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Michigan State University Vegetable Entomology Lab has released a four-minute video on pollination of pickling cucumbers by honey bees, as part of its work under a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant. The research project found that most cucumbers are pollinated by honey bees, but that bees prefer pollen from other plants. It also revealed that large colonies of bees are needed for effective pollination, and that moving colonies of honey bees within the field causes the colonies to grow more slowly than stationary colonies....

A multi-partner consortium led by the University of California, Davis, and the UC Working Lands Innovation Center has received a $4.7 million grant from the state of California's Strategic Growth Council to research scalable methods of using soil amendments to sequester greenhouse gases in soil. The study will involve monitoring of 29 control and treatment sites across California over the course of three years. Soil treatments tested for effective capture of carbon dioxide in soil will include rock, compost, and biochar....

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) announced that it has received a matching grant of $66,000 from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to support organic agriculture research. OFRF will use the grant to fund more of the proposals received for the OFRF 2019 organic research grant awards related to soil health. Proposals for the 2019 grant cycle are already in review, and awards will be announced this spring....

In this episode, Jeff Schahczenski, agricultural and natural resource economist for NCAT’s ATTRA -- the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service -- who works at NCAT’s headquarters in Butte, Montana, talks about the current and future development of organic field-crop markets with Jessie Bovay and Ryan Koory. Jessie and Ryan work with Mercaris, a national data service company that explores organic, transitional organic, and non-GMO field-crop prices and performs market analytics and trade identity preserved field-crop production studies. Ryan is a senior economist with Mercaris, and Jessie is director of business development. Organic field-crop markets are often referred to as “thin” markets, which...

Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford of Blue Fruit Farm in Winona, Minnesota, have been selected by Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) as the 2019 Organic Farmer of the Year. Jim and Joyce have been actively involved in organic agriculture for decades, as farmers, educators, organic inspectors, and policy advocates. They currently produce organic blue fruit: blueberries, black currants, aronia berries, elderberries, honeyberries, juneberries, and plums, which they market wholesale, direct to consumers, and as value-added products. They also provide native prairie seeds from prairie that they have established surrounding their fruit field. ...

Practical Farmers of Iowa announced that Doug Alert and Margaret Smith, of Hampton, have been chosen to receive its 2019 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award, an award granted each year to an individual or couple that has shown exemplary commitment to sustainable agriculture, generously shared their knowledge with others, and been influential in efforts to foster vibrant communities, diverse farms and healthy food. Doug and Margaret operate Ash Grove Farm, a diversified, certified organic crop and livestock operation that includes organic feed corn and soybeans; organic seed soybeans, rye, hairy vetch, and oats; and organic food-grade corn, soybeans, and oats. They...

Related ATTRA Resources: Resources for Food Hub Planners and Managers SARE has released a three-minute video that highlights the success of Good Natured Family Farms, a Midwest marketing cooperative that is helping individual farmers bring products into the marketplace. Good Natured Family Farms received two SARE grants that helped launch the marketing cooperative and helped it research consumer preferences to increase its market. The marketing cooperative that started as a way for regional producers to bring natural beef to local customers has grown into a network of more than 100 farms that sells a range of products through 30 area supermarkets and...

Answer: There are several tools one can consider for controlling weeds organically. No matter what tools are used, it is important to recognize weeds as a symptom of land management. Individual weed species are indicators of specific nutrients lacking in the soil. For example, dandelions are an indicator species of low organic matter in the soil. Organic weed management should consider both proactive and reactive strategies. Proactive approaches to weed management include mulching, crop rotations, cover crops, and the use of flame weeding in which weeds are "seared" with a flame weeder prior to planting. Flame weeding can also be...

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) Woolsey Farm Project is accepting applications for incubator farm plots in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Spearheaded by NCAT Southeast’s Luke Freeman, the Woolsey Farm Project is a collaboration between NCAT, Cobblestone Farms, and the City of Fayetteville. The project aims to provide beginning farmers with access to land so they can establish and grow their farm businesses. Each incubator farmer accepted in 2019 will have access to a quarter-acre plot and shared equipment at Cobblestone Farm. This program is targeted towards beginning farmers who have several years of production experience, but do not have access...

