Saturday, May 30, 2009

Arkansas officials say 'Don't Do Fescue'

Arkansas “Don't Do Fescue" is theme of AGFC public campaign
JONESBORO - Tall fescue is a widely used forage crop. It is insect resistant, tolerates poor soil and climatic conditions well and has a long growing season. Unfortunately, tall fescue also has a downside.

With approximately four million acres of pasturelands planted in tall fescue, Arkansas has a great deal of this crop. According to David Long, agricultural liaison with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the agency is working diligently to help the public understand the shortcomings of this type of grass.

"The AGFC has developed a new tool in its effort to educate landowners about the toxic and negative effects of Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue to farm wildlife. A new bumper sticker entitled 'Don't Do Fescue' is now being distributed to agency employees and others interested in spreading the word," Long said. Tall fescue is a common forage grass that has been planted across Arkansas for over 40 years.

Estimates are that about 70 percent-95 percent or 4 million acres of the pasturelands planted with tall fescue in Arkansas are infected with an endophyte fungus. The fungus causes declines in bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, grassland songbirds and also limited other game populations such as white-tailed deer and wild turkey.

"The fact that the plant is actually toxic to both domestic livestock and farm wildlife species is accepted by agriculture extension specialists and wildlife biologists alike," Long said. "The plant produces chemicals causing the fescue to have very toxic qualities. The alkaloids are found throughout the plant, but are especially concentrated in the seeds and leaves," he explained.

In cattle, the fungus causes excessive body temperatures, elevated respiratory rates, loss of appetite, body weight loss, lowered fertility rates and abortion of fetuses. Dairy cows often show sharp declines in milk production. Horses are affected also with more aborted fetuses, foaling problems, weak foals and reduced or no milk production. The CES estimates that this endopytic toxin cost American beef producers up to $1 billion a year in lost profits.

"It's very important for private landowners who desire viable wildlife populations on their property to know the effects of planting fescue," Long noted. "Many species of wildlife would directly suffer these same negative effects if they were confined to the pasturelands as are livestock. However, since they are free ranging, they simply avoid the fungus infected fescue pastures, but nevertheless, this results in loss of farm wildlife habitat on these acres. You may have deer and turkey travel through tall-fescue pastures, but they rarely find food sources available they can utilize, since the aggressiveness of the fescue usually results in solid stands of the plant," Long concluded.

The grass is a sod-forming turf with thick matted growth that also limits movement of young bobwhite quail, turkey and cottontail rabbits, provides no nesting habitat for wild turkey or quail, and is extremely poor habitat for many declining grassland species of songbirds. "Bottom line, fungus infected tall-fescue pastures offer little food, cover or nesting habitat to a broad range of farm wildlife," he said.

"Tall fescue has been planted in an estimated 4 million acres of the 5.4 million acres of pasture scattered over the state and for all practical purposes is of no value to farm wildlife. With the widespread establishment of tall fescue pastures, a great loss of wildlife habitat for deer, turkey, quail, cottontails and grassland songbirds has occurred.

Many landowners now recognize this problem and are interested in eliminating tall-fescue on some or all of their acreage. However, many landowners continue to plant tall-fescue, not knowing the detrimental effects it will have to wildlife. (There is an endophyte-free variety of tall fescue available for planting but it is less viable and hardy, and still provides very limited habitat for wildlife.)

We want to educate all landowners regarding this fact because there are other planting options to providing livestock forage and wildlife habitat on their farms," Long explained.

Please help spread the word to landowners "Don't Do Fescue!" by requesting a bumper sticker to place on your vehicle. Especially if they have an interest in managing for wildlife on their farm. For more information contact David Long at 877-972-5438 or

Thursday, May 21, 2009

OMNI Book Forum on Democracy at 6 p.m. Friday at Nightbird Books, which now is at 205 W. Dickson Street

Please click on image to ENLARGE announcement of OMNI's book forum at Night Bird Books.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Annual War Eagle celebration Saturday near Huntsville

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of Audubon Arkansas invitation to the third annual War Eagle celebration tomorrow at Withrow Springs State Park.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Person infects pigs with flu!

This link below is an interactive map where you can move the mouse to the round spots and get info. Looks like Ark is clear so I'm letting myself out of lock down tomorrow to return to my wild social life! In the article, however, it points to the great injustice done to our fellow pigs with transfer of the virus from humans to pigsb(scroll down to sentence in red)! Typical humans--point fingers to deflect blame.

May 3, 2009
No Signs of Sustained Global Spread of Swine Flu
The World Health Organization announced an increase in the number of confirmed cases of swine flu on Saturday, but said there was no evidence of sustained spread in communities outside North America, which would fit the definition of a pandemic.

Health officials say the continuing outbreak must be closely monitored.

“At the present time, I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing transmission to other countries,” Dr. Michael J. Ryan, the director of the World Health Organization global alert and response team, said in a teleconference from Geneva. “We have to expect that Phase 6 will be reached. We have to hope that it is not.”

Phase 6, the highest level in the organization’s alert system, is a pandemic. But Dr. Ryan emphasized that the term describes the geographic spread of a disease, not its severity. There can be a pandemic of a mild disease. The current level, Phase 5, means that the disease is spreading in communities — not just within households or in returning travelers — in two countries in one of the World Health Organization’s six regions, in this case the United States and Mexico.

Phase 5 also means a pandemic is imminent. To move up to Phase 6, community spread would have to occur in at least one other country in another region.

On Saturday, Canadian health officials said that the virus had been found in sick pigs on one farm in Alberta, the first report of the swine flu’s actually being found in swine. Previously, there had been heated debate about whether the virus could infect pigs, even though its genetic makeup clearly points to its having originated in swine at some point.

