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Permalink Cover Crops Also Benefit Migrating Birds

There's yet another reason for farmers to plant cover crops, says University of Illinois research. In addition to reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff, increasing organic matter in the soil, and improving water quality, cover crops also provide important habitat for migrating birds. Although they can't replace natural habitat, fields with cover crops offer significant food and shelter benefits to migrating bird species, and this research showed that fields with cover crops always had more birds than fields without cover. The research was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

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Permalink Study Accounts for Individual Animals' Environmental-Performance Differences

A team from the University of Bristol and Rothamsted Research has developed an assessment method that records the environmental impact of each animal separately before calculating the overall burden of a farm. The scientists say the method better accounts for the disproportionally large amounts of methane produced by poorly performing animals. Although this measurement method is likely to show higher carbon-footprint estimates for ruminant animal agriculture, the researchers point out that it can also identify individual animals with reduced impact. This could make it easier to select for whole herds of animals with less impact over time, which, the scientists point out, meshes with their goal of optimizing "the positive contribution grazing livestock can bring to us as part of a well-designed food supply chain."

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Permalink Energy Audits Help Farmers Cut Expenses

Purdue University Extension conducts energy audits for farmers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Michigan. The audits, which cost from $125 to $350, often cut farmers' energy costs by 20 to 40% by evaluating various parts of the farm operations, including lighting, heating, irrigation systems and grain-drying equipment. Audits can also address the specific needs of dairy farm operations, livestock confinement systems, greenhouse growing facilities, and aquaculture systems. The cost of an audit, and the cost of energy-efficient upgrades, can often be offset by grants offered through the USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) or utility incentives, Purdue staff point out.

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Permalink Regions Suitable for Rainfed Agriculture to Change, Predicts USGS Study

A study from the U.S. Geological Survey predicts that future high temperature extremes and soil moisture conditions may cause some regions to become more suitable for rainfed, or non-irrigated, agriculture, while causing other areas to lose suitable farmland. Increases in the area suitable for rainfed agriculture are projected in North America, western Asia, eastern Asia, and South America. Findings for the temperate regions examined by this study indicate that many areas currently too cold for agriculture, particularly across Asia and North America, will likely become suitable for growing crops. In contrast, suitable areas are projected to decline in European dryland areas. Some areas that are currently heavily cultivated, including regions of the United States such as the southern Great Plains, are likely to become less suitable for agriculture in the future. In particular, areas that frequently experience extreme air temperatures above 93 degrees Fahrenheit will become less suitable for rainfed agriculture, even if sufficient moisture is available.

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Permalink NCR-SARE Requests Nominations for Administrative Council Members

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking nominations for several seats on its Administrative Council: an at-large representative of an agriculture college or university, a non-profit organization representative with demonstrable expertise on sustainable agriculture; and a representative of agribusiness. The Administrative Council sets program priorities and makes granting decisions for the region. Council members must live and work in one of the 12 North Central Region states. The term for each of these SARE Administrative Council slots is three years, with the first meeting for new Council members being July 10-12, 2018. Nominations are due by December 5, 2017.

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Permalink Abstracts Sought for Presentation at Organic Farming Research Conference

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and Rutgers University, invites the submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2018 Organic Farming Research Conference, taking place on January 26, 2018, at Rutgers University immediately preceding the NOFA-NJ Annual Winter Conference. The symposium will feature talks from researchers, farmer and rancher researchers, students, and other agriculture specialists on topics related to organic farming and food systems, as well as from other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards. The intent of the symposium is to provide current information to farmers, ranchers, extension staff, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in organic agriculture. The deadline for submissions is November 3, 2017.

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Permalink Kubota's 'Geared to Give' Program Awards Tractors to Farmer Veterans

Kubota Tractor Corporation has announced four new farmer veteran tractor recipients in its 2017 "Geared to Give" program in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). During a special ceremony, four recipients were presented with keys to new Kubota L-Series compact tractors in recognition of their years of U.S. military service and for their continued dedication to the country by pursuing futures in food and farming. Matt (Charles) Fitzwater, U.S. Army veteran, served through three deployments and is the owner of Rainbow Harvest Farm, a 10-acre pick-your-own and direct to consumer berry operation in Kentucky. Randy Ramberger is a U.S. Army veteran and owner of five acres in Indiana called Ramberger Family Farms. Joel Heinzeroth, recent retiree and 20-year U.S. Army veteran, is owner of 440 acres that make up Heinzeroth Cattle Company in Oklahoma. Cherri Marin is 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran who is owner of Sunshine and Reins farm in Oregon. Farmer veterans can apply to the FVC Fellowship Fund in order to be considered for donated Kubota equipment through the "Geared to Give" program.

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Permalink Organic Valley Announces Plans for Renewable Power by 2019

Farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley has announced a first-of-its-kind community partnership that will enable it to become the largest food company in the world to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. Organic Valley is collaborating with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group and OneEnergy Renewables to create the new community solar partnership. Together, the partners will initiate over 12 megawatts (MW) of solar installations in Wisconsin. The electricity created by this partnership will not only enable Organic Valley to cover 100% of its electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2019, but also increase overall solar energy use in Wisconsin by 15%. The community solar partnership will adopt pollinator-friendly solar standards.

