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Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands signup open

Agricultural producers and landowners may apply for the Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands signup now until Aug. 20. The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated signup options to provide greater incentives for producers. It increased the program’s conservation and climate benefits, including setting a minimum rental rate. The signup is competitive, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency will provide for annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations, and provides important carbon-sequestration benefits, states USDA.

The Farm Service Agency has updated the signup to establish a minimum rental rate of $15 per acre. The agency’s Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email and other digital tools. Because of the pandemic some service centers limit visitors. Visit farmers.gov and search for "local service center" for more information.

On-farm cover-crop data sought

Researchers and educators are working with the University of Wisconsin and other partners to improve cover-crop recommendations for the state of Wisconsin. Through the Wisconsin Cover Crops Research and Outreach Project, they're looking to better understand how cover crops are being used, the challenges, and what benefits producers are seeing.

Goals for the project are to help farmers make sound management decisions, improve decision-support tools – such as SnapPlus – and build the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial database.

Phase 1 – online survey

  • Farmers who complete an online survey will be eligible for a $25 stipend. To sign up please visit the link at the end of the article. Field data provided will never be associated with your personal information.
  • After providing an email and address, you'll receive a link to the data-collection survey later this summer. Project coordinators also will share a short instructional video providing information on how to gather cover-crop data.

Phase 2 – field photos and biomass sampling

  • Farmers willing to contribute photos and biomass samples of cover crops are eligible for an additional $75 stipend. The project coordinators will send an email asking for photos of the cover crop at seeding, two weeks following seeding, and four weeks following seeding.
  • Farmers participating in Phase 2 will be contacted in late fall 2021 to verify field location and asked permission to collect an optional biomass sample.

A final report will be shared with participants toward the end of the year. It will highlight project findings and data comparisons. Participation is voluntary.

Visit docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScANBwqZA1yWDX78JQJZsoA_SgcMwIH1U-kiHXvRbKWeEzN9A/viewform or contact dhsmith@wisc.edu or 608-219-5170 for more information.

Animal-health research grants awarded

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently invested $14 million in research to protect agricultural animal health. The grants are part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Diseases of Agricultural Animals program.

Funded projects will focus on developing new and improved vaccines, diagnostics and antimicrobial alternatives. They also will focus on developing breeding disease-resistant animals and understanding better ways to manage animals to minimize disease outbreaks. Examples of the 31 recently awarded Diseases of Agricultural Animals Program grants are featured.

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s project will focus on improving pig health through the novel application of synthetic-biology approaches to develop next-generation probiotics to deliver engineered phages. The researchers’ hypothesis is that delivery of engineered phages or phage products will kill Streptococcus suis.
  • Iowa State University’s project will introduce a new approach to Vitamin A and zinc supplements to help protect cattle against stress and respiratory disease.

Visit nifa.usda.gov for more information.

Cooperatives launch brand

The cooperative formed by the March 1 merger of Countryside Cooperative and Landmark Services Cooperative became ALCIVIA – pronounced ALL-siv-ia. The name signifies “all together.” It’s derived from the same root as common words for community such as “civic” and “civility,” according to the cooperative. In addition to the new name and supporting brand materials, the cooperative introduced a new logo. Visit ALCIVIA.com for more information.

Companies target soybean genetics

Cibus and GDM recently formed an agreement to develop new soybean traits. Cibus uses precision gene-editing technologies to breed novel crop protection-trait products. Its Rapid Trait Development System is a new breeding technique that accelerates the processes underlying natural breeding to increase crop yields. GDM is a global soybean breeding company. It has 16 breeding stations worldwide and tests more than 1.5 million plots per year. Visit cibus.com and gdmseeds.com for more information.

Seedless hemp developed

Calyxt Inc. has developed triploid breeding technology to create seedless hemp. That new development, the company’s transformation of the hemp genome, and more technologies in the pipeline are improving hemp's potential for producing plant-based protein, oil and alternatives to plastics, according to Calyxt.

The company plans to provide access and use of its triploid seed technology to industry partners. A seedless crop can improve fiber quality and increase yield for fiber production. Grain production for hemp protein and oil derivatives also be enhanced with a breeding program based on controlled pollination, effectively eliminating the threat of rogue pollinators that can reduce yields, the company stated. Visit calyxt.com for more information.

Renewable-diesel production expands

The Love's Family of Companies, Cargill and their affiliates have entered into a joint venture to produce and market renewable diesel. The joint venture, Heartwell Renewables, will result in construction of a production plant with the capacity to produce about 80 million gallons of renewable diesel per year.

Cargill will provide feedstock in the form of tallow. Once the diesel is produced, Musket, the commodity-trading and logistics arm of the Love's Family of Companies, will transport and market the product in the United States.

The production process makes renewable diesel chemically identical to petroleum diesel with improvements in environmental performance due to a reduction in carbon intensity and emissions, according to Cargill.

Construction of the new plant is scheduled to begin soon. Renewable-diesel production is expected to start in spring 2023. The joint venture is expected to employ about 50 people. Visit cargill.com and loves.com for more information.

Companies sign renewable-natural gas pact

Clean Energy Fuels Corp. recently formed an agreement with Amazon to provide renewable-natural gas at 27 existing Clean Energy fueling stations and another 19 non-exclusive new or upgraded Clean Energy-owned stations. The new stations are expected to be built by year’s end. The new and existing stations will provide renewable-natural gas in 15 states.

