California’s Extreme Drought, Explained | The New York Times (Video)

The New York Times

Published on Jul 7, 2014

The state is experiencing the worst drought in its history. Find out just how bad the situation is getting and what it means for you.

Madagascar battling worst locust plague since 1950s

Locusts threatening livelihood of 60% of population, and have already destroyed a quarter of Madagascar’s food crops

MDG Locusts in Madagascar

A locust swarm in Madagascar’s Isalo national park. Photograph: Tiphaine Desjardin/FAO

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At least 1.5m hectares (3.7m acres) could be infested by locusts in two-thirds of the country by September, warns the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Findings from a damage assessment indicate that rice and maize crop losses due to locusts in the mid- and south-western parts of Madagascar vary, on average, from 40% to 70%, reaching up to 100% in some plots.

Madagascar’s agriculture ministry declared a national disaster in November. The food security and livelihoods of 13 million people are at stake, about 60% of the island’s population. Around 9 million people depend directly on agriculture for food and income.

“We don’t have enough funds for pesticide, helicopters and training,” said Alexandre Huynh, the FAO’s representative in Madagascar. “What is extremely costly is to run helicopters [needed to spray pesticides]. We have to start in September, and we have two to three months to prepare. We need $22.4m [£15.1m] but we are quite short of that. Discussions are going on with donors.”

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Oregon Agency Blames Pesticide for Bumble Bee Kill

 

WILSONVILLE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials say a pesticide is to blame for the deaths of tens of thousands of bumble bees in a shopping center parking lot southwest of Portland.

The state Department of Agriculture said Friday that tests on bees and foliage showed the deaths are “directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees” that was meant to control aphids.

It said an investigation is under way to see if the application of the pesticide Safari, done last Saturday, violated the law.

The Oregonian reports that the Agriculture Department, the City of Wilsonville, neighboring towns and some local landscape contractors have covered the sprayed trees with netting in an effort to prevent further insect deaths.

The Xerces (ZERK’-zees) Society for Invertebrate Conservation has upped its estimate of the bee kill to 50,000. Spokesman Scott Black calls that a very conservative number.

 

World agriculture suffers from lack of wild bees

Bees collect nectar from a flower on April 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)

Falling numbers of wild bees and other pollinating insects are hurting global agriculture, a study released on Thursday found.

Managed populations of pollinators are less effective at fertilizing plants than wild ones, the researchers said, so the dearth of pollinating insects cannot be solved by simply introducing others.

“Adding more honey bees often does not fix this problem, but… increased service by wild insects would help,” said Lawrence Harder, a scientist with the University of Calgary in Canada, which led the study.

 Pollinating insects usually live in natural or semi-natural habitats, such as the edges of forests, hedgerows or grasslands.

These habitats are gradually being lost as the land is cultivated for agriculture, but, as a result, the abundance and diversity of wild pollinators crucial for the crops’ success is declining.

The researchers analyzed 41 crop systems around the world, including fruits, seeds, nuts, and coffee to examine the impact of wild pollinators on crop pollination.

“Paradoxically, most common approaches to increase agricultural efficiency, such as cultivation of all available land and the use of pesticides, reduce the abundance and variety of wild insects that could increase production of these crops,” says Harder.

He said tomatoes, coffee and watermelon are among the key crops which are likely to suffer from the declining population of wild pollinators.

Most flowering crops need to receive pollen before making seeds and fruits, a process that is enhanced by insects — like bees, but also flies, butterflies and beetles — that visit flowers.

 The research, which was published in the journal Science, was carried out by an international team of some 50 researchers, who collected data from 600 fields in 20 countries.

The study called for new efforts to conserve and restore the natural habitats of honey bees and wild insects.

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