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Bt crops

Science on the Land

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) does what its name says it will do. Among other things, it promotes genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered, GE) crops. On the other side of this heated debate, GM Watch tells us what’s wrong with GM.

I propose ISAAA for the World’s Worst Acronym Award (WWAA 😉 ) but it’s a good source of information about GM crops. So is GM Watch. It’s worth looking at both of these contrasting points of view regarding the GM crops called Bt crops. These are the crops engineered to make Bt toxin, which kills insects. A common soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis makes a protein which turns into Bt toxin when insects eat it.

Organic farmers sometimes spray B. thuringiensis as a pesticide. This isn’t the same as planting Bt crops. You could scroll down the GM Watch homepage to see how Susan…

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For the love of coffee!

Coffee might just be a hot beverage, but somehow we share a really special connection with it. Some people rely on a hot cup of coffee to kick start their day every morning, whereas for many it is the conversation starter. For us, coffee is that special drink on the side of which GreenSky has evolved. In fact, our very first publication itself was prepared mostly at a coffee shop! This post is 100% dedicated to this love we share for coffee.

We’ll start by discussing coffee as a crop, as it is grown in India. The origin of coffee in India has an interesting story. The first seeds of coffee were sown in the Chandangiri hills in Mysore, Karnataka. Those were the seven seeds which were smuggled by an Indian Muslim saint named Baba Budan from Yemen to India. The initial planting led to a systematic plantation and the British supported the cultivation of coffee in India for the purpose of export.  And today, India is the 6th largest coffee producing nation in the world, as per the International Coffee Organization. The major areas where coffee is cultivated in the country can be categorized into three main categories: Traditional Areas (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu), Non-Traditional Areas (Andhra Pradesh, Orissa) and the North-Eastern States (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland). The Ministry of Commerce and Industry setup the Coffee Board of India in 1942, which functions as an autonomous body for the promotion of coffee production in the country. They also focus on research and development and improvement in the quality of coffee in India.

Usually we don’t explore the origin of coffee being served at a café. But if one is curious, there is such a huge variety of coffee beans available all around. Like there’s a strong coffee bean from Karnataka called Rajgiri Pearl, which has a smooth but hitting effect and tastes really great. Another bean called Kathlekhan has a slight fruit touch and can be considered as a soothing coffee. Many more beans come from areas like Travancore, Kodagu, Nilgiris, etc. Mysore, in Karnataka, has been a major provider of coffee beans. Robusta Kaapi Royale, round and pointy beans from Mysore are gray colored beans, and provide a smooth and soft flavor.

Not only there are different varieties of coffee beans in India, but preparation of the beverage also varies throughout the country. Roaming in Bangalore, one can find strong filter coffee at almost any eating outlet. Filter coffee is a South Indian specialty. Served in small sizes, rich in taste, it acts a lovely drink for any time of the day. In the north, like in the city of Agra, one would usually get mild and sweet coffee, loved by the people in the state. In Delhi, on the other hand, it is very easy to find Italian beans served as Cappuccino, Espresso and Americano. Another special coffee serving style is the hot and pressurized ‘espresso’ served in weddings in India. This coffee has a totally different taste, and is a delight in chilly December nights.

We just love coffee and keep exploring new varieties of it. As mentioned above, India is a gigantic coffee producer today, and we hope more and more exotic Indian coffee varieties find their place in people’s heart. Till then, let’s keep tasting the beans!

Video of the Week: An Agricultural Future?

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Today is our Video of the Week Day.

This week we want to share a beautiful video on Indian agriculture filmed by Chintan Gohil. The video isn’t very new but it must be shared with everyone whenever possible. It shows an insight into Indian agriculture, the difficulties faced by Indian farmers, their hopes and the possible way ahead. The video touches ones heart and makes one feel like standing up and sharing their efforts in development of Indian agriculture.

An Agricultural Future? from Chintan Gohil on Vimeo.

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The GreenSky Weekly, Dt. Dec 04, 2013

The GreenSky Weekly is out!! Every Wednesday, our newsletter gets published with and brings together news and media from various sources.


