sustainable agriculture


Photo: USDA-ARS/Scott Bauer

Northern Plains Drought Shows (Again) that Failing to Plan for Disasters = Planning to Fail

, Kendall Science Fellow

As the dog days of summer wear on, the northern plains are really feeling the heat. Hot, dry weather has quickly turned into the nation’s worst current drought in Montana and the Dakotas, and drought conditions are slowly creeping south and east into the heart of the Corn Belt. Another year and another drought presents yet another opportunity to consider how smart public policies could make farmers and rural communities more resilient to these recurring events. Read more >

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A riparian buffer region interspersed in crops on the landscape near Dallas, Texas. All the photos in this post are from the National Agroforestry Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, created by the Farm Bill in 1990 to accelerate the growth of agroforestry through a national network of partners. They coordinate research, education, outreach as well as demonstration sites and also develop tools and technology.

Arbor Day and Agroforestry: Green Infrastructure for Agriculture

, Kendall Science Fellow

Growing up I remember looking forward to Arbor Day as a time when we celebrated planting trees in school, a tradition I came to enjoy in April. As an adult—and as an agricultural scientist interested in how we diversify farms—Arbor Day is an opportune reminder of the benefits that trees and crops have when used together (much more than turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, which was the major selling point I learned as a kid). This has an official name: agroforestry. In the spirit of Arbor Day, I want to celebrate the diverse benefits of agroforestry, and share more about how we might increase trees in agricultural settings. Read more >

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Photo: Iowa State University/Lisa Schulte Moore

Sustainable Agriculture on the Chopping Block in Iowa

, Kendall Science Fellow

There has been unsettling news out of my former home over the last week, as the Iowa legislature plays politics with critical scientific research in the state. In the closing days of the legislative session, two budget bills moved swiftly that could force the closing of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a nationally recognized center for sustainable agriculture research. Read more >

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Cover Crop Challenges: A Reminder That In Agriculture, Even Small Changes Can Be Hard

, Kendall Science Fellow

Why don’t more farmers plant cover crops? This is a question I am asked all the time when I talk about my research on the topic. Cover crops are not new—their historic use in agriculture includes many ancient civilizations and even our Founding Fathers. Cover crops simply mean growing a plant to “cover” and protect the soil when it would otherwise be bare. Live plant roots can reduce erosion and water pollution, and lead to more productive soil with time. Read more >

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Food Production Does NOT Need to Double by 2050 (And Other Required Reading for the Next USDA Secretary)

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Shortly after the inauguration, I wrote a post outlining a set of five questions I thought the Senate should ask President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture. Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue had been named to the position just days prior, and though the selection is deeply flawed, I expected a Senate hearing and confirmation vote would follow promptly. Read more >

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