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Permalink North Dakota Seeks Participants for Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) is seeking participants for the 2018 industrial hemp pilot program for agricultural or academic research. The NDDA encourages all interested parties (growers, processors, etc.) to submit a project proposal application to be considered for the 2018 cropping season. Participants planted 70 acres of hemp in 2016 and more than 3,000 acres in 2017. Proposals must be submitted by December 29, 2017.

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Permalink SARE Introduces New Organic Production Resource

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has announced a new online resource to assist organic producers. The Organic Production topic room offers access to a wide range of free materials developed by SARE, SARE grant recipients, and experts in the field. The resources address pest management, whole systems, seeds, fertility management, certification, and more. According to SARE, the Organic Production topic room offers both transitioning and experienced organic producers valuable insights into using organic production to improve profitability while meeting a wide range of conservation and productivity goals.

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Permalink Satellite Images Help Produce Irrigation Maps

A project led by Michigan State University used Google Earth Engine to make maps that quantified irrigation use each year for 18 years in the Republican River Basin. In this region that overlies portions of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, and replenishes the High Plains Aquifer, researchers found that irrigation roughly doubled between 2002 and 2016. The use of Google Earth Engine to compute a large number of satellite images is a model that could help researchers track irrigation use in agriculture on a regional basis. This could help make more informed water-management decisions in the future.

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Permalink Cornell Research Shows Glyphosate Damages Soil-Friendly Bacteria

Cornell University research has revealed that glyphosate has negative consequences for the bacteria Pseudomonas putida , used as a biocontrol for fungus on corn or other crops. The glyphosate stunted the bacteria, preventing it from controlling fungus effectively. "[F]armers need to know which beneficial soil biocontrol they're using can be susceptible. If they're using a strain that is susceptible and conflicting with their herbicide application, then it is a problem," said Ludmilla Aristilde, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering.

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Permalink Crop Budgeting Tool Encouraging More Organic Grain Production

The U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration, a special project of the Organic Trade Association's Grain, Pulse and Oilseed Council, has developed crop budgeting templates to help farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana plan future organic crop production and understand the economic impacts of their agronomic practices. The new crop budgeting tool provides a resource to help farmers improve their current organic operation or to make the choice to go organic. The templates present conventional, transition-to-organic, and organic scenarios side by side to aid conventional producers in evaluating the financial merit of switching to organic. The primary differences between these scenarios are field operations, like the cost of weed control, higher costs for applied inputs, and organic and transitional crop prices. Although developed specifically for organic farmers in North and South Dakota and in Montana, the calculating tools provide the flexibility to choose from a suite of typical organic transition and organic cropping rotations, allowing fine-tuning of field operations and enabling the user to adjust expected future crop prices. The calculator tools are available for download on the Organic Trade Association's website and on partner university websites.

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Permalink Southern SARE Seeks Administrative Council Nominations

The Administrative Council of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program is seeking nominations of a producer experienced with sustainable agriculture and its impact on the environment and rural communities to replace an outgoing member. Producer nominations from all 13 states in the southern region, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be considered. The nomination deadline is December 22, 2017. The Administrative Council is the governing body of the Southern SARE program, and producer members are directly involved in setting the program goals. Administrative Council members serve a three-year term.

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Permalink European Parliament Votes to Ban Glyphosate by 2022

The European Parliament has approved a resolution that calls for glyphosate phase-out leading to a complete ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by December of 2022, reports Deutsche Welle. Although the resolution is not binding, the majority vote put pressure on the European Commission (EC), which is currently evaluating a renewal of the license for glyphosate. The EC is now seeking a shorter, five-to-seven year renewal of the herbicide's license rather than the originally proposed 10-year renewal, and member countries are set to discuss the renewal proposal. If a majority of the 28 European Union member countries don't approve the license renewal by the end of the year, glyphosate would be banned in the EU in 2018.

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Permalink Specialty Crop Grants Announced in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced that eleven projects in Iowa have been selected to receive grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. A complete list of the projects that each received funding up to $24,000 is available online. They include specialty crop producer training with a focus on food safety, research on hydroponic production of specialty leafy greens, research on season extension strategies, market development for native oak trees, immigrant farmer training, training on using specialty-crop equipment, and production of videos on native Iowa fruit.

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Permalink Weather Changes Lead Farmers to Change Crops

Unusual weather conditions, ranging from droughts to extreme temperatures to high rainfall, are causing some farmers to switch crops, reports PRI. For example, hot and dry conditions led Pennsylvania farmer Matt Herbruck to plant peppers and eggplants instead of water-demanding leafy greens. The changing weather also opens opportunities: growing seasons may be longer and some fruit varieties are now able to be grown further north, due to warming temperatures. Yet the warmer temperatures have also allowed pest insects to expand their ranges and made it difficult to keep dairy animals cool, bringing new challenges for farmers.

