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Agriculture briefs

HERSHEY

Clearfield County farmer recognized

— Pennsylvania Farm Bureau selected Leon Kriner of Clearfield County as the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Local Affairs Leader Award during the farm organization’s annual meeting.

The award recognizes an outstanding individual, whose local affairs efforts and activities have helped solve problems and improve rural living for county farm bureau members.

Kriner, who served eight years on PFB’s State Board of Directors and nine years as Clearfield County Farm Bureau President, played a major role in the creation of the Clearfield County Farmland Preservation Program, and was instrumental in helping several townships create Agricultural Security Areas, which allow the townships to participate in the Farmland Preservation Program.

UNIVERSITY PARK

Ground broken for ag engineering shop

A new agricultural engineering shop at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center will, when completed, enhance research capabilities that ultimately will benefit growers, according to the center’s director and one researcher who will use the facility

Groundbreaking took place in November for the new shop, which was made possible in part by funding from the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania. The facility is expected to enable the fabrication and testing of machinery and other technologies aimed at helping growers improve efficiency, reduce costs and overcome labor shortages.

Located in Biglerville, Adams County, the Fruit Research and Extension Center — often referred to as FREC — is an important resource for the state’s tree-fruit industry, which produces apples and peaches valued at more than $100 million annually.

Pollinator part of solar initiative

A unique undertaking in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences will shine a light on how solar farms can contribute to healthy ecosystems and boost pollinator populations.

“We have been given a remarkable opportunity to show how renewable energy production can be a platform for biodiversity, especially for valued pollinator species,” Harland Patch, assistant research professor of entomology, said in a statement of the project, which will complement the university’s new solar power initiative. “What we are proposing is new to the U.S., and we believe it will be a model for others to emulate.”

Penn State, in partnership with Lightsource BP, a leader in solar energy, in early September broke ground on a 70-megawatt, utility-scale solar project in Franklin County that will provide 25 percent of Penn State’s purchased electricity over the next 25 years.

More than 150,000 solar panels will be installed across three locations on about 500 acres leased from local landowners. The solar power project will save the university millions in energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance the Pennsylvania solar market, strengthen rural communities and provide farmers with an additional source of income.

Grant to support expanded use of AI

A research team developing artificial-intelligence-based solutions for diagnosing and managing threats to crop health has received a grant to expand the technology to assist more smallholder farmers around the world.

CGIAR, an international agricultural research consortium, awarded the project a $250,000 scale-up grant under its Inspire Challenge program, part of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. The program is designed to source and foster new solutions for digital agriculture in developing economies.

In 2017, the project — led by David Hughes, associate professor of entomology and biology, Penn State, and James Legg, plant virologist at the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture — received a $100,000 Inspire Challenge pilot grant from CGIAR. The program’s scale-up grants are awarded to previous Inspire Challenge pilot projects that demonstrated exceptional results, proven viability, potential for impact and likelihood of attracting investment capital.

In collaboration with the Roots, Tubers and Banana program of CGIAR, Hughes and his colleagues developed a mobile artificial-intelligence assistant that works on a standard smartphone and is capable of accurately diagnosing cassava diseases offline, without an internet connection. The app is called Nuru, which means “light” in Swahili.

From Mirror staff reports

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