Some of the top news items this week include:


Community Supported Agriculture

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The following pages are designed to help you get the information and support you need to start up a CSA, develop your CSA further or join a CSA. The information is designed for farmers, community groups and individuals.

Why not join the network, sign up to our newsletter, attend some of our training events, or explore what’s happening around the country by looking at some of the case studies and websites.


AgriChatUK up for European CAP award – 02/12/2013 – Farmers Weekly

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AgriChatUK – known by the hashtag #AgriChatUK on Twitter – is the only UK entry to make the shortlist in the EU CAP Communications Awards. Run by the European Commission (EC), the award seeks to celebrate projects which help to communicate issues and themes related to CAP.

Since AgrichatUK first started in March 2012, there have been 92 weekly web discussions on a range of topics from CAP to new entrants. It is run by a small team with no funding and on a completely voluntary basis.


e-Agriculture: looking back and moving forward

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Over the last several years, there has been significant progress in improving communication and decision making in rural areas through the application of new technologies. Multi-stakeholder partnerships have formed, and time and money have been invested. Now more than ever we need to reflect on our experiences and strategize for the future.

What have we learned? What are the obstacles that still need to be overcome? Is everyone benefiting equally from these advances in technology?


Journal withdraws controversial French Monsanto GM study

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The publisher of a controversial and much-criticized study suggesting genetically modified corn caused tumors in rats has withdrawn the paper after a year-long investigation found it did not meet scientific standards.

Reed Elsevier’s Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) journal, which published the study by the French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini in September 2012, said the retraction was because the study’s small sample size meant no definitive conclusions could be reached.





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Smartphone Apps in Agriculture

Technology has always been an important factor behind development. Even in areas where there is hardly any development, technology seems to have changed some part of it. Telecom has spread efficiently around the world. In a developing country like India, technology shows its trace in the smallest of villages. Almost everywhere now, there is a mobile tower in sight and people can be seen using mobile phones. This beautiful spread of technology has facilitated development at basic levels with the help of Information and Communication Technology.

Today with enhanced operating systems and small processor based phones, the mobile world has now become a Smartphone world. We can now see phones rich in multimedia and processing power. Most of the tasks of a computer can now be performed on a phone itself. While Smartphone dominate as the segment of most expensive phones today, they also have low cost categories which are affordable for many. In India particularly, in the past 2-3 years, there has been a rise in this low cost segment of Smartphone. Prices have continuously fallen and today these phones appear to be in the reach of rural workers as well.

With the increased use of Smartphone around the world, there has been enormous application development serving a large number of operations. For almost every profession now, an App exists for some sort of help and support. Similarly for agriculture as well there exist many apps that can provide help to the farmers in different ways. We have studied a large number of Apps from around the world giving different kind of assistance in agriculture and we would like to analyze them in this article. We categorize these apps according to the kind of support they provide. Categories as observed in various apps are as the following:

