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Posts Tagged ‘agroecology’

Counting the Benefits of Agroecology: We Have the Tools, Let’s Use Them

With global challenges such as diminishing environmental quality and public health, combined with accelerating climate change, we need more than ever to know how to confront many problems at once. Since plants inhale carbon dioxide and soils store carbon, there are numerous reasons to expect agriculture to play a significant role for improving the human prospect. Indeed, scientific research documents that we have tools to achieve ecological and climatic sustainability, but here’s the catch—we have to use them. Read More

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Regardless of the Groundhog’s Shadow, Farmers and Scientists are Planning for Spring

With much of the country blanketed in snow, Groundhog Day comes around routinely as a happy reminder that spring is around the corner, plus or minus a few weeks. Even though Punxsutawney Phil predicted that we have more winter ahead of us this year, farmers and agricultural researchers are already busy planning for green pastures and fruitful fields. Read More

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Agriculture + Ecology: No Matter What You Call It, the Science of “Agroecology” Adds Up

As a child of America’s Dairyland and conservationist Aldo Leopold’s home (yes, that would be Wisconsin), I always loved how agriculture and ecology dominated the scenery. Driving through the state, though, I usually only spotted those two vistas out opposite windows. Read More

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Yes, Actually There Is a Bright Way Forward for Midwestern Agriculture

Picture this bright future: Farmers large and small, commodity groups, conservationists, government agencies, university researchers, federal funders and private philanthropies all agreeing on one thing. And that one thing is how you can practice agriculture while reducing environmental impact, improving water quality, protecting wildlife and producing alternative energy. Read More

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Scientists Say “Yes” to Investment in Sustainable Agriculture

Suspense. In early July, UCS launched a statement from 36 leading agricultural scientists calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the nation’s agricultural universities to shift their focus and research priorities toward a redefinition of the nation’s agricultural vision. These three dozen science heavyweights outlined the benefits of the modern science of agroecology, and called for greater investment of public resources in our nation’s long term interest. But would other experts join them? Read More

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Now What? Scientists Call for a Better Way to Invest in the Future of Agriculture

Iowa State University, April 2005. I stood at the front of the classroom, a veteran of 25 years of teaching at one of the nation’s front-line agricultural institutions, and I was trying hard not to show my disbelief. The young man who had just spoken was a superstar student and, like most agriculture students in Iowa, came from a farm. He’d just heard a team of fellow students report on the grass-fed beef system of the Argentine pampas, and his first reaction was to ask: “Cattle can really eat grass?” Read More

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Monsanto Supersizes Farmers’ Weed Problem

So now the Monsanto Company thinks its bad reputation with the public is primarily an air time problem. As the agribusiness giant’s Chief Technology Officer (and recent World Food Prize winner) Robert Fraley told Politico recently, Monsanto has been “absolutely riveted and focused on giving technology and tools to farmers to improve their productivity and yield and we haven’t spent nearly the time we have needed to on talking to consumers and talking to social media.”

Seriously?? Read More

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Small Farms, Not Monsanto, Are Key to Global Food Security

In the land of humongous farms, the critical importance of small farms for food security is a counterintuitive message. But if we look at what most of the largest farms are growing in the U.S. Midwest, or Argentina and Brazil, it is corn and soybeans to feed livestock and biofuel production. Neither contribute much to supplying food—and especially good nutrition—to the billions who cannot afford meat. Meat is a welcome part of many diets, but besides being expensive, is also an inefficient means to produce protein. Read More

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Small Insect’s Big Lessons for the Farm Bill: Agroecology and Breeding Top Monsanto’s Industrial Agriculture

My last post discussed the success of public sector scientists who discovered and developed genes in soybean, using conventional breeding, that confer resistance to the invasive soybean aphid. These insects cost US farmers billions of dollars per year.

In contrast, an article in the New York Times in late July used the dramatic example of citrus greening disease, which is threatening the citrus industry in the US, to tout the possibility of GE to remedy challenging pest problems. Whether these will eventually work is far from certain. But we should keep in mind that while such future promises catch the public’s eye, breeding continuously makes significant advances in crop improvement. Read More

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Cover Crops Dramatically Increase Corn Yields–Especially In Drought Conditions

Farmers planting crops that can’t be sold? That doesn’t sound like a sensible proposition, does it? After all, seed cost money and so does the equipment to get them in the ground. Why grow ’em if you can’t sell ’em? Read More

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