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Published December 05, 2009, 12:00 AM

Genome of corn successfully sequenced in $29.5 million project

WILLMAR — Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and their colleagues have successfully completed a four-year effort to sequence the genome of corn, also known and sometimes referred to as maize. This achievement represents the largest and most complex plant genome sequenced to date and became the cover story in a recent issue of the journal Science.

By: Wes Nelson, USDA Farm Service Agency , West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and their colleagues have successfully completed a four-year effort to sequence the genome of corn, also known and sometimes referred to as maize. This achievement represents the largest and most complex plant genome sequenced to date and became the cover story in a recent issue of the journal Science.

The sequencing is expected to speed the development of corn varieties that will not only help feed the world, but will meet the growing demand of this critical grain crop for use as animal feed and biofuel.

The work is expected to lead to the development of corn varieties with higher yield potentials and greater tolerance of drought, pests and diseases. It also should help scientists produce varieties with fibers, stalks and cellular structures that will make corn a better source of biofuel.

The sequencing of the corn genome will also serve as a foundation for understanding and improving other agricultural crops as well.

Plants previously sequenced include rice, sorghum, poplar, grape and Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant widely studied as a model organism.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, along with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, jointly provided $29.5 million to help fund research that resulted in the sequencing of the corn genome.

FSA offices issue $265M in loans to Minn. farmers

Farm Service Agency offices issued $265 million in direct and guaranteed loans to Minnesota family farms during the 2009 fiscal year. The dollars involved more than 1,700 loans, setting a record high for both the number of loans made and loan dollars issued in Minnesota.

The funding included more than $5.3 million in direct loans to socially disadvantaged borrowers and $56.8 million for beginning farmers.

For FSA lending purposes, socially disadvantaged groups include women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Beginning farmers include those that have farmed fewer than 10 years.

FSA can provide loans to purchase and operate family-size farms. Loan funds can be used to finance livestock, farm equipment, annual operating expenses and most other farm-related expenses.

Interest rates vary from 1.5 to 5 percent, depending on loan type.

To learn more regarding FSA’s loan eligibility requirements or to schedule an appointment with a loan officer, contact your local FSA office. Information is also available on FSA’s Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov.

Three Minnesota watersheds selected for new initiative

Officials from USDA recently announced that 41 watersheds in 12 states have been selected to participate in a new initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River Basin. The selected watersheds cover more than 42 million acres or more than 5 percent of the basin’s land area.

Included among the 41 selected watersheds were three in Minnesota. The three watersheds are the Middle Minnesota, Root and Sauk.

Over the next four years, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative will provide approximately $320 million for voluntary projects in priority watersheds located in 12 key states, including Minnesota.

Initially announced on Sept. 24, the initiative, which will be administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will be made available through a competitive process for potential partners at the local, state and national levels.

This new initiative will help agricultural producers implement conservation and management practices that avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff.

October milk production up 2.5 percent

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota milk production during the month of October totaled 743 million pounds, up 2.5 percent from the 725 million pounds produced in October of 2008.

Minnesota’s production per cow averaged 1,585 pounds in October, up 30 pounds from last October.

The average number of milk cows on Minnesota dairy farms during October was 469,000 head, unchanged from September, but up 3,000 head from one year ago.

Accumulated Minnesota milk production during the first 10 months of 2009 totaled 7.53 billion pounds, up 2.9 percent from the same period one year ago.

Accumulated milk production in the 23 major dairy states during the first 10 months of 2009 totaled 146.7 billion pounds, up 0.1 percent from the same period one year ago.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.

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