As the climate changes, new efforts arise to diversify what’s grown in the Corn Belt

A growing number of farmers, researchers and nonprofits are working to transform the Midwestern corn and soybean belt into a more diverse cropping region, including a new USDA-funded project at Purdue University designed to study how to help growers diversify their farms. (No paywall) 

‘Lord God Bird’ among 23 species declared extinct

The ivory-billed woodpecker, America's largest woodpecker, with a 31-inch wingspan, is extinct, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ending years of lingering hopes that the "Lord God Bird" had survived deep in southern bottomland forests. The ivory-bill was one of 23 species declared extinct on Wednesday, 11 of them birds.

‘Murder hornet’ nest is found in Northwest for second time

State wildlife officials expect to destroy a nest of the Asian giant hornets in the northwestern corner of Washington State this week, and say "there may still be more" nests of the so-called murder hornet in the area near the Canadian border. It was the second time within a year that a nest of the hornets, a threat to honeybees, was found in Whatcom County.

Neonics, already in the regulatory crosshairs, now suspected of harming mammals, birds and fish

Scores of studies have established that neonicotinoids, the most widely used pesticides in the world, are contributing to the steady decline of bees and other insects across North America and Europe. Now evidence is growing that these compounds, tailored to take out invertebrates, can also harm mammals, birds, and fish, as Elizabeth Royte explains in FERN's latest story, published with National Geographic.(No paywall)

Study: U.S. commodity farmers imperil biodiversity for ever-lower yields

In less than a decade, U.S. corn, soybean and wheat fields wiped out an expanse of native grasslands and other ecosystems larger than the state of Maryland, according to a new analysis, destroying crucial wildlife habitat and spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The new fields produced lower crop yields than existing farmland.(No paywall)

Court: EPA must consider environmental impact when setting ethanol mandate

The U.S. appeals court in Washington unanimously ordered the EPA to reconsider its Renewable Fuel Standard for 2018 because it failed to account for the potential impact of full-throttle corn production on endangered species and habitat. Even though the decision was directed at agency deliberations that took place in 2017, the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the EPA will have to take the ruling into account in writing the RFS for 2020.

Wild bees outperform honeybees, but our farms don’t make them welcome

Scientists are discovering that wild bees are far better pollinators than the honeybees that dominate commercial agriculture, according to FERN's latest story, published with HuffPost. But that discovery, which coincides with a worldwide collapse in pollinator numbers, spotlights a "desperate need" for new approaches to farming that work with these wild bees.(No paywall)

Monarch population wintering in Mexico more than doubles

An annual survey of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico found that the population was 144 percent higher than it was in 2018. The results, said the World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday, offered “a testament to the power of conservation.”

FERN Q&A: Beaver-created wetlands could be a farmer’s best friend

In his new book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, FERN contributor Ben Goldfarb makes the case that this widely vilified rodent, which was trapped nearly out of existence in the U.S., is not only making a comeback but could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change and other problems afflicting farmers. (No paywall)

Climate change means less oxygen in seawater, shifts in marine populations

Thanks to climate change, "marine waters, even far out in the high seas, are losing oxygen ... upending where and how sea creatures live," says National Geographic, citing a study in the journal Science. "The authors conclude that it’s emptying vast regions of the ocean, changing what and where creatures live and eat, threatening to shrink fish populations and individual fish, and making overfishing more likely."