Category Archives: Agriculture

Conventional farmers drop their plows in favor of conservation

Read the full story at Grist.

The Michael and Adam Crowell duo works this way: Michael handles the crops, and Adam handles the dairy cows; Michael is the colorful wisecracker, and Adam is the straight man; Michael casts about for a word when his tongue outpaces his memory, and Adam fills it in; Michael is the father, and Adam is the son.

I visited their dairy farm near Turlock, in California’s Central Valley, to get a look at the growing trend of conventional farmers adopting ecologically friendly techniques. In the Midwest, where farmers grow a small number of grain crops, this transformation has led to a new normal, with the majority of farmland under some form of conservation management.

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Agriculture


Obama Administration Sets its Sights on Methane Emissions

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

Consistent with its continuing efforts to combat climate change through executive action, the White House recently released its “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.”  This document, part of the administration’s larger Climate Action Plan, puts forth a plan to reduce domestic methane emissions.  The strategy targets four sources of emissions for methane reductions: landfills, coal mines, agriculture, and oil and gas.  While the methane reduction strategy focuses heavily on voluntarily measures for most of the target sources, the document strongly suggests that the oil and gas industry could be subject, for the first time, to federal methane emissions regulations by 2016.

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Agriculture, Climate change, Regulation


Gassy Cows Are Warming The Planet, And They’re Here To Stay

Read to the full story from NPR.

Sorry to ruin your appetite, but it’s time to talk about cow belches.

Humans the world over are eating meat and drinking milk — some of us , some of us a lot more, than years past. Farmers are bringing more and more cows into the world to meet demand, and with them escapes more methane into the atmosphere.

In 2011, methane from livestock accounted for 39 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, according to a that United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization released Friday. That’s more than synthetic fertilizer or deforestation. Methane from livestock rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2011.

The bulk of the emissions — 55 percent — came from beef cattle. Dairy cows, buffalo, sheep and goats accounted for the rest.

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Agriculture, Climate change


Computer models soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, using 13 percent less water

Read the full story from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained resources. This dream is closer to reality for researchers who developed a new computer model to help plant scientists breed better soybean crops. The model predicts a soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, but using 13 percent less water, by breeding for slightly different leaf distribution, angles and reflectivity.

Citation for the research paper: Darren T. Drewry, Praveen Kumar, Stephen P. Long. “Simultaneous improvement in productivity, water use, and albedo through crop structural modification.” Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12567

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Agriculture, Publications, Water


Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Agriculture, Biochar


Chipotle Identifies Climate Change As a Risk, Warns It May Stop Serving Guacamole

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

Chipotle’s recent SEC filing caused quite a stir. Specifically, one of the risks stated in that filing caused a stir.

The company cited “changes associated with global climate change” as having a potential “significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients.” Due to cost increases, Chipotle “may choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas.” However, Chipotle spokesperson, Chris Arnold downplays that specific example. “It’s routine financial disclosure,” Arnold told Think Progress. “Nothing more than that.”

Chipotle may or may not have to suspend serving such staples of its menu as guacamole and salsas. However, chances are great that climate change will have an effect on the fast food chain. The filing also mentioned that weather events “such as freezes or drought” could lead to temporary price increases on certain ingredients. The filing goes on to mention drought. “For instance, two years of drought conditions in parts of the U.S. have resulted in significant increases in beef prices during late 2013 and early 2014.”


Cone: Americans Willing to Pay More for Sustainable Produce

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Americans are willing to sacrifice variety and dollars in order to eat in a more environmentally and health conscious manner, according to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker.

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Agriculture, Green lifestyle


14th Biennial USAIN Conference Sustainable Agriculture: Stewardship of Our Information Ecosystem

The 2014 USAIN Conference, “Sustainable Agriculture: Stewardship of Our Information Ecosystem,” will take place in Burlington, Vermont, from May 4-7, 2014, followed immediately by the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative (AgNIC) Annual Meeting, May 7-8, 2014.


Our engaging and inspiring program will feature dynamic invited speakers, the opportunity to learn about work in support of agricultural information and education, and networking with your colleagues. For the most up-to-date conference schedule, see:

The full conference registration fee includes: your registration and conference materials; Sunday evening dessert reception; Monday breakfast, lunch and two breaks; Tuesday breakfast, lunch, two breaks, and Awards Dinner; and Wednesday breakfast, morning break, and lunch.

Early bird registration prices are available until March 15, 2014:


  • USAIN Member (early bird $325 / regular $375)
  • IAALD Member (early bird $325 / regular $375)
  • Non-USAIN Member (early bird $375 / regular $425)
  • Student (early bird $150 / regular $150)
  • One Day (Any Day) (early bird $150 / regular $150)
  • Exhibitor (early bird $325 / regular $375)


You also have the option of adding on the AgNIC Annual Meeting, pre-conference workshops and local tours.

We are offering two pre-conferences on Sunday, May 4, from 8:30am-12:30pm, at a cost of $50:

  • Cultivating Authentic Engagement: Outreach from Start to Finish
  • Scholarly Metrics Bootcamp

Additionally, there are three official – and one unofficial – tour options:

  • Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour, Sunday, May 4, 2:00-5:00, $20
  • Bird Walk in the Winooski Intervale, May 4, 2:45-4:45, $10
  • Unofficial USAIN Pub Crawl, May 5, 7:30-9:30, free
  • The Intervale Center Walking Tour, May 7, 1:00-2:30, $10


For more information about the conference, please check out the conference website:


‘Seed libraries’ try to save the world’s plants

Read the full story in the Boston Globe.

A basic principle of any library is that you return what you take out. By that standard, the new scheme at Hampshire College’s library is a roll of the dice. Since last November, librarians have been lending out packets of seeds, allowing people to plant them, and checking them back in if—and only if—the borrower manages to grow thriving plants in the meantime.

The Hampshire College project is part of a small but growing group of “seed libraries” across the country, local centers that aim to promote heirloom gardening and revive a more grass-roots approach to seed breeding.

See also The Seed Lending Library at Hampshire College’s – Guide to Saving Seeds.


Dairy tale: New tech could turn small farms into the land of milk and money

Read the full post at Grist.

It was after 6 p.m. and approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit on a March evening when Doug Turner started the second milking of the day of his 42 cows at the family farm in Waitsfield, Vt. In a work-worn orange hoodie and flannel-lined jeans, the third-generation farmer started from the southeast corner of the barn, attaching one of his three milking machines to the swollen udder of a black and white cow.

“This one’s my oldest,” Turner told me, patting Bianca, a Holstein approaching her 13th birthday.

The milk flowed out of the barn, through a steel hose, to the tank in Turner’s cramped, old-fashioned milk house. Every other day, a milk truck from Organic Valley picks up this dairy and brings it to a processing facility — the closest ones are in Connecticut or New York — where it is pasteurized, homogenized, packaged, and dispatched to the grocery shelf.

All told, the average American gallon of milk travels 320 miles from udder to grocery store shelf, a journey that often crosses state borders. That seems like a long way to go, given that milk is produced in all 50 states. 

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Agriculture


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