Sustainable Ag News

USDA Report Explores Issues and Opportunities of Land Access

ATTRA - Mon, 12/12/2022 - 22:38

USDA Economic Research Service compiled a report to Congress, titled Access to Farmland by Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: Issues and Opportunities. The report notes that beginning farms—those operated by farmers who have operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less—as well as farms managed by operators defined by USDA as socially disadvantaged—based on race, ethnicity, or gender—may have fewer financial resources and those that do face additional constraints when buying or raising capital for expansion. The study found that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers had smaller leases and less cropland. It found that these farmers appear to have access to federal loan and conservation programs, but are less likely to participate in crop insurance than other farmers.

Categories: Ag News

Project to Boost Organic Dry Bean Sustainability in Northeast and Upper Midwest

ATTRA - Fri, 12/09/2022 - 18:36

Cornell University assistant professor Sarah Pethybridge is leading a four-year, $3 million multidisciplinary research project to increase the sustainability of the organic dry bean industry in the Northeast and upper Midwest. The project is funded by an Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It will focus on overcoming production challenges and developing management practices that build soil health and resilience to climate change. The project will explore disease and weed management strategies and technology and identify varieties suitable for direct harvesting. The extension aspect of the program will include on-farm trials and demonstrations, webinars, videos, fact sheets, short courses, and an organic no-till dry bean production manual.

Categories: Ag News

Solar Leasing Guide a Tool for Northwest Ag Landowners

ATTRA - Fri, 12/09/2022 - 17:40

The American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest team announced the release of a Solar Leasing: A Guide for Agricultural Landowners in the Pacific Northwest. This comprehensive solar leasing guide for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural landholders provides tools and information to better understand the emerging solar development field and its potential to impact agricultural land. It was written in collaboration with Farm Commons and walks landowners through the processes of gathering information, making a decision, and negotiating the solar lease.

Categories: Ag News

UV Light Offers Strawberry Pest Control

ATTRA - Fri, 12/09/2022 - 11:41

Scientists at the University of Florida found that shining a UV light on strawberry fields at night provides control for the twospotted spider mite, a significant pest of strawberries. Two applications of light per week significantly reduced the number of spider mite eggs in a recent study, without affecting yield. The treatment can be used in fields or in high tunnels, and can also aid in controlling diseases on the surface of the fruit. The technology could soon be available to commercial growers.

Categories: Ag News

Department of Energy Announces Funding for Agrivoltaic Research Projects

ATTRA - Thu, 12/08/2022 - 23:34

The U.S. Department of Energy announced $8 million for six solar energy research projects across six states and the District of Columbia that will provide new economic opportunities for farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. The funding supports agrivoltaics and aims to reduce barriers to utility- and community-scale solar energy deployment while maximizing benefits for farmers and local communities. The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program seeks to develop replicable models for agrivoltaics that can provide new economic opportunities while potentially reducing land-use conflicts. The six funded projects will examine multiple configurations of solar system design, crops and cultivation methods, and soil and environmental conditions. Researchers will work with agricultural extensions and develop resources to spread the best practices to farmers and communities. 
Related NCAT resource: Agrisolar Clearinghouse

Categories: Ag News

North Carolina State University Begins Climate-Smart Grasslands Project

ATTRA - Thu, 12/08/2022 - 20:45

Extension faculty from North Carolina State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences are participating in a nine-state climate-smart pasture management project led by the University of Tennessee. The project will provide a total of $12.2 million in incentives to 245 collaborating farmers to implement, monitor, and share six different pasture management practices proven to increase soil organic carbon storage; improve soil and water quality; mitigate GHG emissions; and reduce off-farm inputs. Extension specialists and agents will place an emphasis on seeking beginning, veteran, limited resource, and under-represented farmers as farm collaborators, and will prioritize participation in economically distressed counties. In North Carolina, 27 collaborating farms will be selected during 2023. Farmers interested in participating should contact their local county livestock forage Extension agent. 

Categories: Ag News

Online Curriculum Offers Safety Training for Young Ag Workers

ATTRA - Thu, 12/08/2022 - 18:57

Purdue University announced that its free, online Gearing Up for Safety curriculum has recently been expanded with funding from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The program targets young and beginning agricultural workers ages 12-20 and seeks to enhance the quality of life for farm families and those working in agriculture by reducing farm injuries and occupational health risks. Optimized for remote delivery, home school or independent study, the Gearing Up for Safety program contains 20 lessons, with additional units in development, and 30 professionally produced videos featuring instructors from across the country teaching individual units. Each lesson includes high-quality PowerPoint presentations with extensive instructor notes, student activity sheets, suggested teaching aids, relevant case studies and evaluation materials.