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Permalink Connecticut Kelp Farmers Face Permitting Hurdles

The Hartford Courant reports that five new or expanded kelp-farming operations are hoping to start this season in the ocean waters off Connecticut, if permitting hurdles can be cleared in time. The kelp farmers are struggling through a complex permitting process that is in its infancy and can involve federal, state, and local agencies. They hope to put kelp spores in place this fall, before waters cool too much. The kelp is destined for food, fertilizer, and industrial uses. Enthusiasts say the kelp farms combine low startup costs with environmental sustainability in the production of a desirable product that can support economic development.

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Permalink Urban Food-Plant Watering System Wins Ray of Hope Prize

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has announced that NexLoop won the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize for 2017 for their AquaWeb innovation. The international team NexLoop developed the AquaWeb to help urban local food producers collect, filter, store, and distribute atmospheric moisture with a modular, all-in-one water sourcing and management system. AquaWeb harnesses freely available rain and fog and uses passive strategies to distribute this water so that urban farms, including greenhouses, indoor vertical farms, and container farms, can save energy and become more resilient to disturbances. The prize, endowed by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, recognizes a Biomimicry Accelerator participant for design inspired by nature.

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Permalink Study Shows Consumers Confuse Organic and non-GMO Labels

A study led by a University of Florida professor tested the willingness of consumers to pay more for products labeled "organic" and "non-GMO." The test of 1,132 consumers found that they were willing to pay 35 cents more for granola bars labeled “non-GMO Project," but just 9 cents more for granola bars with the USDA organic label, even though the organic product by definition contains no GMOs. In the case of apples, the consumers would pay 40 cents more for those labeled "USDA Organic," but just 35 cents more for those labeled "non-GMO Project." The results led researchers to conclude that consumers don't distinguish well between the two food labels. The study also indicated that consumers were willing to pay more for genetically modified food if the label showing genetic modification was contained in a scanned QR code, indicating that many consumers do not scan QR codes.

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Permalink Soil Survey Data Refreshed and Interpretations Added

The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program, an endeavor of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal agencies, state and local governments, and other cooperators, provides a systematic study of the soils in a given area, including their classification, mapping, and interpretation. The entire Official Web Soil Survey Database (WSS), which is available to access online, is refreshed annually so that updated official data is available in October. This year, four new interpretations are available, including farm and garden composting facility, fragile soil, soil susceptibility to compaction, and a new version of the National Commodity Crop Productivity Index.

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Permalink International Research Shows Composting Improves Biochar's Fertilizing Capabilities

An international team of researchers, led by Germany's University of Tübingen with key contributions by Colorado State University experts, has demonstrated how composting of biochar creates a very thin organic coating that significantly improves the biochar's fertilizing capabilities. In a study published in Nature Communications, the team utilized advanced analytical techniques to confirm that the coating strengthens the biochar's interactions with water and its ability to store soil nitrates and other nutrients. Although the same coating develops when un-composted biochar is introduced to soil, this development happens much more slowly. The scientists say that this new understanding of how biochar works could lead to more widespread commercialization of biochar fertilizers.

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Permalink Study Examines Impact of Local Farm to School Purchasing

A new study from Colorado State University, The Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, provides insight about the potential for farm-to-school to affect local economies positively. The study found that not only were surveyed farmers satisfied or very satisfied with most aspects of farm-to-school sales, but farms that participate in farm to school purchase more goods from their local economy, which results in a positive local economic impact. The report offers an adaptable survey and analysis protocol for performing farm to school economic impact assessments. This is designed to support and encourage more research that will continue to build the economic case for farm to school. A webinar that presented the results of the study was recorded and is available online.

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Permalink NRCS Announces Recovery Assistance for California Producers

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will immediately begin accepting applications for its EQIP Catastrophic Fire Recovery fund pool to assist producers in covering the cost of certain rehabilitation practices, such as creating check dams in drainages, using damaged trees to slow runoff, repairing culvert systems, and planting tree seedlings. NRCS is waiving the standard 30-day application ranking period and is accepting applications for this initial fund pool through November 6, 2017. USDA is designating $4 million to help farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in California recover from the recent wildfires. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) can also help farmers and ranchers with a range of disaster assistance, including compensation for livestock death and feed losses, risk coverage for specialty crops, and repair of damage to agricultural and private forest land.

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Permalink Farmers Report on Trials of Spring-Seeded Brassica Cover Crops

Practical Farmers of Iowa has published the results of research by three farmer-cooperators with spring-seeded brassica cover crops. The cooperators hand-seeded brassica cover-crop mixes into soybean stubble in small plots. Before terminating the spring cover crops, cooperators evaluated each species for the amount of groundcover provided.The full report Spring-Seeded Brassica Cover Crops is available online.

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Permalink Living Mulch Saves Money and Improves Soil, Says Research

Scientists at the University of Georgia tested the performance of a living mulch of white clover between row crops, reports the American Society of Agronomy. The clover helps supply nitrogen to the cash crop. It also makes it possible for farmers to use less herbicide, because the clover out-competes weeds. This study found that although corn yields were slightly lower due to the competition crops experience from a living mulch, overall performance from these fields was good, with less fertilizer applied and significantly less herbicide used. The researchers concluded that the farmer can end up making more money in a system that uses a living mulch. By saving on inputs, the farmer can end up making more money by using a living mulch.