But people were infecting each other, and until Saturday, no pigs had been found with the virus — a fact that the pork industry used to bolster its argument that the virus should not even be named for swine. But researchers, busy with human cases, were not really looking for the disease in pigs.

The news from Canada changes things. But it has a somewhat unexpected twist: a person appears to have spread the disease to the pigs, and not the other way around. A worker at the farm had traveled to Mexico, fallen ill there and unknowingly brought the disease back to Canada last month. The worker has recovered.

About 10 percent of the 2,200 pigs on the farm got sick. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, all recovered without treatment in five days.

The entire herd remains under quarantine as a precaution.

“One of the reasons for watching this very closely is the potential for the virus passing back from the pigs to human beings,” David Butler-Jones, the chief public health officer of Canada, said at a news conference in Ottawa.

He emphasized that the infection of the pigs by the human virus does not pose any increased threat to human health or the food supply.

“The eating of pork is absolutely not a problem,” Dr. Butler-Jones said.

Despite assurances from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian agriculture officials, some countries banned imports of pork and pork products from Canada even before Saturday’s announcement. Brian Evans, the executive vice president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said that the Canadian government had informed the United States about the finding in Alberta. American officials, he added, indicated that they did not plan to ban Canadian products.

On Saturday the W.H.O reported that there were 658 confirmed cases of the illness, officially known as Influenza A(H1N1) , in 16 countries. Dr. Ryan said that the health organization was sending 2.4 million doses of antiviral drugs to 72 countries, including many poor countries that do not have supplies of their own.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Saturday that there were 160 cases confirmed by laboratory tests in 21 states. (The agency posts the case count once a day; states sometimes report new cases later the same day, but they are not added to the official total until the next day.) Thirteen people have been hospitalized.

“It’s important to remember that with seasonal flu, we get 200,000 hospitalizations each year, mostly the very old or very young or those with other problems that put them at high risk,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, head of respiratory disease at the disease centers, said at a news conference.

Some businesses are already trying to cash in on the outbreak, and the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have begun advising consumers to watch out for Internet scams selling useless drugs and ineffective masks to treat or prevent swine flu.

In Mexico, health authorities expressed cautious optimism about what they called a “stabilizing” situation. For the second day in a row, Mexico City, with most of the confirmed cases, did not record any deaths attributable to the virus.

As of Saturday morning, Mexico had confirmed 473 cases of H1N1, out of the 1,303 suspected cases that had been tested, indicating that the outbreak may be much smaller than it initially seemed. The death toll was raised Saturday night to 19.

Mexico had 159 deaths thought to be caused by swine flu. But many had other causes: 66 have now been attributed to other illnesses. Other cases have yet to be tested.

Dr. Schuchat of the C.D.C. took a cautious view of the optimistic reports from Mexico.

“I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard out of Mexico, but it’s important that we remain vigilant,” she said. “We’ve seen times when things appeared to be getting better and then got worse. For example, in Canada’s outbreak of SARS, things were said to be getting better, then there was a second wave in nursing homes. I suspect that in Mexico we’ll be holding our breath for some time.”

One source of concern and puzzlement in Mexico is the breakdown of deaths by gender. Of the 16 whose causes of death had been confirmed on Friday, 12 were women, including one who was pregnant. Mexico’s health secretary, José Ángel Córdova, confirmed that the flu seems to have struck harder at women than men in Mexico, but he could not explain why.

Like many of the new or emerging infections that have taken the world by surprise — SARS and avian flu are examples — this one seems to have arisen at what scientists call the “animal-human interface.”

“I think this is a phenomenon we’ve been observing over the last few decades,” Dr. Ryan said. He noted that some major threats to human health were of animal origin, including viruses that can wreak havoc when they jump from one species to another.

“We have seen in the past that disease can spread from pigs to humans,” Dr. Ryan said. “It usually dead ends with one or two cases.”

But in this case, he said, the disease is now spreading from person to person, with no evidence that pigs were transmitting it to people.

Still, he said, “the animal-human interface needs to be watched carefully.”

Infectious disease experts say it will be important to watch what this virus does over the coming weeks and months, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, which will soon confront its winter flu season. If H1N1 takes hold there, that will be a red flag to scientists.

“What could indeed happen is that this virus could dampen here during the summer per usual, and go to the Southern Hemisphere and pick up steam there and come back to bite us in our winter season next January and February, and it might come back in a more virulent form,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a public health and infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. “It’s an influenza virus, and you just can’t predict what those critters are going to do.”

Particularly worrisome is that a seasonal flu strain, common in the Southern Hemisphere and elsewhere, is resistant to Tamiflu, and could in theory pass that resistance to the new virus.

Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, also said the new virus could head south, and should be tracked closely.

“It will presumably give some insight into how this virus is evolving both in transmissibility and in virulence,” Dr. Fineberg said.

Meanwhile, as officials in the United States and elsewhere make plans for vaccine production, Dr. Schaffner said, “All that activity is very prudent.”

Donald G. McNeil Jr. contributed reporting from New York, Ian Austen from Ottawa and Larry Rohter from Mexico City.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

FarmToTable theme of today's program in the Rose Garden of the Walton Art Center with renewable-energy lecture at Night Bird bookstore at 2 p.m.

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of OMNI Springfest poster.

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of poster.

Solar Power Struggle
Professor Richard Hutchinson of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston will speak on "The Struggle for the Solar Future" at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 2, at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
An inquiry into environmental change and the obstacles and opportunities in the path of the renewable energy transition.
Sponsored by OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology.