- It’s about damn time: Fairfax “County will officially rename L** and L**-J*cks*n Memorial highways next month.”
- Jacob Fenston on the current moderate drought condition in the DMV.
- Team develops autonomous robot to stave off spotted lanternflies. I wish that phys.org didn’t have to finance itself with skeevy ads.
- Benj Edwards bought an encyclopedia that doesn’t require Wi-Fi or USB.
- Adverse effects on South American farmers of pesticides used on coffee grown in the sun: “skin disorders, respiratory problems, to high blood pressure, organ damage, cancer and cardiovascular disease.” Elsewhere, In Hawaiʻi, trials are underway to control Coffee Berry Borer with a parasitic wasp, Phymastichus coffea.
- Tasty. Might tempt me back to eating beef: Rachel Leah Blumenthal discloses “The Mysterious Origins of Steak Tips, a Uniquely New England Dish.”
- Missy Dunaway paints the birds of Shakespeare, including the unloved Eurasian Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). She explains Hotspur’s joke, and pulls in Fugate and Miller’s debunking of the Central Park urban legend.
- Grace Abels asks, “Can ChatGPT fact-check?” “While sometimes reaching accurate conclusions, ChatGPT struggled to give consistent answers, and sometimes was just plain wrong.”
- Beautiful small pleasures, One: Tap dancing in the New York subway. “The notes that you’re not playing also have just as much importance as the notes you do play.”
- Beautiful, small pleasures, Two: David Greer tastes a wild strawberry. Epicureans vs. Stoics. 3QD has a problem with crapola ads, too.
The coffee-and-birds connection hasn’t been too visible recently, so thank you to Laura Erickson for re-upping it in a recent post. (And for a sweet photo of Chandler Robbins.)
- Bird-friendly coffee is also pollinator-friendly and good for the farmer, too, according to new research from Alejandra Martínez-Salinas et al.
- Jennifer Vanasco’s story about playback of long-unheard mystery wax cylinders buries the lede, in my humble option. The Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine also plays back dictabelts, such as would have been used by Sid Sorokin.
- Annie Lindsay and fellow bird banders at Powdermill Avian Research Center devised an air compressor adapted to be a blower for bird feathers. Gently blowing on a bird’s body plumage exposes how much fat the bird is carrying, and is sometimes used for other measurements. Using the machine in preference to the traditional technique (the bander’s own breath) means that COVID-19 prevention protocols can remain in place.
Neonics aren’t just bad for pollinators. As Shauna Stephenson reports, aquatic invertebrates are also adversely affected, which is bad news for fish.
An excellent piece by Nick Roll on a different example of intercropping: “Farmers in Senegal learn to respect a scruffy shrub that gets no respect.” In this case, it’s Guiera senegalensis, in the Combretaceae (white myrtle) family. In a reversal of shade-grown coffee’s pattern, target crops (like millet) grow above the shrub, which brings up water into the millet’s root zone. Research indicates that Piliostigma reticulatum, a legume found in wetter parts of the Sahel, can also pull off this hydraulic redistribution trick.
This is the kind of digital-only (no audio) work that I wish we did more of. Not every bit of journalism needs to be in a podcast.
Coffee drinkers are indeed willing to pay more for socially responsible coffee, according to a new meta-analysis.
It was recently discovered, for example, that good tobacco crops depend, for some unknown reason, on the preconditioning of the soil by wild ragweed.—Aldo Leopold, “Wilderness,” collected in A Sand County Almanac (1949)
That discovery does not appear to have left any traces online.
Coffee-leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix , la roya) hasn’t gone away, and threatens to clobber coffee plantations.
- Converting 35% of the acreage of a coffee farm to shade-grown culture can maximize revenue, according to new research by Amanda Rodewald et al. and summarized by Gustave Axelson. Depending on the premium paid for shade-grown coffee, that percentage can go as high as 85%.
- A smartphone attachment can test for the presence of norovirus in a drinking water sample and produce results in five minutes. The promising prototype comes from the biomedical engineering lab of Jeong-Yeol Yoon. Joe Palca reports.
In the wake of hurricanes and other storms, flooding can cause sewage systems to overflow, potentially mixing with water intended for drinking. Municipal water system managers would breathe easier if they could be certain they didn’t have to worry at all about norovirus contamination.
- How to cross a river. The water at Huntley Meadows Park is never this fast or cold.
- Melissa Errico submits a “self-tape” audition.
A roundup of coffee agriculture-related stories:
- Falling prices are leading coffee farmers in Guatemala to abandon their farms and relocate to the United States, as Kevin Sieff reports.
- The picture is similarly grim in Colombia, with farmers beset by global heating and unfavorable markets, per Richard Schiffman.
- Agroforestry of coffee and cocoa will be clobbered by losses of fruit, timber, and nitrogen-fixing trees, according to a new paper by Kauê de Sousa et al.
- So what’s really the difference between arabica and robusta?
- Sustainable baseball bats.
- The monster pear tree, featuring my teacher Carole Bergmann.
- Alexei Lubimov plays C.P.E. Bach on a tangent piano.
Richard Conniff makes the case for a carbon tax on beef.
Agriculture, including cattle raising, is our third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy and industrial sectors.
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Beef and dairy cattle together account for an outsize share of agriculture and its attendant problems, including almost two-thirds of all livestock emissions,….
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The emissions come partly from the fossil fuels used to plant, fertilize and harvest the feed to fatten them up for market. In addition, ruminant digestion causes cattle to belch and otherwise emit huge quantities of methane [a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide].
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The way feedlots and other producers manage manure also ensures that cattle continue to produce methane long after they have gone to the great steakhouse in the sky.
Integrated pest management in Israel teams up with cross-border cooperation, as Josie Glausiusz reports.
Some links, Coffee and Birds Edition:
- Jodi Helmer reports on the nascent coffee industry in California. Even in this non-tropical climate, at least one farmer is going the shade-grown route:
Andy Mullins of Mullins Family Farm in Temecula… planted 1,000 coffee trees under the canopies of the avocado trees on his 4-acre farm.
- A study from India by Charlotte H. Chang et al. indicates that coffee plantations given over to robusta supported nearly the same level of biodiversity as arabica farms, as summarized by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
From the coffee and birds file: Juan Medrano et al. at the University of California, Davis have published the genome of Coffea arabica.