Category Archives: technology

Bio-technology, GPS, PrecisionAg

Extra Credit #3- Center for Food Integrity ‘Gene Editing’ – Reflection

On October 9th, after a class discussing precision agriculture technology and data management, we were asked to do a reading from November 2018 on the Center for Food Integrity‘s ‘Gene Editing, Engage in the Conversation’ about speaking to opponents of gene-editing – namely the pre-2013 Mark LYNAS” of the world, anti-GMO supporter.

In the article, it is explained that gene-editing is the key to producing, ‘healthier, more affordable, and abundant food with less land and water-use’ and that consumers are, ‘inherently curious’ about the source of their food and how it’s produced.  It is the job of ‘Ag-vocates’ to explain biotech to those who are curious or misinformed.  It is helpful to provide tangible examples, and real-world visuals and anecdotes to aid in communication.

First, it is helpful to explain what gene-editing is, which is ,’the precise, intentional, and beneficial change of the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production for additional health, nutrition, and environmental benefits.’ Many consumers don’t believe plants even have DNA or contain genes.

When presenting knowledge about the gene-editing technique CRISPr to those consumers, finding experts whose knowledge is easily digestible is key.

Secondly, explain how gene-editing is beneficial to human health, i.e., use common ailments like cancers (leukemia, sickle cell, lung cancer) to frame gene-editing in a positive light.

Third, talk about how gene-editing has evolved with time. The process of cross-breeding plants with trial-and-error is a lengthy procedure that can take decades, while targeted editing is much quicker.

Fourth, find benefits that align with public desires.  Honing in on what consumers want, be it improved animal welfare or protecting the environment can be the key to swaying dissenters to the side of biotech.

Two analogies used to explain gene-editing are, ‘The Blueprint’ and, ‘the Encyclopedia’ to explain how making small aesthetic changes to a house does not make it structurally unsound or uninhabitable and can make it increasingly easy to find where the right resources are located, respectively.

Ultimately values, and not facts, are typically what sway both hearts and minds.

Finally, the article ends with a helpful glossary of terms and online resources, as well as the relatively recently established in 2016, ‘Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture‘. The Coalition is a collection of various entities from different fields who have shared values about gene-editing.

 

Understanding Today’s Agriculture, AGRI130 Guest Lecture #7- Livestock Industry

On October 21, 2019 Mr. Dan SEVERSON spoke to the class on Delaware’s Livestock Industry. He covers the large-scope of the industry and the varied number of animals that are cultivated in agriculture.

Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture- a farm is any family that makes $1, 000 a year from agriculture. 98% of farms are family-owned and account for 87% of all agricultural value generated.  In Delaware, more than half of the farms are less than 50acres. More than half of farms have sales that generate less than $50, 000 in profit.   $3.5 million is generated in  direct-to-consumers in products and Delaware is the #1 state in the U.S. for value of products per acre. Delaware is also the #1 producer of lima beans in the U.S.

In the U.S., the livestock industry occupies .5mil acres land, with 500, 000acres in farms accounting for 40% of the gross domestic product.  With an average of 200 acres per farm, the industry generates about $8 billion in profit for agriculture.

Before going into the specifics of the Delaware livestock industry, Mr. SEVERSON gave the class a quick history overview. In 1914 WW1 takes shape & so begins the birth of agricultural extensions. In the 1930s Depression & Dust Bowl hit. And in 1939 WW2 starts, encouraging farm hands go to war. When the farmers return, they bring training & technology. No young man is willing to work for $0.50/week when they might earn $7/day at a factory.  In1950, Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer increases crop yields, aiding in a 265% increase in production and decreasing inputs by 2%

As a result of the wars ‘advancements’ the average annual per capita consumption of meat has changed over the years- beef, pork, and lamb have decreased while poultry has increased. 29% of Delaware’s land area is planted in corn & soybeans, and most of that produce goes towards the poultry industry as chicken feed. Goat & veal consumption has not been tracked ‘til recently. In the U.S. family food costs on average represent just 9.7% of a households income, that food typically consisting of what is most affordable, safe, & abundant. Compare that percentage to Russia’s average family spending 14-15% of their income, or the average Ethiopia n family spending 45%.  Much of that reduction in cost is due to the way that the meat is produced.