Categories: Ag News

UMass Amherst Calculates Midwest Soil Erosion Rate

ATTRA - Thu, 12/08/2022 - 13:42

A study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts calculated the present rate of soil erosion in the Midwest based on beryllium-10 amounts, and found that it is 10 to 1,000 times greater than pre-agricultural erosion rates. The researchers established the pre-agricultural rate at 0.04 mm per year. This is 25 times less than USDA’s current erosion limit of 1 mm per year, and as much as 1,000 times less than the erosion rate documented at some sites. Scientists say the results of their study have implications for food security, as well as plans to sequester carbon in soils to mitigate climate change.

Categories: Ag News

Farmer-Led Research Explores Overwintering Salad Greens

ATTRA - Wed, 12/07/2022 - 22:32

Practical Farmers of Iowa released a report on farmer-led research titled Overwintered Salad Greens Variety Trial. Farmers Hannah Breckbill and Emily Fagan of Humble Hands Harvest and Jon Yagla of The Millet Seed farm seeded more than 15 different varieties of salad greens and compared germination and survival rates to determine which were most cold-tolerant for overwintering. At Breckbill and Fagan’s, cilantro (var. Leisure) and kale (var. Red Russian) exhibited the greatest germination rates – 83% and 65%, respectively. For about half of Yagla’s varieties, germination rates hovered at or above 75%. Complete results are available online. In the report, Jon Yagla commented, “I hope to have a better understanding of which greens, besides spinach and cilantro, overwinter well in Iowa. This will help with early greens production without the use of expensive high tunnels and living roots in the soil for longer periods of time, which is a goal for improved soil health.”

Categories: Ag News

Cover Cropping Increases to 7.2% in Midwest

ATTRA - Wed, 12/07/2022 - 22:21

New University of Illinois research using satellite-based remote sensing efforts shows that cover crop adoption reached 7.2% of the Midwest in 2021, up from just 1.8% a decade prior. Researchers tracked cover crop use across 140 million acres of cropland over 20 years, using machine learning algorithms that can distinguish cover crops from other vegetation. They found that growth in cover crop use correlated with increases in state and federal incentive programs. States that offered greater incentives showed higher cover crop adoption than neighboring states. One of the co-authors explained why cover crops haven’t enjoyed a higher adoption rate: “A big part of the problem is that adding cover crops to the rotation is a systems change for the farmer and the fields. It adds cost, risk, and management challenges, but important learning is happening among innovators and farmers are gaining valuable experience.”

Categories: Ag News

Study Provides Overview of Regulations that Affect Agrivoltaics

ATTRA - Tue, 12/06/2022 - 18:33

A new study from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois presents an overview of zoning and taxation regulations that affect agrivoltaics, focusing on regulations concerning solar panels and grazing. Researchers found agrivoltaics installation typically causes the area to be declassified as agricultural land, resulting in added regulatory burdens, higher taxes, and sometimes fiscal penalties for violating zoning ordinances. Furthermore, state and local regulations are sometimes at odds. The researchers say they hope their work will encourage a shift to policies that incentivize agrivoltaics production and provide tax incentives—rather than penalties—for dual land usage.

Categories: Ag News

Leopold Conservation Awards Announced in Several States

ATTRA - Tue, 12/06/2022 - 18:08

The recipients of this year’s Leopold Conservation Awards were recently announced in Wisconsin, New England, Utah, Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, California, and—for the first time—Iowa. The award is given in 24 states in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold by Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust, in collaboration with state-level sponsors. The $10,000 award recognizes agricultural landowners who inspire others with their dedication to ethical land, water and wildlife habitat management. The Sand County Foundation has also announced that the award program will be expanding to include Illinois. Several other states are currently accepting nominations for the 2023 award.

Categories: Ag News

USDA Releases Winter Pea Cultivars for Human Food

ATTRA - Tue, 12/06/2022 - 17:13

USDA Agricultural Research Service announced the release of three winter pea cultivars specifically developed to be used whole or as an ingredient in human food: USDA MiCa, USDA Dint, and USDA Klondike. Currently, winter peas are mostly grown in the Pacific Northwest as a cover crop to add nitrogen to farmers’ fields, for domestic animal feed, and to attract deer and other game species. However, ARS says winter peas have much more potential value as an ingredient for human foods. These new varieties offer several prized qualities: 1) high protein levels with a nearly complete amino acid profile, 2) lack of allergens common in soybeans and peanuts, 3) a favorable, low glycemic index number, and 4) winter peas are not genetically modified; all of their development is being done with traditional breeding.