  1. Data Logging and management – Apps under this category assist farmers in maintaining data records associated with farm activities. Generally apps provide selection lists and numerical input boxes where user can insert required information. A prominent feature of such apps is that they generate various views and statistics to review organized data records. Many farm management apps perform basic cost calculations as well. Some relevant apps we have observed in this field are Manure Monitor and Wireless Farmer.
      • Manure Monitor – This application assists a farmer in managing and logging data regarding manure. Base of the application depends on the data fed by the user. A simple and comfortable interface provides categorized inputs for farmer. Easy and big sized input buttons are used and the flow among menu moves very smoothly. A farmer can record rainfall, storage, animal mortality, manure transfer, waterline and equipment information. Apart from this, the App also provides some tutorials regarding manure. One great feature in the app is to create emergency plans and storing emergency contact information. Another important feature to be learnt from this App besides user interface is its self-sufficiency. The app keeps data local and doesn’t depend on much internet connectivity for its operations. This ensures its utility in areas with poor or no internet access.
      • Wireless Monitor – This app is designed entirely for farm management. A standard data entry interface is provided to record information regarding different farmer tasks. For example area coverage, chemical usage, property records etc. are recorded for cost management. Crop monitoring tasks by regular data logging are provided. Information regarding pesticide spray, planting, ground preparation etc. can be stored in the app and then reviewed categorically.
  2. Location based apps – These apps use map and location details for their operations. They provide various facilities which rely on location parameters of the user or of the services he is looking for. These apps are essentially used as Market finder apps for farmers to sell their produce. We analyzed few apps like Delaware Fresh and Michigan Farm Market Finder.
      • Delaware Fresh – This is a location based app which provides interface in the form of a map. It is local to Delaware and provides details of a large number of farmer markets in the area. It offers location detection thus enabling the user to search for a market nearby. After location point selection from the map, the app provides contact and time details of market with additional options of locating on map, calling the market, sending mail or visiting their website. Such operations accessible directly from the map make the use and navigation simple and efficient. If available, the app also shows the available offerings from the market.
      • Michigan Farm Market Finder – This app also provides farm market information. It gives multiple interface methods – map based and alphabetically sorted list. A large number of farm markets in Michigan State are listed with detailed data. Every location has its address, contact details, hours of operation, operating acres listed along. Also it shows all amenities available in that farm market ranging from fruit and vegetable to presence of recreational area in the market. The app also provides GPS routing to reach to the location.
  3. Agriculture specific calculation apps – These are specially designed apps from experts in agriculture. They contain pre-fed data and values according to which calculations are performed regarding agriculture information. For example, apps like MRTN calculator and Feed cost calculator take some numerical input from the user, ask for some value selections from lists, and perform calculations to provide useful results. These apps highlight use of numerical input and not much text information, which helps manage language problems to a certain extent.
  4. News and information specific – This is the most common app category for any domain. Apps that provide news and information are highly useful and popular among users. In agriculture also many apps like Farm progress, Ag Weather tools etc. serve the purpose of delivering information relevant to agriculture stakeholders. From farmers’ perspective, there are many apps that provide seed price, equipment price and similar information. Another major section of informative apps are the weather information apps. In some apps, weather forecast is provided with advisory messages as well. As a result, these apps become an additional knowledge tool for the users and help them perform activities in a well informed environment.

Broadly, these four categories cover almost all the apps observed in this area of agriculture. Recently, agriculture apps have been promoted on App stores as well under category of “Gardening Apps”. It is really wonderful to see how App development is touching each and every occupation. Purchase stats on many of these apps are going good as well, signifying their increased usage. This is definitely a great direction for developing support tools for farmers and other agriculture stakeholders and we expect booming app development for farmers all around the world. We ourselves are involved in App development for Indian farmers. We’ll discuss some design factors regarding those apps next week!

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Agricultural biodiversity and climate change

So now its time for our first re-blog in the new pattern of posts. This has to be from one of our blog’s best friend, Dr. Sam Mason. She writes brilliant posts about agriculture, GMO, climate, etc. In this post, she has shared an article on climatic adaptation among smallholder farmers and importance of biodiversity. The blog “Science on the Land” will definitely be the source of most of our reblogs.

There’s another great talk about seed diversity given by Cary Fowler that shares depth and importance of seed diversity. Link

As much prepared we become with knowledge of new methods, there is always a magical tool of experience that comes from traditional agriculture. At any point, neither can be given less importance. We’ll make our best efforts to maintain an integrated environment in agriculture with traditional practices being checked by scientific facts.

Science on the Land

Smallholders around the world favour diversity as they face changing, unpredictable climates.

Bioversity International tells us how smallholders use biodiversity to adapt. ‘Given the prevalence and effectiveness of planting new crops and varieties as a coping mechanism, ensuring access to a diversity of climate-hardy seed will be important to build resilience.’ That might include conventionally bred crops and also genetically modified crops. ‘An added challenge is that agricultural biodiversity is threatened by increasing homogenisation and industrialisation of production systems worldwide, urbanisation of populations, and shifts in cultural eating habits. Building climate change resilience will therefore also require supporting the conservation of crop diversity through an integrated approach from farmers’ fields to the market and then to the table.’

