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Diversified farming practices might preserve evolutionary diversity of wildlife

As humans transform the planet to meet our needs, all sorts of wildlife continue to be pushed aside, including many species that play key roles in Earth’s life-support systems. In particular, the transformation of forests into agricultural lands has dramatically reduced biodiversity around the world.

A new study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, in this week’s issue of Science shows that evolutionarily distinct species suffer most heavily in intensively farmed areas. They also found, however, that an extraordinary amount of evolutionary history is sustained in diversified farming systems, which outlines a strategy for balancing agricultural activity and conservation efforts.

“This work is urgent, because humanity is driving about half of all known life to extinction, mostly through agricultural activities to support our vast numbers and meat-rich diets,” said Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford and senior author on the paper. “How are we restructuring the tree of life? What are the implications for people? And what can we do to harmonize farming with nature?”

Calculating evolutionary history

The findings arise from a 12-year research project conducted by Stanford scientists at the intersections of farms and jungles in Costa Rica. Much of the research has focused on how farming practices can impact biodiversity, and has gone so far as to establish the economic value of pest-eating birds and crop-pollinating bees.

The researchers have developed an extraordinarily detailed data set to show human impacts on phylogenetic diversity, a measure of the evolutionary history embodied in wildlife — in this case, birds.

For example, an area inhabited by two species of blackbirds that diverged only a couple of million years ago would have relatively low phylogenetic diversity. The tinamou — a speckled, football-shaped flightless bird — diverged from blackbirds about 100 million years ago, and if it moved into the blackbird’s habitat, the phylogenetic diversity of that area would increase significantly.

“If you have an area with lots of closely related species, you won’t have a lot of phylogenetic diversity,” said co-lead author Luke Frishkoff, a biology doctoral student at Stanford. “The further apart species are on the evolutionary tree, the more phylogenetic diversity your system represents.”

The biologists counted almost 120,000 birds, hailing from nearly 500 species, in three different types of habitats in Costa Rica: untouched forest reserves; farmlands with multiple crops and small patches of forest; and intensive farmlands consisting of single crops, such as sugar cane or pineapple, with no adjoining forest areas. They then analyzed the species spread across those types of places and calculated phylogenetic diversity in each.

The findings were bad and good. Not surprisingly, the diversified farmlands supported on average 300 million years of evolutionary history fewer than forests. But they retained an astonishing 600 million more years of evolutionary history than the single crop farms.

“The loss of habitat to agriculture is the primary driver of diversity loss globally, but we hadn’t known until now how agriculture affected diversity in an evolutionary context,” said study co-lead author Daniel Karp, who began working on this project while he was a doctoral student at Stanford and has continued it as a research fellow at UC Berkeley. “We found that forests outperform agriculture when it comes to supporting a larger range of species that are more distantly related.”

But the fact that diversified farms conserve much more phylogenetic diversity than intensive agriculture is encouraging.

“It shows how important it is for biodiversity conservation to surround protected areas with productive forms of diversified agriculture, whenever possible,” said co-author Claire Kremen, a professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley.

Saving a species

The authors trace the decline of phylogenetic diversity in farmland to the fact that evolutionarily distinct species tend to require niche habitats for survival, and these are often wiped out in developed lands.

While sparrows are adept at finding shelter in farmlands and are happy to eat a variety of seeds found in those areas, the tinamou and other evolutionarily distinct species are highly dependent on jungle habitats and have very specific needs such as diet that can only be met in those environments.

The researchers also outline a theory that human agriculture is simply tipping the scale in favor of species that trace their origin to similar conditions.

“Natural savannahs share some of the characteristics of diversified agriculture,” Frishkoff said. “We find some evidence that birds that evolved in those types of habitats, such as blackbirds and sparrows, are doing better in those habitats today.”

Preserving biodiversity and phylogenetic history is critical for both healthy ecosystems and prosperous farms, Frishkoff and Karp said. Different species specialize in keeping different pest insects under control, in pollinating the many flowering trees and other plants in tropical landscapes, and then in dispersing their seeds.

