Bush, biofuels and the invasive risk puzzle
Posted: December 16, 2008
A key area with potential to have a jarring impact on agriculture and the world of weeds is the politically driven push to biofuels in the U.S., says Dr. Jacob Barney, a scientist at University of California at Davis. The Bush administration has heavily pushed biofuels and numerous pieces of legislation have been passed at both federal and state levels that mandate increasing amounts of biofuel crops be integrated into the energy portfolio.
Among many concerns surrounding these developments are those from an ecological perspective related to what impact it will have to introduce and / or dramatically increase the production of so-called biofuel crops such as switchgrass, Johnson grass and Arundo donax that are not well established or studied from a management perspective. This includes concern that the best biofuel crops could be potential invasive species.
"The concern here is not simply weed management in the crops, but the question of will the crops themselves become weeds," says Barney, who spoke at the recent Canadian Weed Science Society meeting in Banff, Alta.
There's a clear research gap with potential biofuel crops and Barney is among the scientists aiming to strengthen the knowledge base. A key aspect is to understand the competitive ability of these crops in the context of different environmental tolerances. "This will give us a better idea of the invasive potential of these crops. We're hoping to tie all of this back to breeding programs and policy that will result in lower potential invasive plant species cultivars."
More perspectives from the Canadian Weed Science Society meeting is available in a special report: "Inside 'the politics of weeds.'"
Agricultural windsocks help manage spray drift
Posted: December 16, 2008
As drift from pesticides and other chemicals becomes more of a concern to producers, a U.S.-based manufacturer has refined a technology commonly used in the airline industry to help producers make decisions that can reduce the risk of spray drift.
The agricultural windsock manufactured by Airport Windsock Corporation works on the same principle as windsocks used to judge wind speed and direction in the aerospace industry. It's a response to a strong demand for aerial windsocks in the agricultural marketplace, says Chris Stepp of Airport Windsock Corporation, located in Barnesville, Minnesota.
"We have noticed through the years a steady increase of windsocks being sold to the agricultural market," he says. "Typical airport windsocks can aid in reducing off-target chemical drift. The only problem with airport windsocks for this application is their wind speed calibration.
"By utilizing a light, more responsive material and adjusting the windsock's inlet to outlet size ratio, we have developed a sock that is calibrated at a lower wind speed. A typical windsock operates in the range of five to 15 knots per hour, or six to 17 miles per hour. These agricultural specific windsocks operate at four to 12 miles per hour. This wind speed range is optimal for most applications."
The product works on a simple principle, says Stepp. "As the wind speed increases, the windsock extends further. The further it's extended, the higher the wind speed is," he says. "If the windsock is fully extended, the wind speed is 10 to 12 mph. If the windsock is at a 45 degree angle, they know it's probably five to six mph. By showing wind speed and wind direction, the operator will be able to better judge the spray drift area and distance."
The windsock offers a rough idea of wind speed and exact wind direction at location, says Stepp. "The only way you can get an exact (wind speed) reading is with a wind speed reader, which we also sell," he says. "But (the windsock) is a good general reference."
Made from double-stitched urethane coated nylon and UV protected, these windsocks include the wind speed calibration printed on the side for easy reference. Priced at $39.95US, they come in a package that includes the windsock itself, a fibreglass pole that can be mounted directly on spraying equipment, and fastening hardware. More information on the product is available on the Airport Windsock Corporation Web site at www.airportwindsocks.com.