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Permalink Study Says Land Management Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A peer-reviewed study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that natural climate solutions could reduce emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes per year by 2030, or a third of what is needed to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. The researchers found that trees have the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. However, this study also calculated that changing the way we farm could cost-effectively deliver 22% of emissions reductions, equivalent to taking 522 million gasoline cars off the road. For example, smarter application of chemical fertilizers can improve crop yields while reducing emissions of nitrous oxide. Other effective interventions in the agriculture realm include planting trees among croplands and improved management of livestock.

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Permalink University of Illinois' Organic Corn Breeding Project Receives Funding

The University of Illinois has received funding from USDA for a project that will allow farmers, researchers, and consumers to participate in breeding corn optimized for organic production. The university reports that farmers from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and New York will help test maize germplasm developed at U of I and the Mandaamin Institute in Wisconsin. The researchers will also evaluate the influence of soil health on yield and grain quality and processing characteristics. Corn will be processed into several different types of food products, such as corn bread or tortilla chips, at the Pilot Processing Plant on the U of I campus and then tested by consumers and researchers. Consumers will give their opinions on the quality of the grain and products made with each line of organic corn.

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Permalink Beginning Farmer Training Program Impact Assessed in New Report

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has released Cultivating the Next Generation, a report on the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Since 2008, BFRDP has invested nearly $150 million in more than 250 new-farmer training projects across the country, involving more than 60,000 beginning farmers. The report finds that BFRDP funded projects are showing real outcomes: surveyed project leaders estimated that over half of their participants are now engaged in a farming career, and that nearly three-quarters of them felt more prepared for a successful career in agriculture following program completion. The report also includes recommendations on opportunities for improvement in the program, including the following: continuing long-term investments in new farmer training and evaluation, deepening farmer engagement in program development, and improving the grant reporting process to ensure consistency in outcome data. The full report is available online.

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Permalink Video Addresses Management of Striped Cucumber Beetles on Organic Farms

Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project, funded through a NIFA OREI grant, has produced a nine-minute video on striped cucumber beetle management on organic farms. The video is available on the project website. It discusses management options such as organically approved chemicals, less-susceptible cultivars, physical exclusions, and trap crops.

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Permalink eOrganic Article Explains Benefits of Dung Beetles

Dung Beetles: How to Identify and Benefit from Nature’s Pooper Scoopers is an article posted on eOrganic by Matthew Jones and William Snyder of Washington State University. The article focuses on the benefits of dung beetles to vegetable and pasture production, the beetles' feeding behaviors, and how to recognize a few key species likely to be seen on West Coast farms. The article highlights the role that dung beetles can play in pathogen suppression and food safety.

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Permalink Online Financial-Education Tool Helps Farmers Buying Land

National Young Farmers Coalition has introduced a beta version of Finding Farmland, an online financial-education tool for farmers buying land. The tool includes a Land Affordability Calculator that can be used to compare financing costs for two different farm properties or to compare different financing scenarios for a single property. There is also a case study that illustrates how one farmer navigated the path to secure land access. The site is in beta mode, and National Young Farmers Coalition is requesting farmers' feedback on the tool, especially from those who are actively seeking land.

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Permalink Warm-Season Annual Grasses Can Improve Pasture for Northern Horses

Research at the University of Minnesota found that warm-season grasses grown as annuals could improve the quality of horse pasture in northern climates, reports the American Society of Agronomy. Perennial cool-season annuals dominate northern pastures, where they easily survive winters and produce well in spring and fall, but these species experience a summer growth slump that reduces forage quantity and quality. Researchers tested warm-season forages including teff, sudangrass, sorghum sudangrass, and both Japanese and Siberian millet, grown as annuals. All of the grasses were found to supply adequate nutrition for horses, with sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass showing the greatest yields. However, most of the forages had high nitrates, leading researchers to warn that nitrate levels should be closely monitored in these forages. They suggest that northern growers may want to plant an area with warm-season grasses managed as annuals for summer grazing.

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Permalink How an Iowa Farm is Transitioning to Organic Row Crops

Keota, Iowa, father-son farmers Trent and Levi Lyle are transitioning a 40-acre field to organic production, reports Ag Update. The Lyles discussed the price premium available for organic crops, the cost-share programs that can help support the transition to organic production, and their desire to reduce the family's chemical exposure. They also discussed their approach to weed management, which involves a roller-crimper to kill cover crops, longer crop rotations with a small grain in the rotation, and use of historic weed-control methods. Livestock can also play a role in consuming cover crops and adding fertility to a field. Levi Lyle, a certified organic inspector, is familiar with the record-keeping requirements for organic certification, and has experience marketing non-commodity crops from his eight years producing aronia berries.