In Delaware there are 235 beef farms with 14, 000 cows/calves between them. Many of the cows are fed a Total Mix Ration (TMR) for more efficient and tailored nutrition. An example of a Delaware cattle farm would be Power’s Farm in Townsend, Delaware. Cattle are often the topic of Animal Welfare discussions.

Pork is soon to be vertically integrated. Swine production, Mr. SEVERSON notes, is a subject taught by UD’s Dr. Lesa GRIFFITH. Hogs may be raised farrow to finish, farrow to feeders, or feeders to finish. When keeping pigs, it is important to note white pigs are prone to sunburn, making the black breed Berkshire better for bacon. Part of the processing of hogs involves a scalding trough to skin the pigs, which Mr. SEVERSON notes is very hard to do. A popular value-added product made from pork is, ‘Artisan Scrapple.’   Mr. SEVERSON interjects the lecture to pose a question to the class on why pork shoulders are referred to as, ‘Boston Butt’.  When no one is able to provide an answer, he moves on.  Conducting a quick search after the fact define the pork shoulder is the ‘skinless, boneless upper part of a pigs front shoulder’.  A common cut, a quick Google search notes the name came from barrels the pork was shipped in and the region that made the cut popular.

Sheep are typically raised for wool. He notes that ‘Hair sheep’ are a type of sheep with wool that falls out.  The upcoming Delaware Agricultural Week in January 2020, a Maryland farmer with a sheep milking operation is slated to come.

Goats are raised for three things- Angora, milk, and meat.  There is no certified meat & milk facility in Delaware. In New Holland PA, the 2nd largest goat auction in country is held- Texas hosts the biggest auction.  The U.S. cannot support it’s ethnic population’s demand for goat meat, namely Islamic, Jamaican, & Jewish where goats are used for celebration. Mr. SVERSON says that goats are browsers like deer which eat above their heads.  The reason for it’s lack of broad popularity might be because goat meat doesn’t marble. Mr. SEVERSON proudly mentions that he received $280 for small (60-80lbs) goat in New Holland, where the price is based on the amount of meat. While attending the National Goat Conference in Montgomery, AL, where ice cream and cheesecake are popular forms of value-added goat products for a niche market. Lotions & soaps are easier in Delaware without a certified dairy.

Dairy is dying in the U.S.  In Delaware there were once 80 dairies, which decreased to 50, and now just 21 dairy farms operate today with 4 creameries- Woodside, UDairy, Hopkins, & Vanderwende Creamery. Natural by Nature & Hy-Point are the remaining processors. Farm fresh, homemade ice-cream is a popular commodity. Mr. SEVERSON notes Amish youth prefer construction to milking with it’s regular hours and consistent work. Whole milk contains 3.25% milk fat, while skim milk contains just 1%, but there is no raw milk available in Delaware. To generate a profit, dairy cow numbers are increasing- it takes 1000 cows minimum to make profit. For farms that are struggling, the cows are either moved to farms or shipped to different states & countries.

Other livestock farmers may keep for commercial production include bees, bison, alpaca, llamas, rabbits, water buffalo, deer, chickens, turkey, & emu. Mr. SEVERSON informed that class that he was unwilling to raise alpaca or llamas because they look ‘strange’ to him…

Lastly, Mr. SEVERSON discussed growing agricultural trends in the livestock industry. The number of farms is increasing while overall farm size has been cut in half- total production covers 8, 000 acres in Newark. The industry is also seeing a growing number of young farmers.  Farms and CSA’s are becoming increasingly diversified and catering to niche markets.  Many of these smaller farms are selling value-added products to direct markets. 10 current GMO crops include, corn, soy beans, cotton, papaya, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, canola, alfalfa, & sugar beets

The future of the livestock industry depends on new technology like GMO’s and robotics for labor, and investment in the next generation to cater to the environment, government regulations and animal welfare. Mr. SEVERSON states he has seen an increase in young females without and agricultural background pursuing knowledge to enter the industry. It takers 3-4years to establish a farm working with grants for funding. Mr. SEVERSON often conducts experiments on his own farm first. With that, he informs us of the skills and traits needed to work for the Extension agency. The following soft skills are preferable- listening, compassion, working with others and reading them. Other skills include agricultural skills, professional skills, & education.