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Articles from Week ending Dec 01, 2013

From Pastapur to Senegal, widening the network of millets

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The Deccan Development Society (DDS), which is working on various crop improvement programmes, has succeeded in forging alliance with several African nations for research and development of millet cultivation.

The DDS, headquartered at Pastapur in Medak district, along with 10 African nations, is actively participating for the realisation of the Afro-Indian Millet Alliance which has been under planning stage since February last year…


Tata Coffee gets NSE nod to merge Alliance Coffee with itself

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The National Stock Exchange (NSE) today gave its approval for the merger of Alliance Coffee with its listed parent firm Tata Coffee, saying the amalgamation does not violate provisions of securities law.

Tata Coffee in September had announced that its board has approved the merger of Alliance Coffee with itself, consequent to which the draft scheme of amalgamation was filed with the stock exchanges for approval…


Maharashtra farmers get climate smart with hi-tech weather alerts


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Farmers in Maharashtra are getting climate smart! Thanks to advanced technology they are now empowered to adapt to extreme climatic changes and accordingly plan their agricultural activities…


Grow fruits in space between big trees: ICAR

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The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) in Ranchi has asked farmers to take up fruit production system (FPS) between big trees like mango and jackfruit to raise their economy in the same size farmland.

“Mostly you see there is a space unused between big trees like mango, jack fruit and guava trees. So we are advising farmers to take up FPS and cultivate pineapples and some other fruits in between the big trees in their farmland,” Dr. Shivendra Kumar, Principal Scientist and Head of ICAR, Plandu in Ranchi, said…


Coconut oil prices reverse uptrend, slip to Rs 110 per kg

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The coconut oil market, after continuing its upward trend, seems to be heading for a correction with prices dropping to Rs 110 per kg in Kerala after touching a record high of Rs 115 last week.

The Tamil Nadu market corrected to Rs 108 per kg against last week’s level of Rs 110. Copra prices also started declining to Rs 80 a kg in the Kerala market from Rs 83, while in Tamil Nadu it dropped to Rs 78 a kg against Rs 80 quoted last week…


Farm sector growth rate may triple on good monsoon

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New Delhi: The agriculture sector is likely to grow in the range of 5.2-5.7 per cent in 2013-14, nearly three times more than the last year as good monsoon has raised the prospects of bumper harvest, a CACP discussion paper said.

It warned however that “automatic” cascading of bumper harvests to increase the economic activity may not be realised unless the policymakers play the facilitator role well…


DuPont Pioneer launches new crop software

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DuPont Pioneer is bringing the next generation of powerful Web-based field management tools to growers with the introduction of Pioneer Field360 Select software. This new subscription service combines field-by-field data with real-time agronomic and weather information to help growers make informed management decisions.

“Pioneer Field360 Select software guides growers to better use the field data they have collected, currently and in prior years, to increase farm productivity and profitability,” says Justin Heath, DuPont Pioneer new services manager…


Tea Board cancels permanent licences of 150 traders

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Tea Board has issued orders to cancel the permanent exporter’s licences of 150 traders for not exporting any quantity of the commodity in the last three years.

The Board has also cancelled 88 temporary exporter’s licence of traders due to non-submission of monthly export returns.

The permanent licences of 150 traders have been cancelled as these traders have not exported any tea in the preceding three years, the Board said in its order…


Farmers upset as CM skips crop loss issue

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The farming community was highly disappointed by Chief Minister N.Kiran Kumar Reddy when he visited Krishna district on Saturday. Mr. Reddy, who arrived here two hours behind schedule to take part in Rachabanda programme, devoted most of his time on Samaikyandhra agitation. He briefly touched upon the aspects of Rachabanda and its success during first two spells. Mr. Reddy, however, did not say anything about losses, more particularly crop loss, suffered due to Phailin cyclone…


Cyclone impact: Rabi sowing hit in AP

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Rabi sowing has been hit in Andhra Pradesh with cyclone after cyclone ravaging the State.

With weathermen forecasting a violent cyclone Lehar this week, rabi sowing might be delayed further.

Farmers had lost 11 lakh hectares or one-seventh of the total cropped area during the kharif harvest. Others had to defer the harvest because of incessant rains…