Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - December 1, 2010
Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.
News & Resources
News & Resources
Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers Released
American Farmland Trust has released A Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers & Ranchers, a new publication designed to help farmers and landowners assess environmental market opportunities, find more information, and better understand the risks in this marketplace. By definition, an environmental market is simply a market in which the products being bought and sold are environmental resources—both tangible things like conserved water or wetland acreage and less-tangible things like soil carbon storage, cleaned water, and renewable kilowatts. Some examples of environmental markets include reducing greenhouse gasses, improving water quality, restoring wetlands, protecting wildlife habitat, conserving water, generating renewable energy and others. While the guide was written for farmers and ranchers in Washington state, it also provides basic information that applies to environmental markets across the United States. The guide is available online.
Related ATTRA publication: Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
Report Says Declining Phosphate Supplies Pose Threat to Global Food Security
A new report from the UK's Soil Association reveals that supplies of phosphate rock are running out faster than previously thought and that declining supplies and higher prices of phosphate are a new threat to global food security. For instance, without fertilization from phosphorus it has been estimated that wheat yields could more then halve in coming decades. Recent analysis suggests that the world may hit 'peak' phosphate as early as 2033, after which supplies will become increasingly scarce and more expensive. The report notes that different farming systems vary enormously in their reliance on mined phosphate, and says that organic farms are more resilient to the coming phosphorus rock 'shock'. In addition, the report recommends a radical change in the way we treat human excreta, a rich source of natural phosphate. The report calls for a change to EU organic regulations to allow the use of human sewage on agricultural land. The complete report "A rock and a hard place: Peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security" is available online.
Report Examines Impact of Grass-based Organic Dairy Farming
A report recently released by The Organic Center (TOC) says organic dairy farming systems promote cow health and longevity by placing less stress on cows and feeding them healthier forage-based diets, while also improving the nutritional quality of milk. "A Dairy Farm's Footprint: Evaluating the Impacts of Conventional and Organic Farming Systems" compares milk and meat production and revenue earned, feed intakes, the land and agricultural chemicals needed to produce feed, and the volume of wastes generated by representative, well-managed conventional dairy farms and also representative, well-managed organic farms. A team of dairy specialists worked with TOC to build the "Shades of Green" (SOG) dairy farm calculator that was used in the comparisons. The Organic Center has released, free of charge, the SOG calculator, the full model results comparing the four representative farms, and a 92-page report providing detailed documentation and user instructions for the SOG calculator. This Critical Issue Report, the SOG calculator, and the user manual are available online.
Tile Drainage Contributes to Gulf Dead Zones
The tile drainage systems in upper Mississippi farmlands—from southwest Minnesota to across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio—are the biggest contributors of nitrogen runoff into the Gulf of Mexico, reports a Cornell/University of Illinois-Urbana study. To estimate nitrogen inputs and outputs, researchers constructed a database that included 1977-2006 data on corn, soybeans and other crops, livestock and manure, fertilizer inputs, atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and human populations for 1,768 counties within the entire Mississippi River basin. These data were then entered into a computer model designed to show nitrate yields for every county in the Mississippi River basin. The results revealed that the dominant source of nitrogen loss into the Mississippi came from fertilized cornfields on tile-drained watersheds in the upper Mississippi River basin, along with areas in southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas. To reduce such runoff, solutions include installing wetlands in areas where tiles drain to biofilter the water, and fertilizing fields in the spring instead of the fall. The researchers also say cover crops and diversified crop rotations would significantly reduce nitrogen losses.
North Carolina Local Food Campaign Passes $2 Million Mark
Since July, North Carolinians participating in the 10% Campaign have spent more than $2 million on food from local sources. The 10% Campaign is an effort to educate and encourage consumers to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on locally sourced food. Through the campaign website North Carolina consumers and businesses sign up and pledge to buy local food. Each week, participants receive a campaign e-mail, asking them to report how much they spent on local food that week. "We are excited that the 10% Campaign has reached the $2 million milestone in its first four months. I believe this is a reflection of the true commitment that North Carolina consumers have shown for their own local food systems," said Teisha Wymore, 10% Campaign manager. "As campaign participation grows, the dollars spent on local food also will continue to grow."
Livestock Selection for Quick Growth Compromises Disease Immunity
Dutch researchers say that selection of livestock animals for quick growth is at the expense of natural immunity against diseases, reports World Poultry.net. Ecophysiologists from Groningen University, the Netherlands, have published an article in the scientific journal Functional Ecology that reveals that selection for growth does indeed compromise immune function. The research studied the immune systems of poultry that had been selected for growth for several generations. Virtually without exception, it was shown that selection for rapid growth went at the expense of the immune system's efficacy.
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Western IPM Center Special Issues Grants
The Western Integrated Pest Management Center announces the availability of funds and requests proposals to address special issues in the West. Geographically, the Center covers the following states and territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam and Northern Marianas. Special issues funding may be requested to bring together a group of people to address emerging issues such as a new pest, water issues, development of proposals for larger grants based on documented stakeholder needs, or development of Pest Alerts. The Western IPM Center will give priority to requests that are multi-state in scope. Projects must be completed within one year of funding and be single-issue oriented. The maximum amount for a request is $5,000. Applications from private individuals and institutions, businesses, commodity organizations, and governmental and non-governmental organizations are invited.
Funds are available until exhausted.
Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program
The purpose of the BRAG program is to support the generation of new information that will assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms, including plants, microorganisms (including fungi, bacteria, and viruses), arthropods, fish, birds, mammals and other animals excluding humans. Investigations of effects on both managed and natural environments are relevant. Applications may be submitted by any United States public or private research or educational institution or organization for funding up to $1 million.
Applications are due February 2, 2011.
Michigan Project GREEEN
Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) is Michigan's plant agriculture research initiative housed at Michigan State University. The Project GREEEN Directors' Action Team announces a request for proposals for new fiscal year 2011 projects and current projects eligible for continued funding. All proposals must address critical needs of Michigan's plant industries, which are listed online and include particular crop research and general organic research.
Proposals are due January 12, 2011.
>> More Funding Opportunities
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Horticulture Industries Show Conference
January 14-15, 2011
Ft. Smith, Arkansas
The 30th Annual Horticulture Industries Show involves two days of educational programs and trade show activities for people with horticultural interests in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and surrounding states. The theme of this year's conference is "4 Season Farming: Meeting the Demand for Locally Grown Specialty Crops Year Round". The agenda features keynote presentations, educational sessions, a trade show, and networking opportunities.
Future Harvest - CASA Annual Conference
January 14-15, 2011
This 12th annual conference is called "We Are What We Eat: Community Health Through Sustainable Farming." The schedule includes pre-conference tours, workshops, panels and networking opportunities. Tracks include sustainable fruits and vegetables, grass-based systems, value-added, urban agriculture, and sustainable communities.
Michigan Family Farms Conference
January 15, 2011
Battle Creek, Michigan
The 8th annual Michigan Family Farms Conference will discuss challenges and growth opportunities for family farms. Connect with other growers and great resources, network, and learn about organic certification, hoophouses, agritourism and local markets, urban school gardening, food safety, niche marketing, alternative energy, CSAs and much more.
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