crop rotation


What Our 50-State Scorecard Says About Farming and Water Pollution (and What the Farm Bill Should Do About It)

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Last week, my colleagues and I launched a super-cool data tool on the UCS website. The 50-State Food System Scorecard compiles loads of publicly available data dealing with the health and sustainability of food and farming, and ranks the states on their performance in various data categories and overall.

Finding and evaluating a critical mass of data to say something reasonably comprehensive about each state’s food system—from farm to fork—was a big project, and its lead scientist Marcia DeLonge summarized how we did it and why we bothered in a post last week. So today, I want to home in on just one of the aspects we looked at.

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Photo: Tim McCable, USDA/CC BY 2.0 (Flickr)
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Extended crop rotations, which often include small grains like oats, pictured here, can provide financial benefits to farmers while also providing broader environmental benefits, like reduced soil erosion and runoff. Nick Ohde/Practical Farmers of Iowa

Crop Diversity: A Nice Thing If You Can Get It (and You Can Get It If You Try)

Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, PhD, , UCS

Diversity is incredibly important for a productive and resilient agrifood system. Diverse cropping systems can lead to greater  productivity, profitability and environmental health. Diversity in the form of extended crop rotations can also reduce weed, insect, and disease pressure, which can help farmers cut the costs of their purchased inputs like herbicides and insecticides. Beyond these financial benefits, diversifying crop rotations also provides broader environmental benefits that can be experienced at both the field scale (e.g., reduced erosion) and landscape scale (e.g., reduced water quality impairment), as noted in the UCS report Rotating Crops, Turning ProfitsRead more >

Nick Ohde /Practical Farmers of Iowa
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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Conservationist Garrett Duyck and David Brewer examine a soil sample on the Emerson Dell farm near The Dalles, OR. USDA NRCS photo by Ron Nichols.

Congress Could Help Farmers, Prevent Pollution, and Reduce Flood and Drought Damage. Will They?

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

The news lately has been full of Congressional battles—healthcare, the debt ceiling, and now tax “reform” (ahem)—and it’s starting to seem like Congress is only interested in blowing things up. But a huge legislative effort is gaining steam on Capitol Hill, one that is likely to have general bipartisan support, though you probably haven’t heard nearly as much about it. I’m talking about the next five-year Farm Bill—which really should be called the Food and Farm Bill, as it shapes that sprawling economic sector worth more than 5 percent of US GDP, and which Congress must reauthorize by September 30, 2018.

In this first of a series of posts on the 2018 Farm Bill, I look at how this legislation could do more to help farmers conserve their soil, deliver clean water, and even reduce the devastating impacts of floods and droughts, all of which would save taxpayers’ money. Read more >

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How Oats Could Save Iowa’s Farmers (and Fight Pollution)

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

That bowl of oatmeal pictured above was my breakfast this morning. The strawberries were from nearby Virginia (hello, spring!) but the oats may have come from as far away as Sweden, Finland, or Canada. In the future, my morning oats could be grown much closer to home, in a state like Iowa that is now dominated by corn and soybeans. A new UCS report shows why that would be a good thing for US farmers and our environment.

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The Transition To Crop Rotation: How Do We Get There?

, sr. scientist emeritus, Food & Environment

Recently, we have seen a flurry of stories about studies done on Iowa State University’s Marsden Farm demonstrating the power of crop rotation as an engine of modern sustainable agriculture. The study documented high yields and handsome profits on farming plots employing long crop rotations: three-or four-year rather than the usual two-year corn-soy rotations. In addition to high yields and high profits, the long rotations controlled weeds with only sparing use of herbicides and maintained productivity without excessive use of chemical fertilizers. Read more >

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