Debunking too often tends to be a team sport and just because it’s inevitable, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. In food and farm issues, only biotech drives more debunking than the Organic vs Conventional debate. When you are responding to misinformation the “other” side has already defined the terms of the debate and it’s hard to bust out of those frames. Often that means the big picture gets lost.
NutrientStar, which assesses fertilizer management products and tools using field trials and in-depth scientific reviews, was a game changer for farmers. Prior to the launch of the program last year, there was no expert review program to help farmers determine what tools would work as advertised.
The only downside of the program was its limited utility. Farmers had no easy way to extrapolate results from the relatively few number of field trials performed thus far to their own locations. Now, a new geospatial feature called the Technology Extrapolation Domain (TED) framework will make NutrientStar accessible to tens of thousands of additional farmers across the Corn Belt.
I like to think of it as NutrientStar on steroids.
The Environmental Defense Funds genuinely believes that conservation practices are good for farmers and landowners’ bottom lines. But faith isn’t a strong selling point. They need help putting together the data and the evidence. This is a call to farmers to share their data on conservation practices and how they affect the bottom line.
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.
With shifting political winds and poor commodity prices, farmers may now be willing to consider new ways of generating income by adopting environmentally friendly practices, such as planting cover crops, extending crop rotations or eliminating tillage. Many farmers are already using these practices on a small scale. To combat climate change and stabilize incomes, farmers should look to policy to tackle both in tandem.
There are certain requirements that agriculture must meet to produce food and to keep producing food. We should view them as a hierarchy, such that if the top requirement is not attained, the lower requirements do not mean much, but once the top requirement has been met, we can move to the next one, provided that how we do it does not threaten any of the requirements above it. Each component is required, but not sufficient; all of them are needed.
If nature has not been optimized by any process that we know of, and therefore consists of mostly random mixes of species dictated primarily by natural disturbances, then there is no reason to “follow nature’s lead.” But if we don’t, what are we left with?
We are left with an agriculture based on human ingenuity.
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