“Having just sparrows in an ecosystem is like investing only in technology stocks: If the bubble bursts, you lose,” Frishkoff said. “You want to have a truly diversified ecosystem, with an array of species each contributing different benefits. This work really highlights the need to preserve native tropical forest, and whenever possible to make agricultural systems as wildlife friendly as possible. Even relatively modest increases in vegetation on farms can support diverse lineages of birds.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

New TIPA conference promotes U.S.-Mexico border and produce diversity

The Texas International Produce Association has announced plans to host the inaugural VIVA Fresh Conference & Expo March 26-28, 2015 at the Hilton Austin in Austin, Texas. The expo, which is meant to highlight the “Gateway to the Americas,” will focus on showcasing produce grown in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.VivaFreshLogo 070914

The new VIVA Fresh Expo was created to take advantage of the trend to offer more intimate and affordable regional trade shows that allow vendors and customers to create meaningful networking opportunities that highlight products and build relationships. The new show replaces TIPA’s former Texas Produce Convention.

“We’re incredibly excited to debut this new international conference that will showcase the high quality, variety and availability of fresh produce from Texas, the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico,” Bret Erickson, TIPA president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Connecting buyers with Southwestern U.S. and Mexican producers is a key objective of VIVA Fresh. The conference committees will be working directly with retailers and foodservice companies, who are invited to attend for free, to ensure greater participation.”

The expo will focus heavily on networking and education and include virtual field tours at farms and facilities in Texas and Mexico, a supermarket dietician symposium, the latest in merchandising trends, and a wide range of topics focusing on issues and opportunities with trade between Mexico and the United States and how that affects both growers and customers.

TIPA Chairman Dante Galeazzi of Crescent Fruit & Vegetable and the expo committee chair said, “Imported products continue to grow in volume and distribution. We believe that the topics and opportunities we will provide at Viva Fresh as it relates to the growth and expansion of produce from Mexico, transportation issues and upcoming trade regulations specifically for this region will make this conference unique to other trade shows and create the international draw that is missing from the ‘regional’ shows available today.”

Along with the education component, the expo will be focused on the health benefits, style and taste of Southwestern and Mexico-grown produce, with chef-inspired events and receptions with a region-specific foodie flair.

The VIVA Fresh Expo website will launch in August and include detailed information on schedule, registration, sponsorship and exhibiting. For more information, contact Bret Erickson at bret.erickson@texipa.org.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

New TIPA conference promotes U.S.-Mexico border and produce diversity

The Texas International Produce Association has announced plans to host the inaugural VIVA Fresh Conference & Expo March 26-28, 2015 at the Hilton Austin in Austin, Texas. The expo, which is meant to highlight the “Gateway to the Americas,” will focus on showcasing produce grown in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.VivaFreshLogo 070914

The new VIVA Fresh Expo was created to take advantage of the trend to offer more intimate and affordable regional trade shows that allow vendors and customers to create meaningful networking opportunities that highlight products and build relationships. The new show replaces TIPA’s former Texas Produce Convention.

“We’re incredibly excited to debut this new international conference that will showcase the high quality, variety and availability of fresh produce from Texas, the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico,” Bret Erickson, TIPA president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Connecting buyers with Southwestern U.S. and Mexican producers is a key objective of VIVA Fresh. The conference committees will be working directly with retailers and foodservice companies, who are invited to attend for free, to ensure greater participation.”

The expo will focus heavily on networking and education and include virtual field tours at farms and facilities in Texas and Mexico, a supermarket dietician symposium, the latest in merchandising trends, and a wide range of topics focusing on issues and opportunities with trade between Mexico and the United States and how that affects both growers and customers.