Clean Energy Fuels’ renewable-natural gas is derived from biogenic methane produced by the breakdown of organic waste. The company is helping vehicle users to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from 60 percent to more than 400 percent depending on the source.

Clean Energy can deliver compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. It operates a network of 565 stations across the United States and Canada and owns natural-gas-liquefaction facilities in California and Texas. Visit cleanenergyfuels.com for more information.

Cheese company appoints executive

Saputo Inc. recently appointed Leanne Cutts as president and CEO for the company’s international and Europe businesses. Her appointment will become effective in the second half of 2021.

Cutts is currently the global chief marketing officer at one of the world’s largest banks. Prior to that she held senior-management positions in Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom where she was responsible for overseeing marketing, new product development, manufacturing and operations for companies in the food and beverage industry and in the consumer-healthcare industry.

Cutts will be based in Melbourne, Australia, and will report to Kai Bockmann, Saputo’s president and chief operating officer. Cutts’ appointment will allow Bockmann to focus on global corporate and strategic functions. Visit saputo.com for more information.

Investment in technology surges

Global investment in agricultural- and food-technology companies in 2020 surged to $22.3 billion. Based on early data investments in 2021 are expected to exceed that record amount, according to Finistere Ventures, a venture-capital firm.

Low interest rates and a soaring equity market drove 2020 investments. Potential disruption of markets fueled increases in investment across all stages and segments, according to Finistere Ventures.

The company recently published a report in collaboration with PitchBook Data. The report provides an analysis of which sectors earned the most investor interest in 2020. It also features a preliminary look at investment activity in early 2021. Highlights from the report are featured.

  • Due to the industry’s successful adaptation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in agricultural technology continued to expand at a staggering pace through the end of 2020. About $5 billion was invested, comprising about one-third of the $15.9 billion raised across agricultural-technology sectors since 2010.
  • Biotechnology remained the top investment area, attracting $1.3 billion in capital in 2020. It started 2021 strong with $268.2 million secured in the first quarter.
  • Interest in indoor agriculture spiked, driven by supply chain and sustainability factors as well as growing consumer preference for local, fresh produce. The sector received $1.3 billion in funding for 2020, more than doubling year-over-year from $601 million raised in 2019.
  • Due in large part to pandemic pressures, investment in animal technology soared in 2020 reaching about $848 million after lackluster interest in recent years.
  • Digital technologies, precision agriculture, plant sciences, and agricultural marketplace and financial tech also broke investment records in 2020. Stakeholders made clear a commitment to help growers manage climate change and overcome mounting sustainability pressures.

Visit finistere.com for more information.

Hemp genome transformed

Calyxt Inc. recently transformed the hemp genome. The transformation technology will enable future advancements in hemp such as trait delivery, gene editing and advanced plant breeding.

The company’s first efforts are focused on standardizing the crop for broad-acre adoption and reducing the risk for hemp production. The efforts will initially come to market as breeding-platform tools or licensed traits and be commercialized by germplasm and hemp-based ingredient and material companies, Calyxt stated. Visit calyxt.com for more information.

Coalition invests in biobased infrastructure

The BDO Zone Investment Coalition plans to invest $1 billion in biobased infrastructure and manufacturing plants located in Bioeconomy Development Opportunity Zones.

The coalition is comprised of biobased investors, capital markets and associations that finance or promote development of biobased projects. The projects produce ground and sustainable aviation fuels, renewable chemicals, bioenergy and biogas.

BDO Zones are areas in the United States and Canada with surpluses of biomass feedstock and capability for biobased development and infrastructure to support new manufacturing plants. Zone designations are force-multipliers for communities to leverage agricultural residues, wood fiber, and food and farm waste as engines for clean-energy infrastructure and job creation, according to the coalition. Visit bdozone.org or contact jordan.solomon@ecostrat.com for more information.

UW-Platteville selected for grant

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently was selected to participate in the Rural Schools Collaborative’s 2021 Catalyst Grants Initiative. The initiative provides planning grants to support establishment of new rural-teacher-corps programs. Each participating institution receives a $25,000-planning grant to support program development. The grant will support the opening of the Driftless Hub this fall. Visit ruralschoolscollaborative.org and search for "catalyst grants" for more information.

Companies to accelerate gene-editing innovations

Inari and Beck’s recently formed a research and development and business agreement. Inari brings to the agreement predictive design and gene-editing technology. Beck’s brings to the collaboration its corn research and breeding program.

Inari’s SEEDesign platform features artificial intelligence that is used to predict plant-behavioral outcomes to improve crop performance. The company’s gene-editing tools were developed to make desired changes in the plant faster than traditional breeding methods. Visit Inari.com and beckshybrids.com for more information.

Micronutrient company acquired

Koch Agronomic Services LLC recently acquired Compass Minerals' North American micronutrient assets, the global intellectual-property rights, and certain other assets associated with Wolf Trax, Rocket Seeds and Hydro Bullet product platforms.

The acquisition aligns with Koch's plan to grow from a focus on nitrogen efficiency to being a nutrient-efficiency solutions provider, the company stated. Visit KochAgronomicServices.com for more information.

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