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Collated List of Articles

September 25, 2020

I post Ag Data News articles every Wednesday. Here's a convenient list of past articles based on whether they include R code, use data from our apps, or address the effects of events or policies.

The World is Full of Hoppiness

September 23, 2020

Beer is a simple beverage. It has only four ingredients: malt, water, yeast, and hops. This simplicity belies a recent dramatic change in the relative proportions of these ingredients.

An IPA from your favorite craft brewery uses up to 50 times as much hops per pint as America's leading beer, Bud Light.  As craft brewing has grown, hops have become a booming crop even as total beer consumption declines.

China's Buying US Corn Again

September 09, 2020

Earlier this summer, after a long hiatus, China started rapidly buying US corn. By the end of the 2019-20 crop year, China had imported 1.9 million metric tons of corn, which is almost 10 times as much as in the previous year and 50% more than the pre-trade-war average from 1999-2018.

Although these sound like big numbers (millions of tons!) and the trajectory is impressive, these shipments are a drop in the ocean.

 

Robots in the Food System

August 26, 2020

Today, the National Science Foundation announced that UC Davis will host a new $20 million research institute on artificial intelligence. The AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS) is one of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes, and one of two sponsored by USDA that focus on agriculture and food.

Everyone is Good at Something

August 12, 2020

Tomato fields are good at producing tomatoes.  Tons and tons of tomatoes.

By weight, California produces more tomatoes than any other crop, and it isn't close. In 2018, the state's farmers produced 12.6 million tons of processing tomatoes, which is nine times more than almonds, and more than double the amount of grapes or hay. 

Each year, California farmers fill half a million gondolas like the ones picture above with tomatoes, piling them high enough that a few inevitably fall out on every corner taken by the truck on the way to the processor.

 

I Need Fuel

July 29, 2020

At the end of the Back to the Future movie, Doc Brown returns to 1985 from a futuristic 2015. The first thing he does is fuel up his time-traveling DeLorean with a banana skin and a beer.

Unlike the movie, 2015 did not bring trash-powered cold fusion (or flying cars). It's now 2020, and we still don't have those things. But, we do have transportation fuel made from all kinds of things, including trash and biomass.

California: We Grow That. And That. And That.

July 22, 2020

California is special. Any loyalist from any of the other 49 states will tell you that.

California agriculture is special in its crop diversity. This fact struck me on a recent bike ride near Davis. I looked around and could see seven different crops, not counting the wheat and alfalfa fields that I had passed 5 minutes earlier. That doesn't happen in other states. Click on this panorama to see the 360° view.

Should You Buy Burger King's New Low-Fart Burger?

July 15, 2020

Sure, if you want to.  If Burger King's claims are correct (big if), then you might save the same in greenhouse gas emissions as a third of a mile driving. But the real good news here is that companies like this are investing in climate-change mitigating technologies.

O Canada

July 08, 2020

Your Cheerios are Canadian. At least, they are most likely made from Canadian oats.

Oats have been cultivated by farmers for at least 500 years. Before purposeful cultivation, oats were present for centuries as a weed in wheat and barley crops. For more on the history of oats, read this interesting 1961 chapter by Franklin Coffman

Everyone, Look East!

July 01, 2020

Every June in the fields around Davis, we are treated to acres of blooming sunflowers, each one facing east. 

For cyclists riding alongside these fields, sunflowers present a hazard: bee stings. Beekeepers bring honey bees to sunflower fields in June to carry pollen from the male to the female plants.  Two rows of males are planted about every 10th row (look in the above picture for the plants with small flowers). The males will be removed after pollination to keep them from contaminating the female seeds at harvest.

Sorghum: It's Still a Thing

June 24, 2020

Sorghum acreage has declined by about 70% from its peak in the late 1950s, but it remains the sixth most harvested crop in the United States. It lags behind the big four of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, and also uses significantly fewer acres than cotton.