TIPA Chairman Dante Galeazzi of Crescent Fruit & Vegetable and the expo committee chair said, “Imported products continue to grow in volume and distribution. We believe that the topics and opportunities we will provide at Viva Fresh as it relates to the growth and expansion of produce from Mexico, transportation issues and upcoming trade regulations specifically for this region will make this conference unique to other trade shows and create the international draw that is missing from the ‘regional’ shows available today.”

Along with the education component, the expo will be focused on the health benefits, style and taste of Southwestern and Mexico-grown produce, with chef-inspired events and receptions with a region-specific foodie flair.

The VIVA Fresh Expo website will launch in August and include detailed information on schedule, registration, sponsorship and exhibiting. For more information, contact Bret Erickson at bret.erickson@texipa.org.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

New TIPA conference promotes U.S.-Mexico border and produce diversity

The Texas International Produce Association has announced plans to host the inaugural VIVA Fresh Conference & Expo March 26-28, 2015 at the Hilton Austin in Austin, Texas. The expo, which is meant to highlight the “Gateway to the Americas,” will focus on showcasing produce grown in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.VivaFreshLogo 070914

The new VIVA Fresh Expo was created to take advantage of the trend to offer more intimate and affordable regional trade shows that allow vendors and customers to create meaningful networking opportunities that highlight products and build relationships. The new show replaces TIPA’s former Texas Produce Convention.

“We’re incredibly excited to debut this new international conference that will showcase the high quality, variety and availability of fresh produce from Texas, the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico,” Bret Erickson, TIPA president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Connecting buyers with Southwestern U.S. and Mexican producers is a key objective of VIVA Fresh. The conference committees will be working directly with retailers and foodservice companies, who are invited to attend for free, to ensure greater participation.”

The expo will focus heavily on networking and education and include virtual field tours at farms and facilities in Texas and Mexico, a supermarket dietician symposium, the latest in merchandising trends, and a wide range of topics focusing on issues and opportunities with trade between Mexico and the United States and how that affects both growers and customers.

TIPA Chairman Dante Galeazzi of Crescent Fruit & Vegetable and the expo committee chair said, “Imported products continue to grow in volume and distribution. We believe that the topics and opportunities we will provide at Viva Fresh as it relates to the growth and expansion of produce from Mexico, transportation issues and upcoming trade regulations specifically for this region will make this conference unique to other trade shows and create the international draw that is missing from the ‘regional’ shows available today.”

Along with the education component, the expo will be focused on the health benefits, style and taste of Southwestern and Mexico-grown produce, with chef-inspired events and receptions with a region-specific foodie flair.

The VIVA Fresh Expo website will launch in August and include detailed information on schedule, registration, sponsorship and exhibiting. For more information, contact Bret Erickson at bret.erickson@texipa.org.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Restoring grasslands: Ant diversity indicates restored grasslands

When it comes to restoring grasslands, ecologists may have another way to evaluate their progress — ants.

The more diverse the ant population, the closer a restored section of grassland is to its original state, according to Laura Winkler, who recently completed her master’s degree in plant science, specializing in entomology, at South Dakota State University. When it comes to native grasslands, ants are “ecosystem engineers.”

Ecological role of ants

Ants play many ecological roles, Winkler explained. “They aerate the soil, cycle nutrients and play a role in plant defense and seed dispersal. Ants move more soil than earthworms, plus they are food for lots of reptiles and birds.”

Some ant species support colonies of plant-feeding insects, such as aphids or plant hoppers, even protecting them from predators. “It’s like having dairy cattle,” Winkler said. Through this technique, the ants consume the sugar-rich honey dew the aphids secrete, much as humans use cow’s milk. When the ants are in need of protein, they simply eat the aphids.

Ants also distribute organic matter by moving dead insects into the colonies and their dead nest mates away from the colonies, Winkler added.

