Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'agriculture'

A Farmer’s Nonchalance

October 16th, 2013 · No Comments

A quick Google News search for the term “farm accident” is all that’s required to grasp the perils of working the land. Despite copious safety advances since the early days of the mechanized thresher, agriculture remains a dangerous profession in large part because its essential tasks are often performed by individuals; if something goes amiss, […]

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High Stakes

March 6th, 2013 · 6 Comments

I was recently intrigued to learn that 45 percent of the world’s opiate alkaloids—that is, the ones incorporated into prescription medicines rather than illicit narcotics—come from Tasmanian poppies. The Australian state’s dominance in this industry is the result of several factors, starting with its unique geography; tucked away in the Southern Hemisphere and surrounded by […]

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No Half Measures

September 19th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The Ivorian government thinks it’s trying to do its cocoa farmers a solid by guaranteeing export prices, rather than leaving folks at the mercy of a capricious market. But the farmers don’t seem to appreciate the gesture, for the way the prices are apparently being calculated by bureaucrats who don’t understand the country’s on-the-ground realities: […]

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The Wages of Transparency

August 8th, 2012 · No Comments

Techno-pessimists have long argued that the democratization of media will not shame elites into better behavior, but will rather make them more cautious about conducting their dirty business behind well-secured doors. The Euthanex AgPro, which is marketed as “the ultimate humane CO2 solution” for the dispatching of pigs, provides one small data point in favor […]

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Hopping to Oblivion

July 17th, 2012 · 12 Comments

The Jenga-like nature of markets is revealed in the tale of Australia’s kangaroo-meat crisis. There was a time when steaks and chops taken from Down Under’s most celebrated marsupials seemed destined to become a staple of butcher’s shops the world over. No country developed a more ravenous appetite for kangaroo meat than Russia, which came […]

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Good Luck, Mr. Atayev

July 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Turkmenistan’s National Space Agency has a new chairman, who will be expected to oversee the monumental task of launching the country’s first satellite. I’m still not entirely clear on why Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is making this such a huge priority, for the official explanation is gobbledygook: the satellite, the nation’s state news agency tells […]

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One Man’s Pest, Another Man’s Steak

April 16th, 2012 · 5 Comments

Microkhan Jr. has reached the age at which he’s starting to ask about food taboos—like, why we eat pigs but not horses (a recent dinnertime inquiry). In straining to explain the nuances of societal dietary preferences, I thought of this incredible photo essay on the rat catchers of Mozambique, who provide that nation’s blue-collar workers […]

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Where is the Romance?

March 30th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I got in a spirited discussion yesterday regarding New York’s abundance of one-dollar dumpling shops. In my dozen-plus years of calling this metropolis home, the special these joints offer has never changed, even though their various costs (especially rent) have certainly increased a fair bit. And though I realize that many of them probably skirt […]

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Groggy

November 29th, 2011 · 2 Comments

It’s no secret that myriad small Pacific nations are having problems with First World diseases, especially those related to obesity. Fiji’s dictatorial government believes that its citizens’ expanding waistlines are due not only to food consumption, but also to overindulgence in yaqona, a mild intoxicant you may know better as kava: Fiji’s all-time favourite pastime, […]

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The Samurais of Sugar

October 7th, 2011 · 3 Comments

One of the main keys to writing a non-fiction book is resisting the urge to go off on non-essential research tangents. Nothing breaks your rhythm like spending a needless 25 minutes delving into the world of, say, Soviet helicopter design when you really should be focusing on character development. It is to my great discredit, […]

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The Hazards of Herding Blitzen

May 4th, 2011 · 1 Comment

In case you don’t keep regular tabs on Scandinavian jurisprudence, I’d like to draw your attention to a recent legal triumph by a group of Sami reindeer herders who operate in Sweden’s forbidding north. After 14 years of litigation, the herders have finally won the right to let their animals graze in the forests around […]

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Laissez-Faire

April 1st, 2011 · No Comments

One of the pluses of travel these days is that it affords me the opportunity to catch up on reading. (The parents in the audience know well that young’uns page-rate down by quite a bit.) On this latest Texas trip, when I wasn’t busy finagling my way into a remote immigration detention facility, I stole […]

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The Ultimate Tribute

March 14th, 2011 · 6 Comments

I just split my morning between two fruitless tasks: the first an investigation of pending nuclear projects in the developing world, the second an attempt to understand naming conventions in the world of cattle breeding. My curiosity about the latter issue was piqued by news of a bull auction in North Platte, Nebraska, where bovines […]

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The Golden Age of Twice-Cooked Pork

February 2nd, 2011 · 2 Comments

Apologies to my vegetarian readers for what is about to commence: a post about the grisly business of producing pig meat, a delicacy that I seek out far more often than my arteries would like. (I will perform nearly any feat of self-abasement in exchange for some top-notch lechón.) Though I’m accustomed to reading about […]

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The Waning of Oxen

December 8th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Putting the finishing touches on a long-gestating major project this a.m., so just a quickie before I get back to ironing out some word-choice matters. The graph above comes from the much buzzed-about paper estimating that per-capita GDP in late Medieval England was around $1,000 in 1990 dollars—an estimate that, if accurate, would mean that […]

