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Science Round Up: Danes the frontiersmen of fromage

Christian Wenade
November 29th, 2019


This article is more than 4 years old.

How emigrants from Denmark revolutionised the US dairy industry in the late 19th century

The Danes led farming revolutions in the UK and US – a millennium apart (Photo: SDU)

New research from the University of Southern Denmark has revealed that the many Danes who emigrated to the US in the late 19th century had a profound impact on sculpting the future of the US dairy sector.

Many of the around 300,000 Danes who left Denmark to settle in midwestern US from 1865-1914 were sons of farmers and settled on farms in Wiscon-sin, Iowa and Minnesota.

Useful knowledge
Aside from dreams of a new life in America, they brought with them great knowledge of cooperative dairy farming – which helped combine family-run dairy farming with mass production on an industrial scale. That specific skill helped revolutionise the US dairy sector into what it is today.

“It is impressive that it was the poor emigrating Danes who created this development on the US, where dairy production is concentrated in Minnesota and Wisconsin – and where the world’s biggest co-operative dairy company, Land O’Lakes, exists,” said Paul Richard Sharp, the professor behind the research.

“It’s the direct result of the development the Danish emigrants sparked when they arrived in the US.”

Still relevant today
Sharp’s research shows that modern dairy production techniques emerged in the areas where the Danes settled. The emigrants also kept up to date with dairy development back home in Denmark.

The professor also contends that his research could be relevant to better understand contemporary immigration from developing countries that have a focus on agriculture.

“It’s difficult to predict whether something will happen in their homelands that will mean that ‘useless’ immigrants suddenly become ‘useful’ and can thereby contribute positively to the societies they arrive in,” said Sharp.


Link to ancient ape
A university of Copenhagen research team has discovered that orangutans have a direct link to the extinct giant ape, Giganto-pithecus blacki. The researchers took genetic material from a 1.9-million-year-old fossil of the three-metre, 600 kg primate in southern China – the first time DNA has been retrieved from a fossil in a subtropical area.

Altering DNA a risk
A ‘protein scaffolding network’ that stabilises and fixes DNA could actually cause cancer should the proteins 53BP1 and RIF1 mal-function, according to a team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen. The research also involved the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research.

Diabetes’ northerly risk
Niels Jessen, the head of research at the Steno Diabetes Centre in Aarhus, suggests that the risk of contracting diabetes increases according to how north you live. “In Finland and Norway, they are more troubled than we are, and down south less,” he told DR. In general, more people are getting diabetes, with total worldwide cases rising by 2-3 percent every year.

Mental health fears
Experts contend there is a correlation between increased drug usage among 16 to 19-year-olds and mental health problems. According to Kari Grasaasen, the chief consultant at the National Board of Health, Denmark is on a cocaine wave and its purity is increasing the risk of mental health problems, he told DR.

Taking binging seriously
The 40,000-plus Danes who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder, which involves overeating, losing control and a negative body image, will soon be able to receive treatment – from 2022 according to sources close to WHO, which has started to include it in some of its manuals.

Teens less fertile – study
A woman’s fertility does not peak until she hits her 20s and continues into her early 30s, according to a study by the University of Copenhagen. The study therefore claims it is harder for teenagers to conceive – but don’t tell them that! Fertile women have fewer defective chromosomes, thus increasing the chances that their fertilised eggs will not be repelled by their bodies.

Hedgehog human issue
A new report from the University of Southern Denmark claims that human intervention in the lives of young hedgehogs be-fore winter actually decreases their chances of reaching adulthood. A study of 35 cubs concludes they don’t need the help, affection and lack of hibernation. They generally survive well by themselves – and their weight loss during hibernation is surprisingly low.

New space project
The Aarhus-based company Ohmatex, the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen and Odense-based Danish Aerospace Company are all partners in a 7.75 million kroner space science project under the umbrella of the European Space Agency. The purpose of the project is to get a deeper insight into the effectiveness of current physical training.

Scabies spreading
Over 2,000 people visited doctors for treatment for scabies, an infestation of microscopic mites (most commonly passed on via sex) that burrow under your skin, last year – up from 520 in 2016. There are so many cases that some pharmacies are running out of Stromectol tab-lets – a medication used to treat parasitic roundworm infections.

Uncared-for forests
According to a new report from the University of Copenhagen, Danish forests are among the most poorly cared for in Europe. This is paradoxically due to the tendency to remove deadwood – a practice that has increased over the past five years. Dead trees play a big role as a third of all animals store or find food in them.

Biomass dependence
Last year, a record 182 petajoules of energy came from biomass – the burning of wood, straw and other biological material – confirming it as the country’s biggest source of green energy. The amount has risen 33 percent since 2013. Last year, Denmark imported a record 37 percent of its annual biomass consumption.

Data centre inaugurated
A new Copenhagen data centre officially opened on Octo-ber 29 as a part of the European Spallation Source (ESS) Data Management and Software Centre in Copenhagen’s Bio-Science Park. Both Denmark and Swe-den serve as host countries to ESS, which is one of the world’s leading research facilities.

Sea eagle record
Denmark has seen a record 130 sea eagle chicks born this year, according to DOF’s Project Eagle. The eagles mainly inhabit Lolland, Falster, south Funen and southeast Jutland, but they are slowly spreading across the whole country.

 

 


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