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Permalink Stanford Research Explores Soil Carbon-Storage Potential

Stanford University scientists have recently published their work on soil carbon-storage potential. The researchers found that agricultural management practices like reduced tillage, year-round livestock forage, and compost application could increase soil's carbon storage enough to offset future carbon emissions from thawing permafrost. In the course of their work, the team found that about 70% of all sequestered carbon in the top meter of soil is in lands directly affected by agriculture, grazing, or forest management, so management changes have the potential to lead to significantly more carbon storage. The study also found that plant roots are five times more likely than leaves to turn into soil organic matter, indicating that perennial crops with their deep root systems could store more carbon than annual crops. The scientists call for a renewed push to gather significantly more data on carbon in the soil and learn more about the role it plays in sequestering carbon.

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Permalink Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant Awards Announced by USDA

USDA logoUSDA Agricultural Marketing Service has announced the award of more than $13 million in Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants. Fifty-two projects in 33 states received funding for projects that would increase consumption of locally and regionally produced agricultural products and develop new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers. Brief descriptions of the projects selected for funding are available online.

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Permalink National Institute of Food and Agriculture Announces Organic Farming and Ranching Grants

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced grants through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions Program (ORG). In FY 2017, 24 new grants totaling $20.15 million were made through these two programs. Among the projects, Oregon State University researchers will develop and test a breed of naked barley as an economically viable alternative crop with multiple uses in brewing, livestock feed, and human diets. A Lincoln University project will determine the economic viability of different types of cover crop-based, no-till systems for small- and mid-size organic producers. A complete list of recipients is available online.

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Permalink Study Finds Insect Resistance to Transgenic Crops Surging

An analysis of global data on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-modified crop use and pest responses by University of Arizona researchers found that cases of pest resistance to genetically engineered crops increased by more than fivefold in the past decade. The study also noted that in other cases, pests have not evolved resistance to Bt crops. The scientists credit use of refuges as a significant factor in delaying resistance in these cases. However, the study also revealed that pest resistance to Bt crops is evolving faster now than before.

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Permalink Food Safety Survey Deadline Extended to October 31

The Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC), which provides specialized training, education, and outreach to local farmers and processors, wants to know how it can best help with food safety. Produce growers, farmers, and food hubs are invited to take an online needs assessment survey before October 31, 2017, to help LFSC enhance fundamental food-safety knowledge and support local farmers and processors to comply with applicable Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations. After completing the survey, you may elect to enter your personal information to be entered in a raffle for a $100 gift card (20 available).

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Permalink Organic Grain Projects to Aid Producers in Transitioning

Two new Extension projects will help grain producers transition to organic production. In one project a team from Texas A&M AgriLife will compare transitional organic and conventional systems for wheat production alone and combined with cover-crop grazing. The "Introducing Organic to Producers of Grain-Only and Dual-Purpose Wheat Cropping Systems of Northern Texas" project received funding from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the Organic Transition Program. Cropping system research will begin with a cover crop in spring 2018. The project also includes Extension and education components. Meanwhile, Purdue University Extension received funding from North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program for another project, "Organic Transition and Certification: Supporting Indiana Grain Farmers' Capacity to Meet Market Demand." The three-year program will include surveys of farmers who have made the transition from conventional to organic grain production, farmers currently making the transition, and those who are interested in addressing and exploring potential roadblocks to organic farming. Researchers will also talk to grain buyers about standards for grain, pricing tiers, and other factors that are important for growers entering the market. Extension specialists will spread what they learn through publications, workshops, field days, regional farmer meetings, and other venues.

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Permalink California Farm Academy Accepting Applications for Beginning Farmer Training and Apprenticeships

The California Farm Academy is accepting applications for both its Beginning Farmer Training Program and its Apprenticeship Program. The Beginning Farmer Training Program provides aspiring farmers a strong foundation from which to launch their agricultural careers. During the seven-month program, lessons focus on crop production, business planning, and marketing, and they culminate in a personal business plan or farm-career plan. In addition to the classes, hands-on field experience and farm visits expose students to topics critical for a future in farming. Classes are designed to accommodate work schedules, meeting on Tuesdays and Thursday in the early evenings, as well as two Saturdays per month. The application deadline is November 27, 2017 and classes begin in February 2018. Meanwhile, the Apprenticeship Program provides aspiring farmers with a combination of coursework and hands-on training that is intended to set them on a path to earn management positions with established farms, or to be successful in starting & sustaining their own farm. The program requires a two-year commitment. Apprentices are paid for 3,000 hours of hands-on training and are enrolled in the CFA Training Program as part of their curriculum. Applications will be accepted until February 1, 2018, with a program start date in mid-March.

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Permalink Apple Pollinizers Affect Fruit Set and Quality

Researchers at Purdue University found that the type of tree used for a pollinator in apple orchards can affect the amount of fruit that sets on trees. Orchardists frequently plant crab apple trees as pollen sources in orchards, because of their prolific blooms. However this research showed that using Red Delicious as a pollinator for Honeycrisp doubled the fruit set compared to using crab apple pollinators. This research found that, overall, the Red Delicious was the best pollinizer, followed by Golden Delicious and then the crab apple varieties. The researchers suggest planting Red Delicious near high-value apple crops to promote good fruit set.