Comparing restored, undisturbed grasslands

Winkler compared tracts of restored grasslands to undisturbed ones at three sites in eastern South Dakota–Sioux Prairie in Minnehaha County, Oak Lake Field Station in Brookings County, and Spirit Mound in Clay County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the restored areas, while the undisturbed area at Sioux Prairie is managed by the Nature Conservancy, Oak Lake by SDSU and Spirit Mound by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she began working with ants as an undergraduate at Iowa State University focusing on how burning and grazing affect species diversity. Her SDSU graduate research assistantship on ant biodiversity and natural history was funded through the Meierhenry Fellowship. Her research adviser was entomologist Paul J. Johnson, professor of plant science.

Variation with age

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sites that had once been crop or pasture land were restored anywhere from one to four years ago, according to Winkler. This involved taking the areas down to the bare ground and then seeding native grasses. Winkler used data from multiple sites taken over a one-year period.

As expected, the younger sites had fewer ant species, with the numbers and diversity increasing over time. The restoration areas at age 1 had seven different species, while at age 2, the number had increased to nine and by age 3 to 10 species, Winkler reported. She expected the fourth year restorations to be even closer to the 17 species present in the undisturbed remnants, but what she saw was a slight decrease to eight species.

“The drought last year and then a wet spring also affects that vegetation, what’s going to survive and how many of the ants are out foraging,” Winkler pointed out.

She suspects that management techniques may also have played a role. “Some sites may have been burned more frequently,” she noted, to control weeds.

“We’ve got a sneak peek of what can happen,” Winkler said, but more long-term research is needed. Based on other research, she anticipates that the restored areas should peak in terms of species diversity within seven to eight years.

Increased specialization

Winkler also looked at how these ant species function. The younger restorations areas tend to have ants that are generalists who can go anywhere, but the older restorations tend to have more specialists, such as soil-dwelling ants, who are more particular about where they live, Winkler explained. The more dominant specialists push out some of the generalists.

“You’ll have ants everywhere,” she pointed out, but the greater the diversity, the more niches are being filled, and the more successful the restoration effort.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Restoring grasslands: Ant diversity indicates restored grasslands

When it comes to restoring grasslands, ecologists may have another way to evaluate their progress — ants.

The more diverse the ant population, the closer a restored section of grassland is to its original state, according to Laura Winkler, who recently completed her master’s degree in plant science, specializing in entomology, at South Dakota State University. When it comes to native grasslands, ants are “ecosystem engineers.”

Ecological role of ants

Ants play many ecological roles, Winkler explained. “They aerate the soil, cycle nutrients and play a role in plant defense and seed dispersal. Ants move more soil than earthworms, plus they are food for lots of reptiles and birds.”

Some ant species support colonies of plant-feeding insects, such as aphids or plant hoppers, even protecting them from predators. “It’s like having dairy cattle,” Winkler said. Through this technique, the ants consume the sugar-rich honey dew the aphids secrete, much as humans use cow’s milk. When the ants are in need of protein, they simply eat the aphids.

Ants also distribute organic matter by moving dead insects into the colonies and their dead nest mates away from the colonies, Winkler added.

Comparing restored, undisturbed grasslands

Winkler compared tracts of restored grasslands to undisturbed ones at three sites in eastern South Dakota–Sioux Prairie in Minnehaha County, Oak Lake Field Station in Brookings County, and Spirit Mound in Clay County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the restored areas, while the undisturbed area at Sioux Prairie is managed by the Nature Conservancy, Oak Lake by SDSU and Spirit Mound by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she began working with ants as an undergraduate at Iowa State University focusing on how burning and grazing affect species diversity. Her SDSU graduate research assistantship on ant biodiversity and natural history was funded through the Meierhenry Fellowship. Her research adviser was entomologist Paul J. Johnson, professor of plant science.

Variation with age

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sites that had once been crop or pasture land were restored anywhere from one to four years ago, according to Winkler. This involved taking the areas down to the bare ground and then seeding native grasses. Winkler used data from multiple sites taken over a one-year period.

As expected, the younger sites had fewer ant species, with the numbers and diversity increasing over time. The restoration areas at age 1 had seven different species, while at age 2, the number had increased to nine and by age 3 to 10 species, Winkler reported. She expected the fourth year restorations to be even closer to the 17 species present in the undisturbed remnants, but what she saw was a slight decrease to eight species.