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The New Quicksand

September 1st, 2010 · 5 Comments

One of my Slate editors recently made waves with this sharp piece about the cultural demise of quicksand. The gunky stuff, so infamous for ensnaring characters in movies (including The Beastmaster’s beloved ferrets), no longer scares the youth of today. Perhaps this is because kids now realize that quicksand’s lethal potential was always overstated, and […]

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An Alternative to Patronymics

August 19th, 2010 · 4 Comments

A long, drunken subway ride last night gave me the chance to finish The Black Nile, Dan Morrison’s account of a harrowing trip he took from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. There’s enough grist in this excellent travelogue to craft a dozen killer Microkhan posts, but for now I’ll just limit myself to a […]

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The Fungi’s Second Front

May 12th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Having dedicated the better part of 2009 to understanding the threat posed by Ug99, a fungus that threatens to decimate much of the Eastern Hemisphere’s wheat crop, our ears always prick up when we hear of looming agricultural catastrophes. The latest comes in the form of Pathogen206, which afflicts wheat with yellow rust (aka stripe […]

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The Cattle and the Mark

March 17th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The Amish generally prefer not to mess with the American legal system, but the Wisconsin left them no choice. Badger State authorities decided to make the Amish comply with regulations that made the registration of “livestock premises” mandatory. One farmer, Emanuel Miller, decided to fight back, claiming that the program infringed on his religious freedom. […]

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Using the Red Menace Against the Reds

February 24th, 2010 · 3 Comments

One of the most interesting things about Ug99, the fungus that is currently threatening the world’s wheat supply, is how it managed to sneak up on us. For nearly four decades, the disease that the Puccinis graminis pathogen causes, known as stem rust, was little seen in the wild, and certainly no great peril to […]

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The Red Menace

February 23rd, 2010 · 6 Comments

It took over half-a-year, but the Wired piece that brought us out to Kenya last fall is finally live. It’s the tale of a wheat-killing fungus called Ug99, which is currently sweeping across Central Asia. The pathogen is remarkable because it can easily overcomes the genetic defenses created by the Green Revolution. As a result, […]

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Thorned Bonanza

January 19th, 2010 · 9 Comments

We’re certainly all for the Czech Republic’s willingness to step up to the plate and become a laboratory for drug-policy reform. But in their haste to craft decriminalization legislation that could kick in with the New Year, Czech lawmakers appear to have done a grave disservice to a rising agricultural sector: the cactus industry: A […]

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Surrounded by Seeds

November 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment

As you tuck into your fourth helping of stuffing tomorrow evening, spare a few seconds to think about some of our less fortunate brothers from history—specifically the valiant disciples of Nikolai Vavilov, who deserves a place alongside Norman Borlaug in the pantheon of agricultural saints. Vavilov spent much of his career traveling the world in […]

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Security and the Soil

November 20th, 2009 · 3 Comments

In Pakistan’s chaotic North-West Frontier Province, there’s a movement afoot to temporarily ban the sale of fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate, which are frequently used in bombmaking. (The article mistakenly fingers urea fertilizers as the target of the ban.) This got us thinking about the reasons for ammonium nitrate’s continued popularity among the world’s farmers, despite […]

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Drought and Drugs

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Australia’s epic drought could end up being something of a boon to neighboring New Zealand, at least in terms of aboveboard narcotic production. Half the world’s legal opium crop is grown on tiny Tasmania, largely under the auspices of Tasmania Alkaloids—a company that operates under the all-time most intentionally innocuous slogan of “Value Adding in […]

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The Lakers of Poultry Judging

August 17th, 2009 · 1 Comment

We’re in the midst of working on a Wired piece about agricultural science, so you can expect Microkhan to dish up a plethora of farm-related factoids in the coming weeks. We’ll start today by highlighting a world us big city types know embarrassingly little about: the collegiate poultry judging circuit. Our journey began as we […]

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NIMBYism and Marauding Monkeys

July 7th, 2009 · No Comments

At first glance, it seems odd that residents of Guayama, Puerto Rico, would object so strenuously to the construction of a new monkey-breeding facility—especially since, as opponents make clear, they don’t have a moral problem with vivisection. They’re instead spooked by the prospect of escapees. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. After all, it’s […]

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The Bernie Madoff of Farming

May 20th, 2009 · No Comments

Wall Street certainly didn’t have a monopoly on moral decay during the run-up to Depression v2.0. There was also some jiggery-pokery going down in the Heartland, albeit of the modest seven-figure variety: A man convicted in what prosecutors said was North Dakota’s largest farm fraud case has lost another appeal of the government’s attempt to […]

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What’s Killing Our Bats?

May 12th, 2009 · No Comments

A veteran caver has a theory about the scourge of White Nose Syndrome. Meanwhile, farmers are starting to fret. Nature’s bug zappers are a lot cheaper than pesticides.

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I, Milkbot

May 4th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Growing up in Los Angeles, I always idealized cow milking. It seemed like such a delightful, salt-of-the-earth activity, with just the right amount of grossness thrown in for good measure. Plus, being the curious sort of bairn, I was always fascinated by the thought of tracing my beloved Kraft Singles back to the source. Turns […]

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