Dr. David Mayondo with Bayer Agrisciences

Dr. David Mayondo spoke to our Understanding Today’s Agriculture class on the advancement of technology in agriculture. He talked about how agriculture in the past was a very hands on and labor intensive career. Over time farming has advanced in all areas putting technology in the forefront of the industry. One of the biggest advancements are in the area of biotechnology and GMOs. Dr. Mayondo spoke about the different characteristics found in GMOs like round up ready and DroughtGard Corn. He also spoke about gene silencing in corn to help defend rootworm. Rootworms attack the root of the corn plant causing nutrient deficiencies and harm to the structure of the crop. With the ability to defend the crop from harmful pest, we can produce a healthier and higher yielding crop.

Guest Lecturer Dave Mayondo

On November 11th, Lecturer Dave Mayondo came to class and talked to us about the use of and innovations in technology related to agriculture.  The integration of more advanced technologies in the agriculture industry has drastically decreased the amount of hands on labor required to operate a farm. Only on certain, more specialty crops, does one need a sizable manual work force.

This use of technology is beneficial to the farmers for many reasons. Firstly, they can spend less money on hired hands to work the fields, and they don’t have to strain their body through labor as much themselves. The technology also allows for more crop yield through things like precision agriculture and more advanced irrigation systems.

One of the things that Mayondo stated in relation to how technology has helped increase yields was the improvements in pesticides and pest control through GMO’s. Using these methods, pests can be controlled much more efficiently, with less human risk, and with less environmental impact.

Fifer’s Orchards

This past week our class took a trip to Fifer’s Orchards in Delaware. One of the owners Bobby, toured us around the entire farm and talked to us about lots of different crops and how they keep all of them under control. They grows lots of different fruits and vegetables. This was a very enjoyable field trip because this is the type of stuff I am interested in. He explained all of the cool machinery and how they are able to grow all their crops. Their best crop to grow is tomatoes, strawberries, sweet corn, and pumpkins. Those are their best money makers. I would highly recommend Fifer’s to anyone because it is such a friendly and fascinating place.

Guest Lecture 11/11

Dr. Dave Mayondo came to class to talk about technology in agriculture and the industry. In the past, farming was very hands on with lots of people working on the farm and a few animals. Instead of going to school, kids worked on the farm. A lot of this is not the case anymore, kids now go to school and with the application of more technological resources, farming isn’t as hands on and you don’t need as many people to take care of farm as back then. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established the raising of funds for land-grant colleges. It gave land to colleges to teach students how to farm, it makes sure that the farming industry stayed secure and allowed for new farmers, who didn’t have previous knowledge in farming, to learn and become farmers. 

Tools for managing pests also changed throughout the years too. With the addition of gene editing, it’s easier to have crops that can handle pests and don’t require as many pesticides. I honestly think that there are pros and cons to gene editing. It is good for a change and keeping better plant health, but it still has a bad wrap. If we can educate the public in a kind and nice manner, they will take our points and maybe change their own views. 

Dave Mayonado: Industry and Academia in Agriculture

In this lecture, Dave Mayonado gave a brief history of how the agriculture industry grew and what it’s important to United states society. Around the late 1800’s the Land grant universities were formed to educate farmers and also conduct experiments on advance agriculture production. These organizations were deemed as experiment stations, and have greatly affected how the agriculture community has advanced over the years. Due to his former employment at Monsanto, Dave Mayonado explained the recent allegations that have grown around Monsanto’s Round-up. He revealed that it is not infact  cancerous, which the allegations were claiming. Not only this, but the allegations were proved incorrect by other various researchers across the world. His take home message was: science based agronomic reasearch and development has led to huge increases in crop production efficieny and yield.

Industry and Academia in Agriculture

David Mayonado, a Technology Development Representative for Bayer (formally Monsanto) came to class to talk about the partnership between the industry and academia of agriculture. A few Acts came about in the late 1800’s early 1900’s to make this partnership possible. Some kay Acts include the Morrill Act, raising funds to establish land grant colleges and the Smith-Lever Act, creating Cooperative Extension services. These Acts are what allow the University of Delaware’s very own Cooperative Extension program. This partnership sparked the start of a revolution for agriculture. By “applying rigorous scientific principles to the development of agricultural technologies and techniques has allowed farmers to produce larger crops all while improving soil quality”, David said the industry is helping farmers not only save money but help improve environmental impact. Finally, David talked about his time with the company. He talked about Monsanto history, including when Roundup Original was created (1976) and when they started Genetically modifying plant cells (1982). David ended on a very positive message to the audience and made it very clear Roundups’ main ingredient, glyphosate, should not be considered harmful by the consumer and is backed by multiple government agencies.