USDA is seeking public comments on updated guidelines for wetland determinations. The comment period extends through February 5, 2019, and comments may be submitted online or by mail. Wetland determinations are part of conservation compliance outlined in the Farm Bill. To be eligible for USDA programs and federal crop insurance, producers must be compliant. Specific provision updates that are open for comment are listed online....

Organizers of the 2019 North American Agroforestry Conference scheduled June 24-27, 2019, at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, are inviting submission of abstracts. They are accepting proposals for oral presentations, poster presentations, organized discussion and roundtable sessions, and five-minute Lightning Talks. A list of conference themes to which proposals should relate is available online. The submission deadline has been extended until February 1, 2019, and a new deadline for those affected by the government shutdown will be announced. ...

In this episode, John Wallace, manager of NCAT/ATTRA’s SIFT farm –  which stands for Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training –  talks with Victorian Tilley about the farm’s shift from growing food to sell to growing food to help meet the nutritional needs of the community through donating to local charities. The SIFT farm is located at NCAT’s headquarters in Butte, Montana, where John and Victorian both work. Victorian is an Energy Corps member with AmeriCorps and is currently NCAT’s Farm Energy Educator. The farm’s goals in the past were focused on proving economic viability; now it has transitioned toward donating to charitable organizations...

Related ATTRA Publication: Integrating Livestock and Crops: Improving Soil, Solving Problems, Increasing Income The Pasture Project and collaborators Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Land Stewardship Project, and the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota have released the results of a three-year study on the economics of grazing cover crops. They found that cover crops can pay for themselves when combined with managed rotational grazing of cattle. The full findings, as well as a 32-page publication titled Grazing Cover Crops How-To Guide, a video series, and other supporting resources, are available online. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees Research led by Cornell University and published in Science shows that a greater diversity of bee species visits orchards surrounded by natural habitats than those surrounded by agricultural lands. The study examined 10 years of data for 27 apple orchards in New York state. Orchards that were visited by a greater diversity of bees had better fruit production, due to more complete pollination. The study revealed that some species of bees that are effective apple pollinators were consistently absent in orchards surrounded by agricultural land....

Related ATTRA Publication: Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production A feature in The New York Times says a growing number of United States ranches are run by women, and predicts that the number will continue to increase as more than half the ranches in the country change hands in the next 20 years. Author Amy Chozick notes "Women are leading the trend of sustainable ranching and raising grass-fed breeds of cattle in humane, ecological ways."...

USDA has announced that many Farm Service Agency offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. In almost half of FSA locations, staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers on time. USDA has announced that farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends, and that the application period for the Market Facilitation Program will be extended for a period of time equal...

The Japan Prize Foundation has announced the laureates of the 2019 Japan Prize, including Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at The Ohio State University. Dr. Lal pioneered no-tillage agriculture and methods to sequester carbon in the soil. He is being honored for his work in identifying technological options adapted to various ecosystems through his intensive basic and applied research on processes and factors of soil degradation caused by inappropriate biological production, as well as in evaluating recommended agricultural practices which reduce risks of soil degradation and of anthropogenic climate change while improving the environmental quality and...

Challenges such as herbicide resistance and pesticide litigation are motivating farmers to consider electricides for weed management, reports Farm Journal. The Lasco Lightning Weeder was developed in 1979, and some are still available for rent or sale. The right-holder intends to restart manufacture of the equipment. Meanwhile, a new company based in the UK, RootWave, is utilizing digital-age technology for visual recognition of weeds in real time. When weeds are spotted, RootWave makes contact to deliver a 5-kilovolt jolt of electricity with no soil disturbance. The company aims for market entry in 2020. ...

Related ATTRA Tutorial: Soil Health Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has posted an interactive infographic, "What Is Soil Health: An Interactive Exploration of Soil Health and How to Improve It." Visitors to the SARE website can click on icons in the infographic to learn more about cover crops, crop rotation, manure amendments, composting, and the complex web of life below the surface of the soil....

Flipping the Table, a new podcast series featuring honest conversations about food, farming, and the future, debuted January 15, 2019. Michael R. Dimock, program director of Roots of Change at the Public Health Institute, is host for the series. Eight episodes have been announced to date, featuring dynamic and enlightening conversations with the people who are flipping the table to create new ways to feed the world. The podcast is designed to inspire action and positivity in challenging times and appeal to listeners and sponsors who hunger for healthy and resilient people, communities, and economics. Scheduled episodes feature Dan Imhoff,...

