Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. This week – Wendell Berry, autonomous barley and shifts in the USDA.

“Rural America is a colony, and its economy is a colonial economy,” Wendell Berry writes in his response to an essay that forwards Joan Didion’s new South and West. Berry defends Rural America against those who have been explaining rural political inclinations as primarily a product of nostalgia.

The business of America has been largely and without apology the plundering of rural America, from which everything of value—minerals, timber, farm animals, farm crops, and “labor”—has been taken at the lowest possible price.

Maybe the colonial narrative is as guilty of reductionism as the nostalgia narrative – but at least it moves the conversation away from a weakness of rural character to the demonstrable effects of economic policies and practices.

“My goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world.” New secretary of ag Sonny Perdue creates a new undersecretary position for agricultural trade, in effect displacing rural development to a lower priority.

Autonomous barley planting, cultivation and harvesting.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture safe, for now, by virtue of a governor’s veto.

Colony collapse of honeybees is all over the news, but even more worrying are indications that total insect biomass has also been falling at alarming rates.

New research on the role of unconscious selection in the first human crop domestications.

The world’s largest indoor farm under construction in Camden, New Jersey.

Listen to a podcast on ginkgo-human entanglement throughout history.