Dave Mayonado on Pest Management

On Monday, November 11th, we were given a lecture on the pest management industry by Dave Mayonato. He provided the class with insight on how important it is that American agriculture incorporates pest management to prevent disease and increase crop or livestock yield for consumers. Dave gave us a brief description of the history of pest control, which began at agricultural experiment stations that were built due to the Hatch Act of 1887. This act authorized the establishment of said agricultural experiment stations to research different crops. Today, intensive research on these plants and the adoption of technology is improving this production with every year. The adoption of various mechanical, chemical, and biological tools is the cause of this. At the beginning of agricultural processes, the land was labored by man and animal. As time progressed and steel was created, machine-powered agricultural kicked off. Then came chemical agriculture, where different chemical compounds were formulated to control pests. Lastly is the new era of agriculture. By manipulating the proteins/RNA in a cell, scientists have been able to produce the biotechnology for higher and healthier crop yields on farms. He then showed us a bar graph of the number of white-tailed deer harvests in Maryland, spanning from the years of 1927 to 2012. The white-tail deer populations have increased according to this graph because of the application of these agricultural technologies and techniques that allow these Mid-Atlantic farmers to produce larger crops, improve soil quality, and promote a healthy ecosystem. Commercial products of biotechnology such as “RoundUp” and “DroughtGard” corn have allowed for more effective control of weeds and drought resistance among plants to let farmers take a break and decrease their labor fatigue. Many of these companies today use biotechnology to provide for consumers, which are the farmers in this instance. Without pest management and different uses of technology today, farming would not be as effective or cost-friendly to those who cultivate that land.

David Mayonado Guest Lecture

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to class to see Dr.Mayonado lecture, but being able to watch it after the fact was a huge help. First off I want to say that I think Bayer is a great company. I really like the work they do and the different types of field education classes they offer to the public. The best part of the presentation for me was being able to here about what it is like working in a company. It was very interesting to learn about how there were 30 industries developing new herbicides and products like that and now over the span of a few years that number has dropped to just 4. Which seems weird because you would think that as technology advances and continues to grow that getting your hands on that type of technology would be easier. But, I guess that with all these flare ups of false allegations that it probably helped a lot of these companies fail and discouraged anyone from trying it. It probably has made it just that more difficult to start up a company that creates pesticides and herbicides by means of paper work and regulations. It is crazy to me that people can make a case out of the little information they have that RoundUp causes cancer. Especially, when all of these other trusted organizations are disagreeing with that. It would be like if a organization in Europe said 1+1=3 but all these other organizations were saying no it definitely equals 2. But the public and the court are saying well they said it equals 3 so it must equal 3. It just doesn’t make sense to me how our judicial system just seems like there are suspending logic on these cases.

David Mayonado Guest Lecture

Last Wednesday, David Mayonado gave a guest lecture on agricultural technology, his experiences working for Monsanto, and the current status of the litigation surrounding Round-Up. He discussed the history of agricultural research stations and Cooperative Extension. He also described the events that precipitated significant increases in agricultural production, namely mechanical, chemical, and biological, such as GMO’s. Continuing, he stressed the extensive research conducted on GMO’s, proving that they  are safe for consumption.

David provided some insight into the history of Monsanto, describing their rise and eventual acquisition by Bayer. He also told us about his career working for Monsanto. He job often changes, reflecting the change Monsanto has undergone.

In conclusion, David discussed the ongoing litigation surrounding the weed killer Round-Up. Research by almost all organizations on glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Round-Up, suggests that glyphosate is not dangerous to humans in any reasonable amount. The EPA also took action against the state of California when they attempted to pass a bill forcing Round-Up to be labelled as carcinogenic within the state.