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Permalink Analysis Considers Tipping Point of Chemical Weed Control

Adam Davis, ecologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service, worked with George Frisvold, an economist at the University of Arizona, to explore whether we are at a tipping point regarding ability to control agricultural weeds with herbicides currently on the market. Their analysis was published in Pest Management Science. Davis and Frisvold say that with agricultural weeds developing resistance to herbicides, and no new herbicide modes of action on the horizon, herbicide susceptibility is a finite resource. They conclude that as herbicide control of weeds is lost, food prices will rise. Davis says an over-reliance on herbicide for weed control has contributed to the problem, and he recommends returning to more diversified methods of weed control, such as crop rotation and management practices including weed-suppressive cultivars, banded herbicides, row spacing, cultivation, and harvest weed seed control. "We've shown you can reduce herbicide use by 90% in diversified systems and get the same amount of weed control," says Davis.

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Permalink USDA Suspends CRP Enrollment Acceptance Temporarily

USDA logoUSDA has announced that it is accepting all pending continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment offers that were made from May 4, 2017, through September 30, 2017, but it will suspend acceptance of most new offers until later in the 2018 fiscal year to review CRP allocation levels and to avoid exceeding the statutory cap of 24 million acres. Meanwhile, USDA is declining Pollinator Habitat Initiative offers because the program has met its acreage enrollment goal. USDA will continue to accept eligible offers for state-specific Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and CRP Grasslands enrollment. For more information about CRP, contact your local FSA office or visit

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Permalink California Governor Signs Farmer Equity Act

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that requires California officials to focus on and address the challenges facing farmers of color in the state by making access to state and federal resources more equitable. The Farmer Equity Act, AB 1348, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), directs the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to better provide resources, outreach, technical assistance, and decision-making power to "socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers," so called because they have been subjected to historic racial discrimination. These groups include people who are African American, American Indian, Alaskan native, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander. The California bill will take a holistic perspective across the CDFA, including how it creates new rules, forms governance committees, and manages grantmaking programs. AB 1348 will add the federal definition of "Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers" and "Socially Disadvantaged Group" to the California Food and Agriculture Code. This legislation will also increase access to "climate smart" technical assistance among small and mid-size farms.

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Permalink National Farm to School Network Seeks Advisory Board Nominees

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) invites you to nominate members to its Advisory Board for three-year terms starting January 2018. There are currently five open positions for the Advisory Board, with nominations due by October 16, 2017. Self-nominations and peer nominations that fit at least one of a list of target criteria will be accepted. NFSN Core and Supporting Partners are encouraged to apply.

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Permalink University of Minnesota Conducting Organic Swine Survey

The University of Minnesota's Alternative Swine Research Group is launching its NIFA-funded Organic Swine Planning Project with a survey to identify key issues that need to be addressed in organic swine production. The online survey takes less than five minutes, and is designed to identify people who are involved or interested in organic swine production, processing, marketing, research, and extension. This survey will be used to identify potential speakers for seminars and focus group members to discuss the key issues in organic swine production.

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Permalink Appalachian Beekeeping Collective Helps Coal Country Transition to Beekeeping

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is helping the coal-mining country of southern West Virginia seize a new economic opportunity, reports Ohio Ag Connection. The collective is breeding regionally suited, mite-resistant bees and constructing a honey-processing facility. They're also training their first class of 35 displaced miners as beekeepers, and planning for 85 more next year. The beekeepers will obtain bees from the collective and maintain their own apiaries, but bring their honey to a central location for extraction, bottling, and marketing. The project leader, non-profit organization Appalachian Headwaters, is trying to reduce risk and expense for beginning beekeepers. Project organizers expect high-quality forage in the area to contribute to productive hives.

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Permalink Neonicotinoid Insecticides Found in 75% of Global Honey Samples

A project by University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, tested honey samples contributed by citizen scientists from around the world for pesticide contamination. The Guardian reports that nearly 200 samples were analyzed for neonicotinoid insecticides and 75% contained the chemicals, with most contaminated with multiple types. Results of the testing were published in Science and showed that contamination rates were highest in North America, with 86% of samples containing one or more neonicotinoid. Although the contamination levels were almost all below the thresholds established for human consumption, 48% of the samples showed contamination levels above those determined to be harmful to bees.

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Permalink National Good Food Network Conference Accepting Session Proposals

The National Good Food Network Conference is seeking sessions that offer stories, tools, strategies, and lessons learned that will make for interactive and innovative presentations, workshops, panels, and trainings. Sessions should build participant capacity for the development and expansion of viable and equitable food value chains and the food hubs within those chains. Sessions can be 90-minute breakouts, half-day trainings, or full-day trainings. Session proposals must be submitted online by November 13, 2017. The conference will be held March 27-30, 2018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Permalink Video Highlights Carbon Storage Potential of Organic Soils

The Organic Center has announced a new video that explains the findings of a new study in conjunction with Northeastern University. The study found that organic soils have significantly higher levels of humic substances. This means that not only is organic better at sequestering carbon, but it is effectively locking away carbon in long-term reserves that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. Cool Science for a Cool Planet is a one-minute video highlighting the study findings.