Categories: Ag News

Dryland Grazing Study Highlights Ecosystem Services Effects of Management and Temperature

ATTRA - Mon, 12/05/2022 - 19:31

An international team of scientists published a study in Science with the first global estimates of how grazing will affect ecosystem services across drylands that make up 40% of Earth’s land surface. The research was led by the Dryland Ecology and Global Change group in Spain with collaborators from University of New South Wales, Sydney, and numerous other institutions. A unique global survey of 326 drylands from 25 countries showed that grazing by livestock and wild herbivores in drylands can have positive effects on ecosystem services, but these effects can turn negative as Earth’s temperature becomes warmer. The study also revealed that drylands with greater plant and herbivore diversity were better able to withstand negative effects of climate change, and scientists say the results highlight the importance of local monitoring and management strategies to avoid rangeland degradation.

Categories: Ag News

World Soil Day is December 5

ATTRA - Mon, 12/05/2022 - 11:25

World Soil Day 2022 (#WorldSoilDay) is December 5, and its campaign “Soils: Where food begins” aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness, and encouraging societies to improve soil health. The United Nations has a variety of resources available that highlight the importance of soil globally.
Related ATTRA topic area: Soil

Categories: Ag News

Farm Hiring Video Series Released

ATTRA - Fri, 12/02/2022 - 21:02

University of Missouri Extension posted a series of short videos and related resources designed to help with farm hiring. Two-minute animated videos guide farmers through labor management skills such as interviewing applicants, onboarding new hires, developing attractive compensation plans, and conducting performance reviews. Companion worksheets and checksheets help producers customize the materials for their own operations.
Related ATTRA Publication: Positive Practices in Farm Labor Management

Categories: Ag News

Heritage Grain Guidebook Reports Results of Trials

ATTRA - Fri, 12/02/2022 - 16:22

From 2016 through 2021, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance worked with a grassroots network of nearly 200 grain growers in varying climates, initially across the Western United States and eventually growing nationally and globally, in trialing over 250 varieties of ancient and heritage grains including Indigenous and alternative (pseudo) grains. Twenty of the most adaptive and resilient varieties of cereal grains, including wheat, barley, and rye, were selected for formal replicated research trials in the Mountain West. The Heritage Grain Guidebook, available free online, provides results of both the participatory grassroots trials and the research trials, including grower and grain profiles. It’s designed to inform and inspire others to grow these unique varieties of grains, and to support regionalized grain networks and localized food systems.

Categories: Ag News

Group Access to Farmland Resource Available Online

ATTRA - Fri, 12/02/2022 - 15:33

Land for Good and the National Young Farmers Coalition have a new decision tool available online. Accessing Farmland Together focuses on group farmland access and how to make good decisions about it. This decision tool describes some different ways to access farmland as a group and discusses their pros and cons. It offers guidance on managing group relationships, land tenure arrangements, ownership structures, and more. There isn’t one model for cooperative farming, and the right arrangement depends on the group and the situation.

Categories: Ag News

Toolkit Helps Launch Women Farmer Networks

ATTRA - Thu, 12/01/2022 - 22:15

The Soil Sisters network of southern Wisconsin compiled learning and insight from 12 of its founding members in How to Launch a Women Farmer Network in Your Community, a guide that offers ideas and inspiration for women farmers to organize local networks. This toolkit focuses on building connections between women farmers, particularly in rural areas, who are committed to sustainable agriculture, conservation, and land stewardship. It also seeks to support those interested in developing ongoing, lasting connections in their home region. The 32-page guide was created with support from an NCR-SARE Partnership Grant and is available online in PDF.

Categories: Ag News

Harvard Research Reveals Root Exudate Impact on Soil Carbon Storage

ATTRA - Thu, 12/01/2022 - 17:19

Researchers in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University published research in Nature Geoscience that advances understanding of how root exudates affect long-term soil carbon storage. The researchers were testing how root exudate changes as a result of increased atmospheric CO2 altered carbon storage in temperate hardwood forest soils. “You would think that if you increase the rate of root exudation you would increase carbon input into the soil forming more soil carbon,” explained lead author Nikhil R. Chari, “but we found instead an opposite effect that offset the increase in carbon.”

Categories: Ag News
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