The DiFebo family's Harvest Home Farms has been selected as the first recipient of the Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award. This award inspires American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers, and foresters in 14 states with a $10,000 cash award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. The DiFebo family raises grass-fed beef and has been active in introducing diverse vegetation and rotational grazing and reducing soil compaction and erosion. The farm has also installed a solar-powered watering system and been active in education....

Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Specialty Crop Production In Texas: A Grower's Handbook The Kansas Rural Center has published a 42-page report, Lessons Learned from Specialty Crop Growers Across Kansas, that's available free online in PDF. The report is a compilation of five previously published profiles of successful Kansas specialty crop growers, plus the proceedings of a one-day facilitated discussion in February 2018 between those experienced growers and five beginning specialty crop growers. The guide is the third in a series of specialty crop guides prepared by the Kansas Rural Center in collaboration with Kansas State University Extension. Crops covered include vegetables, fruits,...

An expert panel presenting at the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention in January outlined the politics, agronomics, and economics of industrial hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which opens new opportunities for farmers to grow the crop. Speakers advised farmers considering growing hemp to first secure a buyer and to consider availability of labor. The speakers differentiated between hemp grown as a horticultural crop and hemp grown as an agricultural crop, and they recommended the growers consider hemp as part of a crop rotation....

Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Certification of Farms and Businesses Producing Agricultural Products Minnesota farmer Carolyn Olson shared her expertise in organic crops with farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in January. Olson and her husband transitioned to organic corn, soybeans, small grains, and alfalfa two decades ago to take advantage of the profit potential. She spoke at the convention about the challenges of weed management and pest and disease control, as well as problems with pesticide drift and acceptance of organic farmers by peers. A podcast is available online....

Related ATTRA Publication: Farm to School Sales: Profiles of Ranches Making It Work Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is seeking bid proposals from farms (and farm groups) to provide sustainably grown produce to the school district's Farm to School Program for the 2019-20 school year, reports Minnesota Ag Connection. Interested farms, farm cooperatives, food hubs, and aggregators are invited to complete the RFP to share information about their farm(s) and bid on specific produce items. Farm to School partner farms will be selected based on price, produce quality, environmental sustainability, supplier diversity, and grower values. For the current school year, MPS is...

In this episode, Tammy Howard, a specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, at NCAT’s headquarters in Butte, Montana, has a conversation with Rebeca Nolan of Dusty Hound Farms in Tetonia, Idaho. Rebeca and her wife, Amanda, began the farm in 2016. Rebeca shares their story and the strategies they employ to develop their farm, and she also talks about what she learned during NCAT/ATTRA’s Armed to Farm sustainable agriculture training for veterans. Amanda recently attended on of the Armed to Farm workshops in Montana. You can get in touch directly with Tammy Howard via email at tammyh@ncat.org Dusty Hound...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Marketing Sheep and Goat Products: Vegetation Management Services Nevada City, California, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for vegetation-management services to lower fire danger, reports Wired. 'Goat Fund Me' was created by the town's vice-mayor, who realized that seeking grant funding to pay the $1,000 per acre to have goats clear underbrush to reduce the area's combustible fuel load would take months. Meanwhile, the most effective time to bring in goats is in spring, and goat vegetation-management services are rapidly becoming booked for the season. One herd owner comments that the demand for vegetation-management services is...

Answer: Blackhead disease, also called Histomoniasis, is a serious disease capable of decimating turkey flocks and negatively affecting other poultry. Caused by the protozoan Histomonas meleagridis, Blackhead can also have a significant economic impact on chicken production. Physical Symptoms of Blackhead • Mustardy, yellowish colored stool — varies from a watery, foamy diarrhea to a dry, solid black stool with waxy yellowish streaks • Bulls-eye-shaped necrotic pitting on liver • Ceca filled with yellow, cheesy substance Behavioral Signs of Blackhead • Lethargy • Drooping wings • Dry, ruffled feathers • Suppressed appetite, increased thirst • Decreased/lack of flight distance (distance the turkey keeps between itself and humans) • Decreased/lack of inquisitiveness Blackhead...