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Permalink Reminder to Complete Crop Insurance Survey by October 31

The National Center for Appropriate Technology is studying attitudes about crop insurance, in order to plan educational efforts and make recommendations to the USDA. Anyone farming or ranching commercially in the United States is invited to take a confidential 20-minute survey (on a computer, smart phone, or other mobile device). A $20 honorarium is offered to early responders. The results of this survey will help NCAT and project partners make recommendations to the USDA on further improvements to crop insurance for organic, diversified, and specialty-crop growers. The deadline for taking the survey is October 31, 2017.

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Permalink Fearless Farm Finances Course Offered Online

MOSES and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College are offering a a 16-week online course based on the book Fearless Farm Finances. The course runs October 23, 2017 – Februrary 25, 2018. Registration closes October 17, 2017. This course provides modules to help farmers understand and manage farm finances. A cohort of students will focus on the same topic each week while working at their own pace. They will interact through an online discussion board. Work will be graded and returned to students.

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Permalink Farmers' Voluntary Conservation Efforts Have Positive Impact on Western Lake Erie Basin

USDA logoA report by USDA's Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) shows that voluntary conservation practices adopted by farmers reduce sediment losses from fields by an estimated 80% and reduce the amount of sediment being delivered to Lake Erie by an estimated 40%. CEAP uses a sampling and modeling technique that quantifies the impacts of conservation practices adopted across the region. These analyses provide scientifically based direction for future conservation-planning efforts targeting specific management goals. Farmers use a variety of conservation practices to reduce losses of nutrients and sediment. The practices evaluated by CEAP include strategies like nutrient management, cover crops, and structural erosion control.

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Permalink NIFA Schedules Opportunities for Stakeholder Input

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is accepting input from stakeholders regarding research, extension, and education priorities in food and agriculture. A series of four in-person listening sessions hosted in different regions across the country and submission of written comments will offer two ways to share thoughts and ideas. This listening opportunity allows stakeholders to provide feedback on the following questions: What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address? What are the most promising science opportunities for advancement of food and agricultural sciences? Individuals wishing to attend in-person listening sessions must complete an online RSVP no later than October 12, 2017. The day-long listening sessions will be livestreamed. In-person listening sessions are scheduled for October 19, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri; October 26, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia; November 2, 2017, in Sacramento, California; and November 8, 2017, in Greenbelt, Maryland. Submissions of written comments will be accepted through December 1, 2017.

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Permalink Strips of Prairie Plants Yield Benefits for Farmers

USDA logoUSDA Forest Service Northern Research Station reports that replacing 10 to 20% of cropland with prairie strips increased biodiversity and ecosystem services with minimal impacts on crop production, while doubling biodiversity. A decade of research on "Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips," or STRIPS, has been led by Iowa State University, the USDA Forest Service, Leopold Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The research results quantifying the effects of integrating strips of native prairie species amid corn and soybean crops were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Permalink Minnesota Introduces Farm & Rural Helpline

A new Farm & Rural Helpline funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now available to Minnesota farmers and rural residents. The service is free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll free number is 833-600-2670. Translation services are also available, with translators available in all languages. MDA notes that farmers and rural communities face unique stresses and emotional situations, including financial challenges, unpredictable weather, physically demanding work, and more. As stress, anxiety, depression, financial burdens, and other mental and emotional issues continue to impact the lives of farmers and rural Minnesotans, the MDA recognized the need for ongoing support and introduced the helpline.

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Permalink Documentary Highlights Challenges Facing Young Farmers

Narrated by Mike Rowe, a new documentary called Farmers For America traces the extraordinary changes coming to America's food system as more and more consumers flock to farmers markets, embrace farm-to-table lifestyles, and insist on knowing where their food is coming from. At the center of the film are the farmers, young and old, who provide the spirit and energy to bring urban and rural America together over what both share in common: our food. With the average age of today's farmer at 60, and rural America losing population as the cost of land and equipment soars, this film reveals the people waiting to take their place, the practices they're championing, and the obstacles they must overcome. The film will premiere at the National FFA Conference in Indianapolis on October 27, 2017. After the premiere, plans are in place for the film to be shown in more than 200 locations nationwide over the next two years.

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Permalink Heifer International Launches Livestock and Garden Apprenticeship Program

Heifer International is introducing an intensive multi-year Livestock and Garden Apprenticeship Program at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, and Heifer Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts. The apprentices will work directly with Heifer USA agriculture experts and technical assistants. Upon successful completion of the program, apprentices will have a broad range of understanding of many aspects of farming. In Year 1, apprentices will live on-site and be mentored by agricultural personnel. During Year 2, apprentices will live on-site and have management responsibilities of an established agricultural enterprise. In Year 3, apprentices establish or strengthen their own farm enterprises with ongoing mentorship and continuing education opportunities. Applications for the program beginning mid-January must be submitted by October 30, 2017.

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Permalink USDA Announces 48 New Local-Watershed Projects

USDA logoUSDA has announced $150 million in funding support for 48 new and 41 existing projects through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with local groups to help prevent floods, protect watersheds, improve agricultural water management, and enhance wildlife habitat through this program. NRCS works with project sponsors, such as conservation districts, local governments and American Indian tribes, who are the project owners. A full list of projects is available online.

