As countries develop, demand for meat often rises, increasing the temptation to further expand livestock-grazing areas into new frontiers. But, contrary to many predictions, global pastureland has waned, even in agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and mega-populous countries like China.
“I see circumstances under which it could be useful for short-cutting a process that for traditional breeding might take many plant generations,” says Tom Willey, an organic farmer emeritus from California. The disruption of natural ecosystems is a major challenge to agriculture, Willey told me, and while the problem cannot be wholly addressed by genome editing, it could lend an opportunity to “reach back into genomes of the wild ancestors of crop species to recapture genetic material” that has been lost through millennia of breeding for high yields.
Given the current challenging economic outlook, some might assume that farmers will abandon conservation efforts and focus exclusively on their finances. However, many of the financial best practices cited by farmers and encouraged by farm financial advisers are the very same principles that can help farmers continue to improve environmental outcomes.
As concern about waste grows, researchers and commercial partners around the world are working to turn what’s now being left behind or burned into new, useful products. By doing so, they hope to not only reduce the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture but also provide a new source of income for farmers.
Sewage sludge doesn’t have much value as fertilizer. Could extracting the valuable elements put it to better use?
Robert Paarlberg argues that anti-science environmental groups and corrupt local governments deprive African farmers of the crops needed for progress.
Don’t apologize for GMO commodity crops. Say it loud and proud: These are the biggest innovations in sustainable agriculture of the last three decades.
The EU and member states are moving to ban neonicotinoid insecticides. But two recently released reports on the issue conclude that a ban would push farmers back to using pest control options that are worse for the environment and possibly for bees as well.
And here …The planet’s plants pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, stems and roots. Some of that carbon makes its way into the soil, and some of that soil carbon is ultimately mothballed for millennia.
These days, though, “we as humans are putting up so much CO2 that the Earth is not able to compensate,” says Wolfgang Busch, a plant biologist with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Busch is working on a new project: to design plants that can suck even more CO2 out of the atmosphere and lock it away for centuries.
Before there was a general understanding of the benefits of native vegetation and the risks of invasive plants — introduced species that outcompete other species, spread quickly and alter ecosystems — USDA had a hand in introducing foreign plants that proved aggressive. Long ago, the agency promoted kudzu for erosion control. Now it works to control invasive species and does not provide assistance for planting them. It also actively promotes the use of native species through some programs.
Vineyards across the U.S. and Italy are being devastated by incurable diseases caused by bacteria hitching a ride on leafhoppers — a diverse group of plant-piercing insects closely related to cicadas. Now, thanks to some innovative research, scientists are using a technique called vibrational mating disruption to interrupt male-leafhopper courtship songs, preventing them from finding mates and slowing population growth.
The definition of skim milk seems like it should be pretty straightforward. Not so fast. There’s more at stake than meets the eye.
‘Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources including water, land, energy, labour and capital,’ said Professor Montse Jorba Rafart, an expert in agrifood technologies from Leitat, a Spanish technological centre.
Instead, this waste could become a sustainable solution for another resource-heavy agricultural sector – animal feed.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is making a pre-emptive strike against potentially misleading marketing for the next wave of plant meat and other meat alternatives, but the definition is changing fast. Trying to define meat by production process doesn’t play well with where the industry would like to see biotech regulation reformed.
Dynamic cropping is an ecologically-based management strategy that optimizes production through the use of flexible crop sequencing. Here are the stories of four farmers who have found success with dynamic cropping systems.
Global shifts of urbanization, migration, markets and climate can potentially be compatible with agrobiodiversity, but other powerful forces are undermining it. The imperatives of producing food at lower cost and higher yield clash with efforts to raise high-quality food and protect the environment.
Alison Van Eenennaam, an extension specialist at UC Davis working in beef genomics surveys the data and evidence relating to concerns about the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock production.
A recent story in the Wall Street Journal on an increased reliance by small farmers in the Midwest on off-farm income highlights that we don’t have a shortage of farmers, we have glut of small farms.