Friday, August 21, 2009

GM corn

Anti GM mural from Mexico taken by one of my BYU profs.

The bigger fear should be the loss of diversity, not because of genetically modified grain, but from hybrids and improved varieties.

The complicating factor is that hybrids can outyield old landraces by so much that as a farmer I would want the elite hybrid, even though the old landrace has more genetic diversity, because farming is a business. And more yields = more money. Genetically modified corn is also much less work to grow. Roundup is easy to spray. It breaks down quickly in the soil and sun and has a low toxicity. Weeding mechanically takes a lot more time and labor. BT and other disease resistance genes make it easier to get reliable yields without having to spray for borers and other caterpillars that eat corn. You still have to spray for other bugs. That equates to more time not taking care of corn.

I worry about the loss of genetic diversity. I worry about the loss of small farmers.

Yet still I am a corn breeder. I don't think we should go back to landraces that yield less than 100 bushels per acre on the very best ground. The question to me is how do we continue to increase past 200 bushel an acre corn yields and not decrease genetic diversity. How to do that and support local and small farmers. How to do that and make farming profitable and sustainable as a lifestyle and a part of our environment.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Research related

With all of the changes at my new job I am spending way more time thinking and reading scientific literature than I have in a long time. (I am typing this with one hand because I am bouncing a fussy baby with the other, impressive, no?)

Web and book finds:

Analysis of messy data
by George A Milliken, PH.D., Dallas E Johnson, Milliken A Milliken

I will quote the insightful reviewer from Alibris, Drpopcorn (That is me by the way!):
"Johnsen and Milliken have assembled in these three volumes clear advice on how to handle real world data. No other statistical textbooks come close to the practicality of these three volumes. The others sit on the shelf after the statistical coursework is over; you might as well sell them back and take the few bucks and go out to eat. These though should be carted around from job to job long after college courses are done. They cost a fortune, but they are worth it."


Facebook for real nerds. None of the stupid quizzes or constant updates, just what research papers people are reading. They have desktop software that organizes your pdfs and keeps track of bibliographies like endnote, but it is free as long as you realize they are gathering info on your reading habits and presumably selling it to someone that cares. The software lets you annotate pdf files with questions, highlights, and comments. It also will insert bibliographies into Word for you. I love it. I wish I had it years ago.

my new prescription safety glasses. I have looked at every glasses store in the greater Des Moines area and these were the best that I could find.

Leila and the baby.

Emily wearing my work hat.