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Permalink Nebraska Team to Study Integrated Livestock and Crop Production Systems

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln research team has received a $1 million grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to investigate how to improve land use efficiency through the integration of livestock and crop production systems. The team expects an integrated system, which overlays cattle grazing with existing crop production systems, to increase output per acre and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with production. Producers will participate in the project through surveys and focus groups to gather input about how they make decisions. Outcomes of this study will help farmers and ranchers understand which practices will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while efficiently producing food in a diversified system. The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Office of Research and Economic Development at Nebraska matched FFAR's support, resulting in $2.4 million dedicated to this research.

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Permalink Warming Climate Not Likely to Impair Northeast Animal Agriculture, Says Study

Multidisciplinary research led by Penn State University concluded that climate change will not significantly impair animal agriculture in the Northeast region of the United States. Climate models predict more warm days and warmer nights for the Northeast, along with higher annual precipitation and more heavy rain. Researchers found that although a projected increase in hot days will result in more heat stress and lower production in dairy cows and economic challenges for the equine industry, some livestock producers could benefit from a warming climate. For example, poultry producers could benefit from lower energy costs for heating houses, while beef producers could benefit from more forage production. However, poultry producers may also experience increases in ventilation costs due to increased high temperatures. The study noted that potential increased disease incidence due to warming climate is difficult to predict. This research was published in Climatic Change.

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Permalink Penn State Extension Offers Home-Study Livestock-Grazing Course

Penn State Extension will offer Pennsylvania and surrounding-state livestock producers a home-study course this fall on how to make their livestock enterprises more profitable through pasture and grazing management. The course has six weekly lessons, available through email and internet delivery or through conventional mail. Lesson topics include getting started with pastures, plants in the pasture, pasture management, pasture facilities, grazing management, and grazing economics. Each lesson has information about the topic and a worksheet for producers to complete and return to Penn State Extension for comments. Producers also can submit questions they would like to have answered. The cost for the course is $50 if taken via email and the Internet and $85 if taken using U.S. Postal Service deliveries. Deadline for registration is October 10, 2017.

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Permalink Winter Cover Crops Protect Trees from Flatheaded Appletree Borer

Researchers at Tennessee State University working with a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant found that winter cover crops appear to protect susceptible deciduous trees from the flatheaded appletree borer. The research involved ryegrass/crimson clover mix planted among red maples, but the results could apply broadly to orchards, nurseries, urban landscapes, and agroforestry producers. Researchers suggest that agroforestry producers could incorporate wheat or rye as the cover crop and harvest the middles while leaving the cover crop to protect newly-transplanted trees until the borer active period ends in mid-July, at which point the remainder of the cover crop could be grazed. The strategy reduces pesticide use, provides a harvestable crop, and prevents weeds.

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Permalink Increasing Soil Carbon Sequestration a Win for Reducing Emissions and Maintaining Food Security

Research led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters says that two strategies could bring benefits for climate while simultaneously benefiting food security: reducing deforestation and increasing soil carbon sequestration. Compared with climate-mitigation strategies that could raise food prices and reduce food availability, these two strategies were found to be win-win options. The research found that certain farming practices, such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and residue management, can preserve greater amounts of carbon stored in soils--and generally lead to greater crop yields. Climate policies focusing on soil carbon sequestration could be tailored to either deliver moderate greenhouse-gas emission abatement at a low calorie cost or high greenhouse-gas abatement at less benefit to food security. The study estimated that increased soil carbon sequestration could offset up to 3.5 GtCO2 (7% of the total 2010 emissions) in 2050, and could reduce the food-security impacts of a carbon tax by as much as 65% compared to a scenario without soil-carbon-sequestration incentives.

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Permalink International Assessment Projects Increase in Antimicrobial Use in Animals, Increasing Resistance

Researchers from ETH Zürich, Princeton, and the University of Cambridge conducted the first global assessment of different intervention policies that could help limit the projected increase of antimicrobial use in food production. According to new research reported in the journal Science, the amount of antimicrobials given to animals destined for human consumption worldwide is expected to rise by a staggering 52% and reach 200,000 tonnes by 2030 unless policies are implemented to limit their use. "[M]any new strains of antibiotic-resistant infections are now common in people after originating in our livestock," said co-author Emma Glennon, from Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. "As global demand for meat grows and agriculture continues to transition from extensive farming and smallholdings to more intensive practices, the use of antimicrobials in food production will increasingly threaten the efficacy of these life-saving drugs."

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Permalink Researchers Find New Agricultural Applications for Olive-Mill Wastewater

The waste products of olive-oil processing--some 8 billion gallons annually in Europe--have long posed a disposal problem, reports the American Chemical Society. However, researchers have now found a way to deal with the waste that produces several useful products. When the water and olive-solid slurry is combined with cypress sawdust waste, the water can then be evaporated off for use in irrigation. The remaining solids undergo pyrolysis, which produces both combustible gases and charcoal. The gases can be condensed into bio-oil that could be used to fuel the process. The remaining charcoal can be used as a bio-fertilizer.

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