 

David Mayonado Guest Lecture

Dave’s speech on Agricultural industries and businesses was a lecture I think anyone studying in Ag in college and anyone interested in the field should listen to. He talked about a lot of the different job opportunities that are available in this field and also went into the facts behind a lot of media misconceptions. Myself wanting to work in agricultural research really appreciated the discussion about the different scientific jobs but I also really liked how he dove into the facts about a lot of current issues. When you hear someone from the industry explain the reality behind so many viral social media subjects, it’s amazing how far things can get blown out of proportion. I think if more people looked even one level deeper than a facebook post or talked to real people like dave, there would be way fewer misconceptions about the industry.

Industry and Academia in Agriculture

Dr. Dave Mayonado came to our class to talk about technology in agriculture. He works for Bayer, which bought Monsanto. He had grown up uninvolved in agriculture and majored in chemistry, which ended up being helpful in weed science and herbicides.

In the past, farming was very labor intensive and hands-on. Families would have lots of children in order to have enough labor to run the farm. Many kids did not go to school and instead worked on their family farm. In 1862, the Morrill Acts were passed, which funded land grant universities, which taught agriculture and science. Research stations were then built in ever state which were connected to the universities and researched crops. Increases in crop yields were a direct response to the data these research stations found. Advancements in chemical aspects of farms, such as fertilizers and pesticides, also aided farmers. Now, we have found advancements in the biological area with things like GMOs. Corn has been edited to protect itself from specific insects, which reduces the need for insecticides. Other corn has enhanced drought tolerance, which reduces crop losses. Soybeans have been made to produce a vegetable oil that is healthier and is more similar to olive oil, which is much more expensive.

Guest Speaker Dave Mayonado: Industry and Academia in Agriculture

Dave Mayonado, a representative of the Bayer company and their products and use, discussed with the University of Delaware’s students about the agricultural industry and how it has evolved over time in both efficiency with the advancing use of technology and as an industry as a whole. During the earlier centuries, Dr. Mayonado explained that the agricultural industry was very labor intensive and hands on. However, as the time moved forward, the advancement of technology grew which has allowed agricultural to become less labor intensive and farmers to produce steadily larger crops while at the same time improving soil quality and fostering an environment that supports a thriving wildlife population.

With the growth of technology, agricultural companies, like Bayer, who bought out Monsanto, were able to develop chemicals like glyphosate or round up that kill weeds and insects without killing the crop essentially allowing farmers to protect their crops from encroaching weeds and insects that effect the crops growth and development and produce a greater yield at harvest; as well as reduce the need of tillage and improve the soil quality of the field. With the development of chemicals, Bayer did further research in crop efficiency and increasing yield and found that modifying certain genes and adding beneficial genes to a plant (GMO and CRISPR), all regulated under the EPA, USDA, and FDA, allows for the plant to protect itself against specific pests which allows for the use of less chemicals as well as, the modification allows for the plant to produce a sufficiently greater yield at harvest which allows for the world to produce more food and reduce hunger across various states. As the presentation came to a close, Dr. Mayonado informed and cleared up the litigations about the product, round up, that was created by the former company, Monsanto, they bought out, which allows the students and myself to know the truth about the product and the litigations behind it. Ultimately, from this presentation, many things about the agricultural industry and the company Bayer can be learned, which can help the students and myself to develop a better understanding of the industry as well as develop a broader perspective of the company Bayer and the industry as a whole.

Dave’s speech on Industries and Agriculture

Dave came and spoke to us today about improving the industry in agriculture. He first off started by talking about how there are multiple fields in agriculture and not every part might be for you.

Everything in life changes over a period of time. The changing in tools was a big part of agriculture. We went from hand labor, to the mechanical evolution, to the use of chemicals in agriculture which would help prevent weeds and pests, to all the new twenty first century electronic equipment. We are always developing new ways to be successful. Another big development in agriculture is Round Up. Round Up kills the weeds are pesticides near the crops to help them stay safe from bugs, weeds, ect. Decades ago, people declared that there was nothing wrong with the chemical weed killer know as Round Up. Now they are saying it could somehow develop cancer but people did research on it saying otherwise. Like life everything can change at any point in time.

Dave was originally a crop company and now they are the number one seed company. He was a chemist but then that changed too. He claims that we are the future and many things in life can change. Things that are being developed can change everything. These are beneficial changes that are helping the agricultural world.