- To feed the world sustainably, repair the soil
New technologies and genetically modified crops are usually invoked as the key to feeding the world's growing population. But a widely overlooked opportunity lies in reversing the soil degradation that has already taken something like a third of global farmland out of production. Simple changes in conventional farming practices offer opportunities to advance humanity's most neglected natural infrastructure project — returning health to the soil that grows our food.
- House, Senate farm bills split over conservation programs
Congress is expected to renew the so-called "farm bill" by the end of September, but lawmakers will have to reconcile some stark differences between the House and Senate versions of the sweeping legislation that governs an array of agriculture and food assistance programs. While the Senate plan would maintain the status quo in many areas, the House proposal would overhaul conservation programs that help farmers and landowners improve soil, air and water quality.
- Quick soil test aims to determine nitrogen need
Healthy soil contributes to healthy crops. Farmers know this, so they do what they can to ensure their soil is in good shape. They send samples of their soil for lab testing to find out if it is low in any important nutrients. If it is, they can take steps to improve the health of their soil. These might include adding fertilizers or growing cover crops that feed the soil. One of the essential nutrients for vigorous crop production is nitrogen. Yet most routine tests done in commercial soil testing labs do not measure available nitrogen in the soil.
- Halfway to cleanup deadline, Chesapeake Bay hits goals for phosphorus, sediment, but misses nitrogen target
Halfway to a 2025 cleanup deadline, the Chesapeake Bay is on track to meet goals for reduced phosphorus and sediment pollution, but has missed a target for nitrogen contamination. That's according to a Chesapeake Bay Program analysis of pollution controls put in place since 2009 in Maryland and six other jurisdictions in the Chesapeake watershed.
- Sinking land, poisoned water: the dark side of California's mega farms
Towns across the Central Valley region of California have had tap water arsenic levels above the federal limit for almost two decades — levels that research suggests can raise the risk of a variety of cancers and lower IQ in children. During the same period, locals and scientists have noticed another odd phenomenon: the valley is sinking, at rates as fast as 25 cm a year. Now it seems that the two problems are connected.
- Survey shows conservation is important to farmers
Many farmers and ranchers value the opportunity the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers to enhance their existing conservation efforts, according to a survey we completed last year. Eighty-seven percent of respondents, all living in an area with a strong agricultural presence, stated CSP should be supported as a priority in the farm bill.
- Agricultural nutrients targeted in Ohio's Clean Lake 2020 Bill and governor's executive order
Recent actions by the Ohio legislature and Governor Kasich will affect the management of agricultural nutrients in Ohio. The Ohio General Assembly has passed "Clean Lake 2020" legislation that will provide funding for reducing phosphorous in Lake Erie. Governor Kasich signed the Clean Lake 2020 bill on July 10, in tandem with issuing Executive Order 2018—09K, "Taking Steps to Protect Lake Erie." The two actions aim to address the impact of agricultural nutrients on water quality in Lake Erie.
- Ecuador's colonial past 'written in soil'
The arrival of European settlers in Ecuador had a profound effect on the country's population and environment. This is according to new findings from The Open University. Researchers studying soil cores from the Quijos valley found that they revealed a detailed story of the area's history after Spanish settlers arrived in the 1500s. The subsequent decimation of the region's indigenous population is told by surprising historians — plants.
- American Farmland Trust calling for increased carbon sequestration
American Farmland Trust recently joined a consortium of other conservation-centric agricultural organizations at a "Learning Lab" for the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Initiative. More than 50 technical experts across industry, academia, and government worked together to draft guiding principles state governments can use to develop strategies, policy and funding projects to draw down carbon from the air and sequester it in the soils across farms, rangelands, forests and wetlands.
- Study finds urbanization and changes to climate could pack a one-two punch for watersheds in the future
Watersheds channel water from streams to oceans, and more than $450 billion in food, manufactured goods and other economic factors depend on them, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Watersheds also are crucial to the health of surrounding ecosystems and communities. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have found that climatic changes and urban development, when working in tandem, could have profound effects on watersheds by midcentury.