News Roundup: Sept. 24-30

By on September 30, 2016

News Roundup - this week's top news stories about NC agricultureEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories.

  • “NC Ag Commissioner Tells WHKP News That More Improvements, Parking and Resurfacing Are Coming to WNC Ag Center,” WHKP: (Audio) A week after a very successful 2016 WNC Mountain State Fair closed at the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told WHKP News that more improvements are coming to the facility on the busy Highway 280 across from the Asheville Regional Airport. With improvements already underway, and in some cases already completed, to the arenas and other parts of the Ag Center, Troxler told WHKP News, ion an exclusive interview, that parking is the big issue at the Ag Center. The venue needs another one thousand parking spaces, said Troxler, and immediate steps are being taken for 500 more. He said the Ag Center, which provides a large agricultural and economic boost to Western North Carolina, will be working with the airport and other entities in the area to make more parking for the Ag Center available.
  • “McCrory gets first-hand look at damage,” Greenville Daily Reflector: Gov. Pat McCrory visited Bertie County on Monday to get a first-hand look at the devastating effects of flooding following more than a dozen inches of rain last week. “You can see it, but you really have to experience it,” McCrory said. The governor was joined by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Rep. Howard J. Hunter and a host of others from the state capital as they toured portions of Bertie County most affected by the flooding. For Windsor, the county seat, it is the third major flood event since 1999, and many of its businesses and individuals find themselves yet again recovering from a natural disaster. …
  • “Carolina’s Tobacco Road: Looking at the Future of the Industry in North Carolina,” Time Warner Cable News: (Video) For generations, tobacco helped breathe life into North Carolina’s economy but with changing times, came changing fortunes for one of the state’s biggest cash crops. In our special series Carolina’s Tobacco Road we take an in depth look at the past, present and future of tobacco in North Carolina, just as farmers get ready to wrap up another growing season.
  • “New TV series featuring NC vineyards to premiere Oct. 2 on UNC-TV,” Salisbury Post: Settle back, relax and get ready to take some fun trips exploring remarkable wines and vineyards from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina. This brand new 10-episode, half-hour television series kicks off on UNC-TV Sunday, Oct. 2, at 1:30 p.m. In each episode of “From the Vineyard in North Carolina,” host Lisa Prince visits two vineyards or wineries to take you on a journey capturing the whole experience from grape to glass. Prince visits with the cultivators of the vine and the artisans of winemaking to learn more about the grapes they are growing and the wine they are crafting. At the end of each episode, Prince is joined by Henk Schuitemaker, certified wine sommelier at the legendary Angus Barn in Raleigh, to talk about and taste North Carolina wines. “From the Vineyard” is a natural extension of its sister series, “Flavor, NC,” also hosted by Prince. …
  • “Watch out pumpkin, sweet potato beers are gaining ground,” Charlotte Observer: Pumpkin beers are the best-selling seasonal beer in the United States, but sweet potato beers are gaining ground as an autumnal alternative. The root vegetable is perhaps a more fitting choice in North Carolina, given its status as the top sweet potato-producing state in the nation since 1971. More than half of the country’s sweet potatoes come from right here in the Tar Heel state. …
  • “Stopping Foodborne Illnesses In Their Tracks,” NCSU Veterinary Medicine News: You’d hardly give it a second glance, this new equipment tucked away in the back of a lab on the fourth floor of the Research Building at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), but it has the power to help the millions affected by foodborne illnesses each year. About the size of an old-school Mac computer, the MiSeq System easily blends in with its surroundings in the lab of Siddhartha “Sid” Thakur, an associate professor of molecular epidemiology at the CVM. It looks similar to any lab machine found across campus. But it is here where hundreds of isolated pathogens will undergo whole genome sequencing and fed into a sharable worldwide database. The goal: identifying the pathogen early and preventing it from spreading. It’s called GenomeTrakr. And the CVM is the only place you’ll find it in North Carolina. …
  • “Central North Carolina Sweet Potato Crop a Bin Buster,” Southern Farm Network: (Audio) The tobacco crop in central North Carolina started out being one of the best many growers had had the opportunity to be associated with. Here, late in the season, it’s become plagued with so many problems, producers are just ready for it to be gone and be over. Area Agronomist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Don Nicholson: “I think that’s a good assessment there. A lot of leaf diseases have shown up in the last two or three weeks, and tobacco that’s left in the field, it’s really taken a toll on some of it, I’m not going to say all of it, but there’s a toll being taken. At one point, through my part of the world, we had one of the better crops I’ve ever seen in the field, and through heat and drought conditions back a month ago, to big rainfalls from the tropical systems, and the crop has become a challenge and the leaf is suffering. So, hopefully the farmers will make a good stab at getting the crop out and having good quality, but it’s getting to be more of a challenge every day.” There is one really nice bright spot in Nicholson’s region, that’s sweet potatoes: “Our sweet potato crop coming out of the field looks great, yielding great. I can’t speak for other parts of the state, but it seems to be a jam up crop in my region, it’s looking really good right now. and we’ve had a really good corn crop on top of that, too. I’m not saying we’re going to hit Dr. Heiniger’s magic number of 150 bu/a but if we don’t hit it, it ought to scare it a little bit, anyhow. But, most of the corn, it’s out of the field and some really good yields, I’ve heard. Really good looking corn in the field.” …
  • “Bollworm problems in North Carolina cotton due to more corn acres,” Southeast Farm Press: Bollworms presented real headaches to North Carolina farmers who grew Bt cotton this year due in part to a big increase in corn acreage in the state. “Corn is a big producer of bollworms for us in cotton,” said North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist Dominic Reisig at the Cotton Field Day held Sept. 15 in Rocky Mount. This year, 940,000 acres of corn were planted in North Carolina, up from 730,000 acres last year while only 280,000 acres of cotton were planted in the state, down from 385,000 acres last year. Reisig said a lot of bollworms moved from corn to cotton this year. Published replicated research shows that in timely planted corn, bollworms are not a problem in terms of corn yield. “But it is a problem for us in cotton. We think that those insects coming off Bt corn are going to be better adapted to survive in Bt cotton,” Reisig said. “In the future as we see this resistance expand, as we know it will, it’s going to be important to know what kind of pest pressure we have in the system and if we’re going to need to spray the cotton,” Reisig added. …
  • “Bitten by the bug: New tech-driven cricket farm for WNC,” Asheville Citizen-Times: Bitwater Farms isn’t much to look at. If it weren’t for the cricket mural on one shipping container, retrofitted as a workshop, there’s little to indicate that what’s being built and raised on this rural piece of property in Mills River holds such potential for change in agriculture. So far Bitwater Farms has largely been operating quietly, save for the undeniable chirp of crickets. And then there’s that smell. “The most flattering description and I think the most accurate is that it smells a little bit like a mustier corn nut,” said Sean McDonald, co-founder of Bitwater Farms with Kasey Mohsen. The startup blends agriculture and technology to build high-production cricket habitats and create a new food source for people and livestock. That means locally raised chickens could soon dine on locally raised food. And human diners could soon feast on local-cricket tacos. The high-protein insects are a relatively untapped nutritional powerhouse in this corner of the planet. Bitwater’s cricket habitats range in size from smaller than a tool shed to a grand, patent-pending masterpiece appropriate for larger-scale farms. The latter will be the biggest moneymaker for this data-driven farm and could revolutionize sustainable farming, bringing tens of millions to the area over the next decade. Besides the technical know-how of the self-proclaimed data geeks who mainly run the show at Bitwater, it’s all being fueled by spent brewers’ grain, an abundant resource in Western North Carolina with its more than 60 breweries. …
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