first_imgBy Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaThey can help a plant grow stronger, or they can kill it. And we know relatively little about how or why they do what they do. But a University of Georgia scientist says a new initiative can find some answers.Farmers and gardeners around the world, whether they know it or not, depend heavily on beneficial plant-associated microbes to help their crops grow and fight off diseases.Other plant-associated microbes, however, cause diseases that destroy plants, says Scott Gold, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Microbes are microorganisms that can be found on or in most higher organisms, including animals.Disease-causing microbes include viruses, bacteria, nematodes and fungi. Worldwide, these diseases annually destroy about $200 billion in potential food and fiber crops. Other microbes help plants process food.Little is knownDespite the importance of plant-associated microbes, little is known genetically about how they work, said Gold, who is also a geneticist.That’s why Gold is helping spearhead the American Phytopathological Society’s Plant-Associated Microbe Genome Initiative. The initiative calls for a five-year, $500 million public effort to develop complete genetic maps of important plant-associated microbes.No funding has been secured, yet, for the initiative, he said. But the APS Public Policy Board has presented this information to stakeholders in meetings in Washington and plan to do so again in March. Secure the futureThe study will not only help scientists know more about plant-associated microbes, it will help insure the future of agriculture and protect the world’s food and fiber supplies and the environment, he said.The world’s population is increasing. But the world’s food and fiber supplies are produced on fewer and fewer acres. It will become more important each year to make sure those few farm acres are as healthy and efficient as possible.Certain microbes, too, can become weapons in the wrong hands. Engineered “super-strains” of some disease-causing microbes could cripple a nation’s economy.“The U.S. agriculture system is diversified,” he said. “No single attack is going to destroy us. But an attack could hurt and cause a lack of confidence in the food supply.”It doesn’t have to be an intentional microbial attack, he said. World trade is pushing countries into more frequent contact. And microbes, good and bad, are ready to travel, he said. A microbe that’s not much of a problem in one country could economically devastate another.Right now, scientists in California are baffled by the appearance of an exotic microbe, which causes a disease that kills oak trees at an alarming rate. And Florida’s multibillion dollar citrus industry is trying to prevent the spread of a nasty microbe that causes citrus canker, a deadly disease. There is no cure for either problem.Understanding microbes on a molecular level would streamline identification of such domestic villains and foreign invaders, Gold said. That’s not possible right now.“We could also tell whether or not the pathogen has been (genetically) manipulated in some way,” he said.Novel toolsGenetic research can lead the way to novel management strategies for disease-causing microbes at home. U.S. farmers spend roughly $600 million on agricultural fungicides each year to fight diseases.“This (research) could lead to more specific chemicals that are more focused on a problem and more environmentally friendly,” he said.The genetic information the initiative could spur would be available forever, he said. And it could provide information that can be used for generations. “It’s not a single shot,” he said. “It’s the foundation for many years of continued beneficial research.”last_img read more

Vermont’s Creative Economy

first_imgVERMONT ARTS COUNCIL CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF SUPPORTINGTHE “CREATIVE ECONOMY”Arts Council applauds today’s release of “Advancing Vermont’s CreativeEconomy”by the Vermont Council on Rural DevelopmentMontpelier, Vt. (October 4, 2004) The release today of “AdvancingVermont’s Creative Economy” by the Vermont Council on Rural Development clearly shows that there are social and economic benefits to investing in the arts and culture. According to the report, communities that have thriving cultural centers are more likely to attract business and entrepreneurs than those that do not. The Vermont Arts Council has been working under this premise 1964 and, coincidentally, will begin at year-long celebration of its 40th anniversary this month.”The release of this report couldn’t come at a better time,” said artist, teacher, and Chair of the Arts Council’s board of trustees, Irwin Gelber of Barnet. “Next week, on October 16th at Marlboro College, the Council will kick off the celebration of its 40th Anniversary. It is a great anniversary gift to have this public recognition of what we, who work in the arts, have always known: The arts are central to our quality of life. The arts play a major and often pivotal role in our economy and perhaps most importantly, the arts are a priority in our children’s education.”In addition to providing individual grants and awards to Vermont artists, the Arts Council promotes enduring ways to make the arts a part of all Vermont communities, bringing enjoyment and inspiration to citizens and visitors in all corners of the state. To accomplish this, the Arts Council partners with other public benefit organizations at the local, state and national level, as well as with the private sector in education, human services, and economic development.The Cultural Facilities Grant Program is just one example of how the Arts Council supports a “creative economy.” The Cultural Facilities Grant Program, which is funded by the Legislature and administered by the Vermont Arts Council, provides grants for the improvement of community facilities that provide cultural