“The drought last year and then a wet spring also affects that vegetation, what’s going to survive and how many of the ants are out foraging,” Winkler pointed out.

She suspects that management techniques may also have played a role. “Some sites may have been burned more frequently,” she noted, to control weeds.

“We’ve got a sneak peek of what can happen,” Winkler said, but more long-term research is needed. Based on other research, she anticipates that the restored areas should peak in terms of species diversity within seven to eight years.

Increased specialization

Winkler also looked at how these ant species function. The younger restorations areas tend to have ants that are generalists who can go anywhere, but the older restorations tend to have more specialists, such as soil-dwelling ants, who are more particular about where they live, Winkler explained. The more dominant specialists push out some of the generalists.

“You’ll have ants everywhere,” she pointed out, but the greater the diversity, the more niches are being filled, and the more successful the restoration effort.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Increasing diversity of marketable raspberries

Raspberries are the third most popular berry in the United States. Their popularity is growing as a specialty crop for the wholesale industry and in smaller, local markets, and U-pick operations. As consumer interest in the health benefits of colorful foods increases, small growers are capitalizing on novelty fruit and vegetable crops such as different-colored raspberries. Authors of a newly published study say that increasing the diversity of raspberry colors in the market will benefit both consumers and producers. “Producers will need to know how fruit of the other color groups compare with red raspberries with regard to the many postharvest qualities,” noted the University of Maryland’s Julia Harshman, corresponding author of the study published in HortScience (March 2014).

Raspberries have an extremely short shelf life, which can be worsened by postharvest decay. Postharvest susceptibility to gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) drastically reduces the shelf life of this delicate fruit. “The main goal of our research was to compare the postharvest quality of different-colored raspberries that were harvested from floricanes under direct-market conditions with minimal pesticide inputs,” Harshman said. The researchers said that, although there is abundant information in the literature regarding red raspberry production in regard to gray mold, very little research has been conducted on postharvest physiology of black, yellow, or purple raspberries.

The researchers analyzed 17 varieties of raspberries at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, examining each cultivar for characteristics such as anthocyanins, soluble solids, titratable acids, pH, color, firmness, decay and juice leakage rates, ethylene evolution, and respiration.

“In comparing the four commonly grown colors of raspberry, we drew several important conclusions,” they said. “The mechanisms controlling decay and juice leakage are distinct and mediated by both biotic and abiotic factors. The colors that performed well for one area are opposite the ones that did well in the other.” For example, firmness was expected to track closely with either leakage or decay resistance; however, the analyses did not indicate this.

Red raspberries, in comparison with the other three colors analyzed during the study, had the highest titratable acids (TA) and the lowest ratio of soluble solids to TA, which, the authors say, accounts for the tart raspberry flavor consumers expect.

Yellow raspberries had the lowest levels of anthocyanins and phenolics. Their TA was lower than red raspberries, but their ratio of soluble solids to TA was the second highest. “This bodes well for consumer acceptance because this measure is an important indicator of flavor,” Harshman said. Although yellow raspberries were among the firmest varieties at harvest, they were found to be very susceptible to gray mold, particularly after being harvested on overcast, cool, humid days.

Black raspberries resisted leakage the least of all of the colors, particularly after rainy, humid, overcast days. The authors observed that this quality will make it challenging to move black raspberries into the wholesale fresh market.

Purple raspberries–a hybrid between red and black raspberries–had the third highest anthocyanin and phenolic content, and their flavor was intermediate between black and yellow raspberries. “Similar to black raspberries, their ability to resist juice leakage was poor, and cool weather tended to exacerbate this,” the authors said.

“We have shown for the first time that when significant differences between ethylene rates and decay incidence coincide; the berries that produced the highest ethylene rates rotted the most quickly,” Harshman said. “Our findings have great impact because they open the door for potential disease mitigation strategies that center around lowering ethylene emission rates on berries to reduce decay.”

