From Flask to Field: How Tiny Microbes are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture

February 2, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Microbes can unlock phosphorus and other micronutrients so that plants can use them. We developed a combination of four bacteria that are exceptionally good at making phosphorus available to plants, leading to bigger, healthier plants. They do this by releasing specialized molecules that break the bonds between phosphorus and soil particles. To get this technology into the hands of farmers who can use it, we launched a startup company called Growcentia and started selling our first product, which is called Mammoth P.

Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

February 1, 2017 Andrew Kniss 2

Just about every decision made on a farm will send ripple effects throughout the entire system; these decisions will influence the cost/benefit ratio of many future decisions. This complexity makes it difficult to make rapid changes, and is a major reason why many farmers tend to be pretty conservative in their farming decisions. Even if a farmer wants to try something new (a new technology, or a new crop, for example), that option may be precluded by decisions that were made last year, or even many years ago.

Don’t Mimic Nature on the Farm, Improve it

February 1, 2017 Andrew McGuire 1

Behind many efforts to make agriculture more sustainable is the idea that our farming systems need to be more like nature. in addition to being false, the whole idea of the “balance of nature” is misleading. From it has come the view that ecosystems are a highly complex, integrated system of interactions between species, complexity that is beyond our understanding. The evidence, however, points to different conclusions.

Biodiesel From Palm Oil: Finding the Sweet Spot Between Ecology and Economy

January 31, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Eager to replace fossil fuels with greener alternatives, the European Union and others have earmarked palm oil as a source of biodiesel. Under the EU’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation policy, biodiesel must save 35% in emissions compared to fossil fuels. However, to supply large quantities of biodiesel would also mean intensifying by increasing the use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Backwater Blues: How Populism Reveals Rural Resentment in the US and Europe

January 30, 2017 Guest Authors 0

To explain the occurrence of rural resentment, we need to consider empirically how rural lives and places have been changing, and how rural people make sense of these changes. For this purpose, I’ll use Sweden as an example to provide empirical detail that is needed.

Just as with the recent US election, population density – not income, education, or employment – is currently the best predictor of political preference in Sweden. The countryside is vast and a home to farmers, small entrepreneurs, workers in the mineral industries and forestry, and fishers. The latter will be used as an example here to highlight how and why Swedish rural dwellers can feel resentful.

ICARDA’s Claudio Zucca: Why Dryland Soils Matter

January 27, 2017 Guest Authors 0

Claudio Zucca is Senior Soil Conservation and Land Management Specialist at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). On the occasion of the World Soil Day we interviewed him about his experience as a soil scientist and about the challenges and importance of preserving soils in drylands.

How Agriculture Can Help Drive a Low Carbon Economy

January 27, 2017 Environmental Defense Fund 0

The Obama administration White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released an intriguing report on how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 while continuing economic growth. The report gives a starring role in this job to agricultural lands.

“Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” outlines a 3-pronged strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent while accelerating job-creating innovation. Calling each strategy “critical,” CEQ first lists the familiar call to transition to renewable and low carbon forms of energy.

The second key strategy, however, is less often discussed: the potential of cropland and grassland soils, as well as forests, to store and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. The report – informed by decades of scientific research – describes the opportunities to explore in this area.

Measuring Methane Emissions From Cows is Elusive, But We’re Getting Closer

January 23, 2017 Environmental Defense Fund 0

If farmers are to mitigate methane emissions, they need to know where and under what conditions the emissions occur. And they need management options that have been proven to make a difference.

Environmental Defense Fund, thanks to a generous grant, is helping to quantify methane emissions from different management approaches. This work builds on EDF’s earlier efforts to develop good estimates of methane released through the energy sector.

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