In the Heart of the Corn Belt, An Uphill Battle for Clean Water

     “Health trumps politics,” said Iowa State Senator David Johnson before taking the stage at a raucous rally in Des Moines last winter to support strengthening the state’s water quality. In the marble rotunda of the state capitol, he rose to denounce the nitrogen and phosphates that have been flowing in ever-increasing quantities into Iowa’s public water supplies — and was cheered by the small crowd of family farmers, concerned mothers, and his new political allies, the legislature’s drastically outnumbered Democrats. Johnson had been one of the longest-serving Republicans in Iowa until he left the party to become an independent in 2016 after defying it repeatedly on one of the most divisive issues in Iowa — the integrity of the state’s water. Iowa’s nitrogen load has been accelerating despite more than $100 million spent by the federal and state governments to rein it in. Starting in 1999, the concentration …Read More.

How Seeds from War-Torn Syria Could Help Save American Wheat

One of the world’s most important seed banks was based in Aleppo, Syria. Then the war came to Aleppo and scientists spirited this precious living cargo across the border into Lebanon. Now the world is seeking out those seeds because they show high resistance to the impact of rising temperatures and drought, man-made climate disruptions that are making many of the planet’s food-growing lands resemble conditions in the Middle East, heart of the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of domesticated agriculture. I write here about one such place, centered in Kansas, heart of US wheat production, where farmers are discovering that Syrian grasses are the only plants able to resist pests that are following the heat into the Midwest. Here’s my story on the Syrian seeds, published in Yale 360. The story is below in a simple paste–and with cool graphics and photos here at YALE 360:   How Seeds from …Read More.