- Climate change makes Dust Bowl's lessons new again
The need to take better care of America's rural lands came to the nation's capital — literally — on March 21, 1935. That was the day federal Soil Erosion Service director Hugh Hammond Bennett testified to a congressional subcommittee in favor of boosting farmland conservation, just as a dust storm that had originated in the Great Plains a few days earlier arrived to darken the skies of Washington. Bennett's testimony helped make a case for creating the Soil Conservation Service, and with it decades of federal help to avoid another Dust Bowl.
- 4 steps to improve soil health
Nearly 75 years ago, USDA soil scientist Charles E. Kellogg wrote: "Essentially, all life depends upon the soil." Expressing a similar sentiment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: "The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself." No matter how much management, labor and fertilizer you apply, and regardless of the quality of seed you plant, it's the soil that underpins how much food and fiber you produce. In celebration of World Soil Day, Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist, shares four steps to a systems approach to soil management.
- Soil power! The dirty way to a green planet
The last great hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may lie in a substance so commonplace that we typically ignore it or else walk all over it: the soil beneath our feet. The Earth possesses five major pools of carbon. Of those pools, the atmosphere is already overloaded with the stuff; the oceans are turning acidic as they become saturated with it; the forests are diminishing; and underground fossil fuel reserves are being emptied. That leaves soil as the most likely repository for immense quantities of carbon.
- Measuring farmer conservation behaviors: Challenges and best practices
This article presents a guide for understanding the purposes and appropriate uses of different measures of conservation behavior. While applicable across natural resource management contexts, we primarily draw upon agricultural conservation research to illustrate our points.
- How to use cover crops to reduce nitrate loss
Even with excellent nutrient management, nitrate losses from corn and soybean fields can occur because these cash crops only grow and take up nitrate and water for five months of the year. Cover crops like winter rye can be an effective strategy for reducing nitrate losses to groundwater or tile drainage because they can take up water and nitrates during the period between harvest and planting of the next year's crop.
- Environmentalists demand tougher laws to address runoff in Missouri's large lakes
Missouri will soon adopt new regulations to clean up the state’s 150 large lakes and reservoirs. But environmentalists contend the state's plan won't be strong enough to address pollution caused by harmful nutrients. Missouri currently does not set limits on nitrogen and phosphorus. A combination of agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, sewage treatment plant discharges and other sources can cause an excessive amount of the nutrients to enter lakes, rivers and streams.
- World Soil Day: Caring for the planet starts from the ground and nuclear techniques can help
Have you ever thought about soil? Thought about this vast limited resource where your food grows? This finite, non-renewable resource is under threat worldwide. Intensive agricultural practices, pollution and climate change threaten its health and the life-sustaining support it offers people and the planet. But soil has an ally: nuclear science.
- Tackling the growing challenge of soil pollution
Soils are the foundation of our food system, and the basis for many of the ecological processes on which we depend. The conservation and sustainable management of soils is essential to our goals of eliminating food insecurity and tackling climate change, while at the same time maintaining the resilience of ecological processes that support life on land. But soils are under pressure from population growth, pollution and higher demands for land uses other than food production.
- Opinion: Forward progress through reverse auctions
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to shift into reverse. If we want to continue increasing our successes in agricultural conservation by expanding acreage treated, reducing erosion, upgrading waste management and conserving energy, we need to look at ways to accomplish more with less. Market-based approaches, such as reverse auctions, might help us extend money to support conservation.
- How to build a city that doesn't flood? Turn it into a sponge
Urban floods make the news with alarming regularity. Just in the past few months, Hurricane Harvey submerged Houston, and the seasonal monsoon crippled cities in South Asia. Dramatic floods from increasingly severe storms come with a steep cost, both human and financial, and the problem will only get worse with climate change. One of the biggest culprits for the deadly toll these floods wreak? Urbanization.