activities. Recipients of Cultural Facilities Grants include: the Vergennes Opera House, the renovation of which sparked a renewal of the entire downtown area; improvements to the stage lighting at Damon Hall in Hartland; and the addition of accessible restrooms to the Hardwick Town House in the Northeast Kingdom. The “Advancing Vermont’s Creative Economy” report recommends a 400% increase in funding for this grant program from its current $50,000 level to $200,000 annually.”The Cultural Facilities Grant Program is ‘the little engine that could’ of downtown redevelopment and community renaissance,” said Alex Aldrich, Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council. “Most of the grants we award go toward the improvement of historical buildings in the heart of Vermont’s communities so that a greater variety of cultural activities can be provided to the people of those communities.”Aldrich also sees huge potential in the report’s recommendation #8 that Vermont’s state economists “Track and Report the Impact of the State’s Creative Economy.” “For years, those of us in the arts, humanities, and preservation fields, have seen the impact of our work on community development. Now we have an independent and authoritative voice advocating that this sector deserves public research and investment,” said Aldrich.The Vermont Arts Council was founded in 1964 with a mission to support artists and strengthen the role of the arts in the lives of people and communities. The Council fosters classical, traditional, and emerging forms of artistic expression by functioning as a community partner and a catalyst for artists and organizations. It offers professional development opportunities and technical advice, collects and disseminates arts information, and acts as the state’s foremost arts advocate. For more information about the Vermont Arts Council or its 40th Anniversary Celebration, please call (802) 828-5422 or visit www.vermontartscouncil.org(link is external).Executive SummaryThe creative economy is critical to the future competitiveness of Vermont in the global marketplace. Vermonts heritage, arts and culture are integral strengths. They are an economic sector in Vermont today; they also provide a foundation to the sense of place and creative workforce critical to innovation in other sectors, add value to the Vermont brand, and magnify the attractive power of Vermont as a location to do business. The creative economy is a hidden economic driver, one that deserves understanding, recognition, and investment.The Vermont Council on Culture and Innovation (VCCI) was convened in May 2003 by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. VCCIs charge was to evaluate the role of and challenges to the creative economy in the state and to build a practical and strategic plan for its advancement. This Action Plan is the product of that work. This report makes specific recommendations for how to grow the States creative economy as a vital and complementary part of the states economy as a whole. These recommendations encourage collaboration among Vermonts private sector, cultural organizations, and local, state, and federal government to use Vermonts cultural resources to spark and leverage community and economic development. It documents seventeen recommendations in the four areas listed below that the Governors adminis-tration,Legislature, and public and private partners are encouraged to undertake to expand innovation, enhance community life, attract and encourage entrepreneurs, build Vermonts market identity, and stimulate job growth. Support the Growth of Creative Enterprises by expanding markets, unifying promotion, enhancing the Vermont brand, producing celebratory events, building a Vermont artists and artisans market identity, and providing technical support and access to capital for culturally-based businesses and creative entrepreneurs. Promote and Document the Roles that Creativity, Culture, and Innovation Play in Vermonts Economic Future by tracking and reporting this economic sector, reinforcing arts and heritage education, and instituting a statewide public information campaign.Invest in Communities so They May Build on their Past while Adapting for a Vibrant Future by making culture and heritage priority community investments, supporting historic town and village centers, expanding cultural facilities funding, and encouraging creative entrepreneurial development in vacant industrial space. Develop Vermonts Creative Economy through Community-Based Planning and Improved Statewide Collaboration by facilitating locally designed creative economy projects, building a collaborative umbrella between statewide cultural organizations, and establishing a nonpartisan Governors Commission to provide leadership for the growth of Vermonts creative economy.:Evidence shows that public and private investment in creative enterprises yields favorable economic and social returns,producing jobs and supporting communities.:The development of the creative economy in Vermont is not limited by geography,topography,demographics,or population density.It can play a vital role in every corner of the state.:Just as Vermont was a leader in the manufacturing of things, it is now poised to be a leader in the production of ideas. Like any promising economic sector,the creative economy will need policies and incentives to support its growth.:Strengthening the creative sector will take a long-term and incremental effort.However,pressing needs must be addressed now in order to assure its future competitiveness.:Creative and stimulating communities attract and retain young people.This is a key concern in Vermont,where the loss of its youth to other regions is an historic challenge.:The emerging jobs market places a premium on creative problem solving,yet these skills are not taught consistently throughout Vermont s education system.www.kse50.com/vcci_report.pdf(link is external)last_img read more