Technology

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

What most American voters don’t know about plate tectonics would kill a bull. Still, something deep in the North American continent and the American consciousness has shifted to alter our adopted land and its political landscape.
For example, the Ides of March brought both the 2,060th anniversary of Caesar’s assassination in the Roman Forum and swaying-in-the-wind, […]

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China Sees Woe, U.S. Ag Sees Red

The fireworks-filled, holiday celebration that is the Chinese New Year doesn’t begin until Feb. 8. Three weeks into calendar year 2016, however, key elements in China’s economy—its wildly speculative stock markets, less-than-transparent currency, sagging heavy industries—have gone boom.
That weakness is already being felt in U.S. farm and ranch country. Rural America, after all, is China’s […]

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CRISPR’s Children

About the only one ever happy to see a mosquito is a hungry purple martin, the acrobatic swallow that dines on the bothersome insects morning, noon, and night. You and me, however, would be perfectly happy never to see another mosquito for the rest of our lives.
Science can now make that happen.
A powerful new gene-editing […]

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Never Heard of CRISPR? You will.

Few sectors of the global economy are more hooked on gene modification technology than agriculture. Food powerhouses like the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina now grow genetically modified (GM) crops on 40, 23, and 13 percent, respectively, of their arable land and one in five farmable acres around the world grows GM crops.
Adoption of GM seeds […]

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The Sounds of Science

Increasingly, farmers and ranchers agree that “sound science” is science that sounds good to them rather than science that is scientifically sound. Bad science, on the other hand, is science that sounds bad to them even if the majority of scientists agree on it.
For example, a Nov. 2014 poll by Purdue University and Iowa State […]

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Diversity and Resilience versus Corn and Soybeans

By car, Quebec City, Quebec, is 1,840 miles from Bismarck, ND. I know because in the last two months I have seen every mile of highway between North Dakota’s state capital on the Missouri to Quebec’s provincial capital on the St. Lawrence.
Interestingly, as you drive west to east across arguably some of the New World’s […]

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The Chicago Way

It’s an almost poetic coincidence that the day after Greek voters loudly told European technocrats in Brussels and German bankers in Berlin to stuff it, the futures trading CME Group quietly moved its last, open-outcry commodity trading pit from Chicago’s Loop to the perfectly technocratic, globally homeless electronic market.
The Greek “No!” vote, like the Greek-European […]

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Why Does Monsanto Want Syngenta?

On the mid-1970s, southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, we viewed Monsanto Co.’s new, systemic weed killer, Roundup, as a miracle cure to our biggest perennial headache, Johnson grass, the hard-to-kill weed still listed as one of the 10 worst weeds in U.S. agriculture.
The new herbicide wasn’t cheap–$70 per gallon, if memory serves—but it […]

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Fix Rural Broadband’s Leaky, Creaky Net

Moving just six miles from a small central Illinois farm town to an even smaller, rural enclave in 2005 took the lovely Catherine and me from a drafty, big house on a leafy, wide street to a tighter, smaller house in a leafy, wide woods. Fabulous.
On the flip side, however, somewhere during that short move […]

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Big Ag and Big Data

Everyday, according to the coconut milk-drinking nerds in Silicon Valley, the world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of electronic data.
Yes, 2.5 quintillion. Think two, comma, five and then 17 zeroes.
If a picture helps, picture this: If you placed that data on iPads equipped with a 32-gigabyte memory, you would need 57.5 billion iPads to hold it.
Then […]

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