Modern farming practices are to blame: You can’t avoid the zombie apocalypse in popular culture. But you may not have heard about the real one going on right beneath your feet: A worm apocalypse has been transforming farmland around the world. Why should you care? If you dreamed up plots to quietly undermine civilization, few could be more diabolical than destroying its foundation—the soil life that builds the fertility of the farmland we depend on to grow our food.

FOOD SECURITY

Why are cocoa losses so high? A staggering 38 percent of global cocoa is lost each year to disease or pests – and this figure looks set to rise – yet research is scant compared to rice, corn or wheat. Why is this and what is being done to reduce it? READ MORE

Is eliminating pesticides realistic? In about 1980, this author visited several research sites in Mexico. He vividly remembers seeing an ejido farmer hoeing weeds in his half-hectare corn field. The author was told the farmer was always there, day after day under the hot sun. When he progressed to one side of the field, newly emerged weeds already needed hoeing on the other. The author thought about his own cornfields in Ontario: One spray application at a cost of about $20 per half-hectare, and less than five minutes of field work, meant near weed-free conditions for the whole growing season. READ MORE

A threat to all farmers? Nuisance lawsuits against hog farms in North Carolina threaten pork producers there and threaten producers of all commodities across the country, said speaker after speaker at a roundtable discussion Aug. 3 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

‘Local’ not always ‘safe’: New data from Auburn University shows food safety issues at “small” and “very small” farms. Many of the these facilities have untrained employees who could use extra training in processing practices and a clear understanding that their every activity in the processing facility potentially impacts product safety, says lead researcher Christy Bratcher, a professor of meat science and director of the Food Systems Institute. READ MORE

Possible source for romaine lettuce outbreak: Outbreak investigators say a cattle feedlot near a canal providing water to growing regions in Arizona could be the source of E. coli that contaminated romaine lettuce earlier this year. The FDA has been investigating the outbreak, linked to romaine grown in the Yuma, Ariz., and Monday reported on hypothesis about a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near the canal. Dust from such feedlots is a known vector for the spread of E. coli and other pathogens to growing fields and surface water. READ MORE

Salmonella outbreak traced to cucumbers: A recent outbreak of Salmonella in the UK and Europe that has made 147 people ill has been linked to ready-to-eat meals containing cucumber, according to European health officials. READ MORE

CYBER SECURITY

Hackers to the rescue: IBM’s X-Force Red, a team of veteran hackers focused on finding security vulnerabilities in devices and systems, now has four new labs to work in. The new network of facilities provides all the toys required for testing the security of consumer and industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, automotive equipment, and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), both before and after they are deployed to customers. READ MORE

WEATHER EMERGENCIES

Recent surge in subdivisions in high-risk wild lands adds to fire risk: Even as fires rage across California, thousands of new homes are being built deeper into our flammable foothills and forests, as lethal as they are lovely. A recent surge in subdivisions in high-risk wildlands is putting more of us in harm’s way, say experts. For millennia, wildfires just burned trees; now they’re claiming homes, with heirlooms, pools, family photos, pets, cars and precious lives. READ MORE

Largest California fire ever: The Mendocino Complex fire is now the largest wildfire in modern California history, scorching more than 283,000 acres and frustrating firefighters as it continues to leap across natural and man-made barriers in Lake County. The Ranch and River fires, which make up the complex fire, had grown to 283,800 acres as of Monday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The blaze was only 30 percent contained. READ MORE

Stopping wildfire in its tracks: August 2013 was one of Oregon’s worst fire seasons on record. More than 288 square miles of the state were in flames, including a new fire that has just started west of rancher and forester John Engelien’s ranch and woodland. Wind and dry air propelled the fire toward John’s property, and then the unlikely happened. As flames licked at the trunks of Douglas firs and devoured any brush on the ground, the fire slowed, fizzled, then stopped. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

The future of pet food? If you’ve just managed to get your head around the concept of “clean meat” – meat produced by culturing animal cells outside of an animal – Bond Pet Foods is about to push the food industry’s boundaries again with a new approach to meat protein production, similar to the approach Perfect Day and Clara Foods are taking with dairy and egg proteins. READ MORE

TARIFFS

Minority of farmers signing on for tariff relief (so far): The latest Farm Journal Pulse survey shows that fewer than 50 percent of farmers would sign up for USDA’s $12 billion tariff aid package, given the information they have today. Late last week, 1,115 farmers who participate in the Farm Journal Pulse were asked if they plan to sign up for the bail out. Only 46 percent of the farmers surveyed said they planned to sign up. Another 6 percent said they do not plan to participate in the program. And another 48 percent said they will need more information to decide. READ MORE

NPA urges Trump administration not to impose tariffs: The Natural Products Association is among those urging the Trump administration not to impose tariffs on many of the ingredients used to create natural products and dietary supplements. Ingredients facing potential tariffs include pork and fish; various vegetables (soybeans, carrots, peas, chickpeas, etc.); various fruits (mangosteen, guava, strawberries, bananas, coconut, etc.); various nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, pistachios); oats, corn, quinoa, and rice; inulin; other herbs and botanicals (seaweed, ephedra, ginseng); cod liver oil; xylitol, cane sugar, and beet sugar; numerous minerals (calcium, sodium, potassium, zinc, magnesium); phospholipids; choline; and more. READ MORE

TERRORISM

A study in evil: Even Islamic terrorists make home videos, and and a trove of such videos that was seized by Saudi security services is now the linchpin of an eye-opening documentary showing extremists as you’ve never seen them before. Path of Blood shows al-Qaeda militants laughing and joking, affectionately hugging each other and earnestly contemplating their future — before heading out to brutally murder civilians. READ MORE

ANIMAL WELFARE

Inside a dog meat market: One of the founders of an organization called Passion for Compassion recently filmed live dogs for sale at Moran Market in South Korea. She said many are clubbed to death before being turned into dog soup. She estimates some 80,000 dogs are slaughtered at the market every year. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

A new tick species: For the first time in 50 years, a new tick species has arrived in the United States — one that in its Asian home range carries fearsome diseases. The Asian long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is spreading rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard. It has been found in seven states and in the heavily populated suburbs of New York City. READ MORE