Volcanologists study the possibilities: A major eruption of a super volcano would cause catastrophic effects on agriculture, as the ash plume would stay high in the atmosphere, blocking the sun and thereby plunging the world in to prolong periods of cold weather. Scientists are hard at work studying the super volcano that is present under Yellowstone Park, and the results have been surprising. They show that the forces that drive these rare and violent events can move much more rapidly than volcanologists previously anticipated. READ MORE


Antibiotic resistant plague? An outbreak of plague in Madagascar continues to evolve, with a total of 387 cases (suspected, probable and confirmed) reported between Aug. 1 and Oct. 8, including 45 deaths, reported from 27 out of 114 districts in the country. Of these, 277 cases (71.6 percent) had the pneumonic form of the disease, 106 were bubonic plague, one case was septicemia plague, and three cases were unspecified. “This has been of great concern,” said Dr. Sarah Zohdy, who studies disease ecology at Auburn University. “We typically have annual cases of plague in our field site in southeastern Madagascar with the occasional one that turns pneumonic. I received the first report of plague in our site in early September, but this is the first time it has reached so many urban centers and hospitals, which as we know from history, is never a good sign. In Ranomafana, we have evidence of widespread antibiotic resistance. so this is likely not the end.” Plague is known to be endemic on the Plateau of Madagascar, and a seasonal upsurge (predominantly the bubonic form) usually occurs early every year between September and April.

Country ill-prepared for pandemic: As the U.S. begins its annual flu season, experts warn that the country is ill-prepared for a pandemic flu that could cause widespread disruption and death. In a webinar Tuesday with the Association of Health Care Journalists, flu experts outlined potential problems that will occur if and when there is another flu pandemic. Those occur when there is a large mutation in the current circulating flu viruses that it is unlike previous strains or the emergence of a wholly new kind of strain, often from one that jumps from animals like chickens or pigs to humans, said Dr. Sonja Olsen, deputy chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the Flu Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. READ MORE

Puerto Rico’s sick are suffering: Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many sick people across the island remain in mortal peril. The government’s announcements each morning about the recovery effort are often upbeat, but beyond them are hidden emergencies. Seriously ill dialysis patients across Puerto Rico have seen their treatment hours reduced by 25 percent because the centers still lack a steady supply of diesel to run their generators. Less than half of Puerto Rico’s medical employees have reported to work in the weeks since the storm, federal health officials said. Hospitals are running low on medicine and high on patients, as they take in the infirm from medical centers where generators failed. READ MORE


Irma’s damage to beef cattle: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has totaled the damage to the beef cattle industry caused by Hurricane Irma at more than $237 million. Beef cattle is one of Florida’s most important land uses, with more than 1.7 million animals grazing in approximately 6.5 million acres of pasture and woodlands, and annual sales of $549.1 million. A statewide survey of cattle ranches in the aftermath of hurricane Irma revealed losses ranging from dead animals to flooded forage crops and pastures and damaged facilities.READ MORE

And to dairies: Last month Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, leaving a wake of devastation in its path. Irma forced milk processing plants to shutdown prior, during and after the storm. Southeast Milk Inc., a milk cooperative in with members across Florida, lost an estimated $1,951,695 from milk dumping and milk being sold at lower prices in other markets. Electricity went down for several days at dairies, making cooling animals with fans difficult and leading to heat stress and lower milk production. It is estimated Florida dairy farms will lose $7.5 million in revenue during the next four months because of the health setbacks cattle suffered. READ MORE

And there’s fire in California: A scalding torrent of copper-colored wine flowed among burned wine barrels and charred fermented tanks at a California winery after flames swept through the area Tuesday, part of the devastating wildfires wreaking havoc on wine country. The blaze engulfed Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, owned by Rene Byke, and burned barrels of wine and equipment. Photos of the aftermath showed a bubbling underground river of wine flowing through the area where the winery once stood, with scorched wine bottles lying on top of each other and wine leaking from singed tanks. READ MORE

And a threat to Indian rice crop: Farmers in India’s Cuttack district, in the eastern state of Odisha, are in despair because their rice crops are affected by an unknown disease that poses a threat to their paddy yield this season. They have been spraying available medicines on their paddy fields, without results. Hundreds of hectares of paddy are affected because of an unknown pest that is ruining the roots of the plants. Promedmail.org, which reports on emerging diseases, notes that a variety of pathogens—including fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes—have been reported to affect rice crops in the region. The symptoms of root rot described are not sufficient for diagnosis. A soil-borne root-rot pathogen would not respond to agrochemical sprays, and reliable diagnosis is essential before a management strategy can be devised. READ MORE about root rot.

And don’t forget bird flu: European poultry farmers will have to be on their guard against a range of different strains of bird flu over the next few months as the autumn migratory season gets underway. They will have to watch out for H5N8 High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which has continued to persist in the environment, most notably in poultry in northern Italy and in wild birds in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. READ MORE


When you don’t want to pay the bill: Sometimes the sticker shock for a delicious meal just gets the best of you. On Oct. 9, WPXI reported that a Pittsburgh man faces charges for threatening the Primanti Brothers sandwich shop in Pittsburgh, Pa., with a bomb threat in order to avoid paying the tab for his double-meat sandwich. READ MORE