utah rancher Dave Eliason said. “He has seen firsthand the destruction that the overpopulation of wild horses has had on our rangelands and truly understands the issues faced by ranchers in the west and deserves credit for his work on this important issue.”

NCBA President, Craig Uden, feels this is an important milestone for western ranchers.

“Horse and burro populations on BLM lands have long exceeded Appropriate Management Levels and are damaging to ecosystem health,” Uden said. “Their population has an average growth of over 20 percent each year, and it is imperative that Congress continue to take steps to mitigate this issue.”

Overpopulation of wild horses and burros negatively impacts native wildlife, rangeland ecosystems, and rangeland access. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) uses science to monitor rangeland vegetation, soils, water, and wildlife habitat to determine appropriate management levels (AML) for wild horse and burros. The BLM estimates the current population of wild horse and burros exceeds 72,000, well above the maximum AML of 26,715.

Eliason emphasized that NCBA and PLC have long expressed concerns about wild horses and burros on federal land and will continue to support humane and ethical management practices of these animals.

“While this amendment does not solve the whole problem and there is still a great deal of work to do, the language would add one more tool to the toolbox and would provide the Bureau of Land Management more flexibility to manage this unsustainable population,” Eliason said.

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