The authors say that their findings should also be useful to plant breeders, who can use the information to screen raspberry germplasm to look for berries to use as material for generating more decay-resistant fruit.

A link to the article’s summary can be found at: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/49/3/311.abstract

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Increasing diversity of marketable raspberries

Raspberries are the third most popular berry in the United States. Their popularity is growing as a specialty crop for the wholesale industry and in smaller, local markets, and U-pick operations. As consumer interest in the health benefits of colorful foods increases, small growers are capitalizing on novelty fruit and vegetable crops such as different-colored raspberries. Authors of a newly published study say that increasing the diversity of raspberry colors in the market will benefit both consumers and producers. “Producers will need to know how fruit of the other color groups compare with red raspberries with regard to the many postharvest qualities,” noted the University of Maryland’s Julia Harshman, corresponding author of the study published in HortScience (March 2014).

Raspberries have an extremely short shelf life, which can be worsened by postharvest decay. Postharvest susceptibility to gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) drastically reduces the shelf life of this delicate fruit. “The main goal of our research was to compare the postharvest quality of different-colored raspberries that were harvested from floricanes under direct-market conditions with minimal pesticide inputs,” Harshman said. The researchers said that, although there is abundant information in the literature regarding red raspberry production in regard to gray mold, very little research has been conducted on postharvest physiology of black, yellow, or purple raspberries.

The researchers analyzed 17 varieties of raspberries at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, examining each cultivar for characteristics such as anthocyanins, soluble solids, titratable acids, pH, color, firmness, decay and juice leakage rates, ethylene evolution, and respiration.

“In comparing the four commonly grown colors of raspberry, we drew several important conclusions,” they said. “The mechanisms controlling decay and juice leakage are distinct and mediated by both biotic and abiotic factors. The colors that performed well for one area are opposite the ones that did well in the other.” For example, firmness was expected to track closely with either leakage or decay resistance; however, the analyses did not indicate this.

Red raspberries, in comparison with the other three colors analyzed during the study, had the highest titratable acids (TA) and the lowest ratio of soluble solids to TA, which, the authors say, accounts for the tart raspberry flavor consumers expect.

Yellow raspberries had the lowest levels of anthocyanins and phenolics. Their TA was lower than red raspberries, but their ratio of soluble solids to TA was the second highest. “This bodes well for consumer acceptance because this measure is an important indicator of flavor,” Harshman said. Although yellow raspberries were among the firmest varieties at harvest, they were found to be very susceptible to gray mold, particularly after being harvested on overcast, cool, humid days.

Black raspberries resisted leakage the least of all of the colors, particularly after rainy, humid, overcast days. The authors observed that this quality will make it challenging to move black raspberries into the wholesale fresh market.

Purple raspberries–a hybrid between red and black raspberries–had the third highest anthocyanin and phenolic content, and their flavor was intermediate between black and yellow raspberries. “Similar to black raspberries, their ability to resist juice leakage was poor, and cool weather tended to exacerbate this,” the authors said.

“We have shown for the first time that when significant differences between ethylene rates and decay incidence coincide; the berries that produced the highest ethylene rates rotted the most quickly,” Harshman said. “Our findings have great impact because they open the door for potential disease mitigation strategies that center around lowering ethylene emission rates on berries to reduce decay.”

The authors say that their findings should also be useful to plant breeders, who can use the information to screen raspberry germplasm to look for berries to use as material for generating more decay-resistant fruit.

A link to the article’s summary can be found at: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/49/3/311.abstract

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ethnic retailing: Food Bazaar caters to Queens’ diversity

The newest Food Bazaar store, which opened in December at the site of a former Pathmark in Long Island City, Queens, is the largest of the international grocer’s 18 units and, officials say, its most fully realized. Situated on busy Northern Boulevard amid industrial warehouses and automobile lots, the store isn’t much to look at from the outside. Inside, shoppers will find the 75,000-square-foot site with a look and a selection that reaches deep into the multi-ethnic population …

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Supermarket News

Genetic diversity key to survival of honey bee colonies

June 17, 2013 — When it comes to honey bees, more mates is better. A new study from North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that genetic diversity is key to survival in honey bee colonies — a colony is less likely to survive if its queen has had a limited number of mates.

