The possibility of a win-win for farmers and the environment is a driving force for the soil health movement. It is a management philosophy centered around four simple principles: reduce or eliminate tillage, keep plant residues on the soil surface, keep living roots in the ground, and maximize diversity of plants and animals.
In the last decade or so, vast amounts of money have been invested in the development of algae for biofuel production. This made sense because, ten years ago, there was a need to find alternatives to fossil fuels due to the high oil price and the increasing recognition that carbon emissions were causing climate change. Algal biofuels were touted as the answer to these twin problems, and huge investment followed.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite to plan.
When a research team included an industry partner, our participants were generally less likely to think the scientists would consider a full range of evidence and listen to different voices. An industry partner also reduced how much participants believed any resulting data would provide meaningful guidance for making decisions.
Large farms should be able to buy crop insurance on every acre, but there should be limits to the amount of their bill that taxpayers are responsible for. Other subsidy programs have a payment limit. Why should crop insurance be different?
Edible insects have long been a staple source of protein in many African countries. Domesticating production is now taking pressure of local ecosystems.
The weed management issue in Sherman County has been resolved but it still sheds light on three groups of stakeholders.
Colin K. Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture looks at claims that 75% of crop diversity has been lost in the modern era. Instead, he finds that though there have been winners and losers among crops as agriculture has intensified, over the past 50 years, almost all countries’ diets actually became more diverse, not less, for the crops that FAO statistics do report.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has had it’s funding cut by the state of Iowa. A big chunk of sustainable agriculture research capacity will be lost.
Graham Strouts takes critical look at whether the forest gardens championed by many permaculture enthusiasts can produce food in yields significant enough to compete with traditional orchard and farming systems outside of tropical climates.
Alison Van Eenennaam explains how the Washington Post recently conflated organic with grass fed in an exposé of Aurora Dairy a massive organic dairy in Colorado.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has frozen Goodhope Asia Holdings palm oil operations on seven concessions in Indonesia. The company had been linked to various cases of environmental and human rights abuses in the archipelago country, including allegations of grabbing land from an indigenous community in Papua province, on the heavily forested island of New Guinea, where the industry is quickly expanding.
Agronomist Andrew McGuire looks at too opposite problems in managing soil and then lays out a few principles for staying away from two extremes.
Manitoban dairy farmer Matt Plett explains the benefits to dairy farmers of the Canadian system of supply management.
Kevin Folta takes you through, step by step, how the anti-GMO smear machine of US Right to Know works to vault their propaganda and character assassinations into the mainstream press.
While crop probiotics offer an ecologically friendly option for farmers looking to improve and protect their harvests, the Australian market is far from reliable.
Our research group was asked to evaluate commercial crop probiotics. Over a year of experimentation on a sugarcane farm, we tracked the supposedly beneficial bacteria and fungi of two Australian probiotics products from soil to crop.
DNA analysis didn’t detect changes in root-associated bacteria, but the composition of root-associated fungi changed.
Farmers around the world have come to depend on manufactured inorganic fertilizers containing key plant nutrients phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium to enhance soil fertility, especially in the otherwise poor soils of most tropical settings. But while all three are relatively abundant in nature, commercially viable sources of phosphorus to make these fertilizers could be exhausted just a few decades from now. That prospect, which remains a source of heated debate, has spurred a drive to recover the significant quantities of this element that disappear in the waste streams of cities and farms.
Graham Strouts deconstructs the meaning and definition of permaculture and exposes the lack of data, rigor, and evidence to support any claims for superior productivity or environmental impact to the modes of production it is meant to serve as an alternative to.
When all is said and done, any contribution permaculture has to make will be practices that work will work independent of the whole edifice. Just as “alternative medicine” that works is just called “medicine” so anything that could be shown to work in what is called “permaculture” is simply “good farming”, “good design” or “good engineering”.
Wisconsin farmer Chris Holman sorts out the issues in the dairy industry laid bare by Grassland Dairy Products announcement that they were dropping 75 farms as suppliers and the finger pointing by the Trump administration as it tries to deflect attention away from domestic troubles towards Canada.
Jim Dula of the National Farmers Union and Glassier Gardens, a 14-acre shared land use cooperative in Basalt, CO discusses a little bit of the history of co-ops and some of his experience exploring co-ops as part of the NFU’s College Conference on Cooperatives.
Wild coffee exhibits much greater genetic diversity than commercial varieties, which increases its chances of adapting to new challenges and reduces the possibility of extinction. It represents an insurance policy for plantation coffee, in case commercial strains are ever badly damaged.