- Cover crops reap financial benefits, not just environmental
An increasing number of farmers is using cover crops to keep water, soil and nutrients from running off fields. But while many studies have shown the agronomic and environmental benefits of the plants that come up after cash crops such as corn or soybeans get harvested, it's been harder to determine whether a farm business will recover the initial planting cost. A new report says there's evidence the conservation strategy brings economic benefits, too.
- Mysteries of deep soil carbon unravelled
Energy-starved microbes may be the force that causes huge amounts of carbon to be stored in deep soils, according to a Dartmouth College study. The research finds that less food energy at depth makes it more difficult to decompose deposits of organic carbon, creating an underground storehouse for the climate-destabilizing chemical element.
- Maryland agriculture to reduce 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen headed to bay by 2025
An initial assessment of future projects puts Frederick County, Maryland, farms 100,000 pounds of nitrogen beyond its goal to help restore the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. This is a positive result for the agriculture community, which has carried the early burden of reducing nutrients and sediment in local waterways and eventually the bay. Using conservative estimates, local farms should be able to reach, and go slightly beyond, their portion of the state's overall nutrient reduction goal.
- Dirt clods, mud pies and other insights in soil sustainability
In healthy soil, the combined biomass of soil organisms is staggering. An acre of soil contains more than five tons of organisms such as fungi, arthropods, worms, millipedes, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa, many of them microscopic. Earthworms mix and move residues in the soil, creating large pores that are nutrient rich and filled with microbes. These pores create air and water flow and allow roots to grow and take advantage of resources. Not so with soil that's been tilled.
- Growers try carbon farming to help combat climate change
The world's farmers must feed a human population that will reach 10 billion in the next three decades, but they also may be asked to help combat climate change by putting more carbon into the soil than they take out of it. Karen Ross, California’s secretary for the Department of Food and Agriculture, said farmers can address climate change by producing smaller amounts of greenhouse gases, but also through practices known as carbon farming or "sequestration."
- Protecting the planet's freshwater: 3 things you need to know
Freshwater experts gathered last week for Stockholm World Water Week, the annual conference that spotlights developing solutions to the most pressing global water issues. Here are three key takeaways from the conference — and what they mean for the health of the planet's water.
- Watershed structures prevent flooding damage
The storms over Labor Day weekend could have dampened more than just the spirits of Husker fans if not for the conservation practices in place throughout Southeast Nebraska. Last weekend's storms dumped more than five inches of rain causing flooding in some areas. Flooding could have been worse if not for the watershed control structures in Jefferson, Gage and Saline counties, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
- Low-severity wildfires impact soils more than previously believed
Low-severity wildland fires and prescribed burns have long been presumed by scientists and resource managers to be harmless to soils, but this may not be the case, new research shows. According to two new studies, low-severity burns cause damage to soil structure and organic matter in ways that are not immediately apparent after a fire.
- Western business owners throw support behind reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Fund
Coloradans are among those planning to travel to Washington this week to share new polling with federal lawmakers that says outdoor businesses across the West view the Land and Water Conservation Fund as important to their bottom line.
- New tools improve farm nutrient and water management
EU-funded researchers have developed new mapping tools and services to help farmers better manage the application of nutrients and water to their fields and promote sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture means optimizing the yield and income of farms with a minimum of inputs like irrigation water, nutrients, energy, pesticides and herbicides. The FATIMA project addressed these challenges by developing operational large-scale precision farming tools and creating a dedicated stakeholder community.