“We wanted to determine whether a colony’s genetic diversity has an impact on its survival, and what that impact may be,” says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper describing the study. “We knew genetic diversity affected survival under controlled conditions, but wanted to see if it held true in the real world. And, if so, how much diversity is needed to significantly improve a colony’s odds of surviving.”

Tarpy took genetic samples from 80 commercial colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the eastern United States to assess each colony’s genetic diversity, which reflects the number of males a colony’s queen has mated with. The more mates a queen has had, the higher the genetic diversity in the colony. The researchers then tracked the health of the colonies on an almost monthly basis over the course of 10 months — which is a full working “season” for commercial bee colonies.

The researchers found that colonies where the queen had mated at least seven times were 2.86 times more likely to survive the 10-month working season. Specifically, 48 percent of colonies with queens who had mated at least seven times were still alive at the end of the season. Only 17 percent of the less genetically diverse colonies survived. “48 percent survival is still an alarmingly low survival rate, but it’s far better than 17 percent,” Tarpy says.

“This study confirms that genetic diversity is enormously important in honey bee populations,” Tarpy says. “And it also offers some guidance to beekeepers about breeding strategies that will help their colonies survive.”

The paper, “Genetic diversity affects colony survivorship in commercial honey bee colonies,” was published online this month in the journal Naturwissenschaften. Co-authors of the study are Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp of the University of Maryland and Dr. Jeffery Pettis of USDA. The work was supported by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the National Honey Board.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Delhaize, Safeway achieve top diversity scores

Delhaize America said Tuesday that it received a perfect score of 100% on the 2014 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., also achieved a 100% ranking, according to CEI.


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“Delhaize America is honored to earn this top recognition again this year,” said Millette Granville, director of diversity and inclusion for Delhaize America, Salisbury, N.C. “This perfect score reinforces our strong commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for associates. Through employee resource groups and volunteer support, we are building a more inclusive company and stronger communities.”

The 2014 CEI rated 934 businesses in the report, which evaluates LGBT-related policies and practices including non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs and public engagement with the LGBT community. Delhaize America’s efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria have resulted in a 100% ranking and the designation as a Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality.

In all, 304 companies achieved a perfect 100% score. Other food retailers ranked in the CEI index included Supervalu (which scored 90%); Kroger (85%); Whole Foods Market (75%) and Ahold USA (55%).

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Ahold Honored for Supplier Diversity

CARLISLE, Pa. — Professional Woman’s Magazine has named Ahold USA among the “Top Supplier Diversity Programs for Women” for 2013 as a result of the company’s commitment to working with diverse and women-owned businesses, Ahold said Wednesday.


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This 14th annual review is an evaluation of the nation’s employers, initiatives, government agencies and educational institutions, compiled from market research, independent research, diversity conference participation and survey responses.

Ahold USA’s signature efforts to work with local and diverse businesses include hosting annual trade local/diverse business opportunity fairs, events which strengthen the company’s connection to prospective local agricultural and diverse businesses. 2013 events were held in February in Quincy, Mass., and last month in Carlisle, Pa.

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“As a responsible retailer, we continue to maintain our strong commitment to developing business opportunities with women- and minority-owned companies who can supply their products and services to our customers,” Jodie Daubert, senior vice president, sales development, Ahold USA, said in a statement. “We’re pleased to be nationally recognized by Professional Woman’s Magazine and proud to work with these companies to offer their products and services in our stores.”

During the 2013 Quincy and Carlisle events a total of 81 companies were given the opportunity to have their products reviewed by Ahold USA for potential placement through its retail divisions in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Attendees included representatives of women- and minority-owned businesses.

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