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in cooperation with USDA-Risk Management Agency, has released two informative new guidebooks on how organic and transitioning growers can manage on-farm risk through crop insurance programs and sound soil health management. Introduction to Crop Insurance for Organic and Transitioning Producers explains how crop insurance works for organic and transitioning farmers, including coverage types and recordkeeping, as well as what to know when working with crop insurance agents.  Reducing Risks Through Best Soil Health Management Practices in Organic Crop Production offers practical tools and research on best soil health practices to build soil health and resilience...

Scientists at the University of Illinois are already building and selling autonomous, 3-D-printed robots that move up and down field rows under the crop canopy to collect crop data, reports Western Farmer-Stockman. Now they're working on adapting these robots with soft arms that would allow them to mechanically de-weed a field, or potentially harvest fruit. Project leader Girish Chowdhary says the work is motivated by a growing herbicide-resistant weed problem in agriculture, and comments that the small equipment could have particular applicability for organic and specialty-crop farmers....

In Indiana, the 12-day Savor Fort Wayne event promoting city restaurants has a special focus this year on locally sourced foods. Ten participating restaurants are featuring local ingredients. Northeast Indiana Local Food Network is promoting the restaurants that are featuring ingredients sourced from Northeast Indiana on their special Savor Fort Wayne menu, and highlighting the chefs, brewers, and distillers who selected them....

Researchers at Cornell University have published a study showing that when crop prices are high, there is a significant payoff for farms from coordinated water use. Instead of farms using more water and driving up costs of accessing water for all farms, coordinated use achieved higher efficiency.  The study used a scenario of alfalfa grown on two 50-acre plots in California. The study found that a coordinated approach to water management led to an overall efficiency gain of $93,000 for the two farmers when the groundwater supply was moderate and rainfall was normal. However, coordination would save $125,000 in scenarios...

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is seeking an energetic, passionate, experienced, and collaborative Coalition Director to provide executive-level leadership to NSAC, its staff, governing body, and membership. Applicants should be deeply committed to public service, experienced in administration and the field of sustainable agriculture, and someone who would enjoy leading a passionate, high-performing, member-engaged, and collaborative organization that is dedicated to advancing racial equity in its work on sustainable agriculture and food systems policy. NSAC offers competitive non-profit salary and benefits and is an equal opportunity employer. Applications will be accepted until a suitable candidate is identified....

Sterling College in Vermont and The Berry Center have announced that they will collaboratively launch The Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College in Henry County, Kentucky. This will be a no-tuition undergraduate sustainable agriculture degree program, inspired by the lifework and writing of farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry. Admission will be highly selective, but students will be chosen without regard for financial ability to pay tuition. A $2.5 million grant from the NoVo Foundation means that students will not pay tuition, giving graduates better prospects to farm without relying on student loans. Applications for the program are due...

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are testing “biosolarization,” a process that combines the sun’s heat with soil amendments made from agricultural wastes to manage weeds and other soil-borne pests. Adding organic, waste-based amendments like grape and tomato skins or ground nut hulls to the soil before tarping promotes growth of beneficial bacteria and can shorten the time required for solarization. The research team is testing biosolarization on different crops and at different scales, over the long term, to determine whether it is effective, predictable, and economical as a means of pest control and a way to improve soil...

Answer: Trapping is an effective method of control for small areas or light infestations. Snap traps are very effective, inexpensive, and may require more labor, but are considered to be more humane because they generally kill the rodent instantly. Baiting the traps with peanut butter, dried fruit or nuts, or dried pet food may be necessary to lure the rodent to the traps. It's good practice to tie the traps down (using twine, tying to a nearby pipe or beam, which will prevent too much movement of the trap) because you don’t want a wounded rodent dragging a trap to...

In this episode NCAT’s Rich Myers has a conversation about Whole Farm Revenue Protection Insurance with Jeff Schahczenki, an agricultural and natural resource economist with NCAT’s ATTRA – the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Jeff has more than 30 years of experience working on issues related to sustainable and organic agriculture, with a recent interest in risk management and federal policy. He wrote and help developed a national Organic Research and Education Initiative project entitled, Is Organic Farming Risky? Overcoming and Understanding Crop Insurance Barriers to Expanding Organic Food Production and Markets. He previously worked on a four-year national research project to...