Pennycress could be next cash crop

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new crop could add a harvesting season for farmers in Michigan and elsewhere in the Midwest, a spring harvest rather than the traditional fall. Pennycress is planted in August or September, toward the end of the corn season. It continues until May. Because of this unique characteristic, this member of the mustard family could benefit both the environment and farming, according to agricultural researchers. The plant is valued for the oil produced from the seeds which can be used as a raw material for biodiesel.

Will cold kill grapes? Only spring will tell

Capital News Service
LANSING — The polar vortex has Michigan wine producers worried about their crops. Cold weather is nothing new for Michigan but its vineyards are not used to recent record-breaking lows. The polar vortex in December raised concerns but cold temperatures in late-January have Michigan growers worried that their vineyards may be destroyed. Some grapes can survive temperatures as low as the negative 30s but for certain varieties that grow in Southern Michigan, temperatures even as low as 5 degrees can be dangerous. Southern Michigan was hit the hardest with temperatures as low as minus 15.

Hunt for crop-eating bears could start early, bill says

Capital News Service
LANSING — In 32 years, there has rarely been a season when lifelong farmer Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, hasn’t found bear damage in his cornfield. Now, he’s fighting to do something about it. McBroom, who raises corn to feed his dairy cows, recently introduced a bill to allow hunters to kill crop-eating bears out of season. But some experts say more discussion is needed on viable solutions to farmers’ crop damage. Concerns include the potential impact of hunting bears out of season on the bear population and if there are alternatives, said Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) resource policy manager Amy Trotter.

New machine helps pick apples faster, safer

Capital News Service
It is a crisp fall morning and the birds are chirping as you grab your coat, a wooden basket and a small ladder and head to the apple orchard. Light greens, yellows and reds pop out from under the dark green leaves of the apple trees as you spot the perfect apple to add to your basket. It is a popular fall activity.  But it’s also work for commercial growers.  And a new

apple-picking creation could make it a bit easier as orchard owners struggle with a declining workforce. Apple picking usually requires fruit-pickers to stand on ladders to gather the apples. Handpicking is the most consistent and traditional way to gather apples.

Copper thieves hit farm irrigation systems

Capital News Service
LANSING – They strike at nightfall, attaching heavy cables to trucks to rip exposed copper from irrigation systems and hawk it to unscrupulous scrap dealers. They are petty thieves, often methamphetamine addicts, investigators say. And they’re costing farmers thousands of dollars in repair costs and insurance rate hikes. Experts say the problem coincides with the rise and fall of copper prices. During the 2009 stock market crash thefts were rare.

A dozen Michigan organizations receive specialty crop grants

Capital News Service
LANSING – Managing bees and saving cucumbers from disease are just two of the topics being studied in recent specialty crop grants. This October in Michigan the federal government awarded grants to a dozen food and agriculture organizations for projects that include improving fruit production, promoting cleaner soil and studying crop pollination. The $1.3 million is divided among 12 recipients, including the Michigan Vegetable Council in Erie, Michigan Farm Bureau in Lansing, Lakeshore Environmental Inc. in Grand Haven and Michigan State University in East Lansing. These organizations and their projects were selected by the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to receive the federal grants. The department is in the process of developing an additional regional state grant program to further support such organizations and their food and agricultural research, said Jamie Clover Adams, the department director.