The wild relatives of some of the world’s most important crops are at risk of extinction, threatening efforts to breed plants with greater resilience to climate change and improve yields, according to a new paper presented Tuesday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. (No paywall)
Extolled as a defense against erosion and nutrient loss during fallow seasons, cover crops are being planted on a larger portion of U.S. cropland than before, said USDA economists. Plantings expanded 50 percent in a five-year period, but still only 5 percent of cropland is sown with them—and incentive payments are an important factor in adoption of the practice.
The new era of climate mitigation on the farm would look like a beefed-up version of longstanding USDA conservation programs, augmented by a carbon bank that sets a floor price for carbon sequestration and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, said leaders of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance on Wednesday.
The Biden administration will work with farmers, ranchers and forest owners "to create new sources of revenue tied to their good climate practices," said agriculture secretary-nominee Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. With USDA's broad authority to aid farmers, he said he could launch carbon sequestration initiatives that soon would become a standard part of the federal farm program. No paywall .
Lawmakers decided as part of the 2018 farm policy law to expand the voluntary Conservation Reserve, which pays landowners an annual rent in exchange for idling fragile farmland for 10 years or longer. Although the expansion was expected to be popular — offering steady income after years of low commodity prices — it hasn't panned out. Enrollment continues a decline that began in 2007.
General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation.
In a survey of over 800 farmers and ranchers across five states, the Center for Rural Affairs found overwhelming support for the farm bill's Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The Nebraska-based organization, which advocates for environmental stewardship and rural communities, concluded that the CSP should continue to exist and be funded as a standalone farm-bill initiative.
The congressionally created Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has announced a $20-million research and education project to speed the adoption of soil management systems nationwide.
"Simple and familiar conservation practices, if applied in the right places," are key to reducing worrisome levels of nitrates and other types of farm runoff in the drinking water of rural communities, says the Environmental Working Group. In a report, "Trouble in farm country," the green group said stewardship of all working land should be a requirement for growers who want farm and crop insurance subsidies.
Farmers taking part in a survey about cover crops reported a nearly 3-percent increase in wheat yields when cover crops are used in the offseason, says the Conservation Technology Information Center. This was the first time the survey compiled enough responses to calculate the impact on wheat; past surveys associated cover crops with higher corn and soybean yields.
The USDA will open a three-month enrollment period on Nov. 14 for the Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers and ranchers for making soil, water and wildlife conservation a part of their daily operations. A small-farm group says producers should submit an initial application if they're interested in the program, but it says USDA has yet to fully describe its changes to CSP.
The government rarely checks to see if farmers carry out soil and water conservation duties that are part of the farm subsidy program, said Agri-Pulse, citing a report from the USDA's inspector general. The IG reported that random sample reviews were conducted in only one of USDA's farm support programs from 2012-14.
The largest U.S. farm organization announced an online survey open to all farmers and ranchers to rate their experiences with 10 USDA programs on soil and water conservation, rural energy, farmers markets, and farm operating and land ownership loans.
PARIS – Due to an initiative launched by France, there is now an international framework that for the first time brings agricultural soils into climate negotiations. Called “4 per 1000,” this new proposal aims to protect and increase carbon stocks in soil.
Wind and water erosion carry away as much as 40 million tonnes of topsoil each year, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a report that lists erosion as one of several threats to food production.
Some 98.2 percent of farmers met the June 1 deadline to show they practice soil and water conservation on their land. By filing the document, form AD-1026, producers are eligible for premium subsidies on crop insurance.
In the newly published book, "Understanding Mountain Soils," the FAO calls for attention to sustainable management of the soils, which are "home to a vast array of human activities ranging from quinoa cultivation in the Andes through European ski resorts to the collection of medicinal plants in Tajikistan's 'roof of the world' Pamir range."
Researchers know that a comparatively small share of cropland accounts for a disproportionate amount of erosion and nutrient runoff, writes economist Marc Ribaudo in Choices, the ag econ journal.