Nine out of 10 farmers say they definitely or probably will stick with cover crops after the expiration of financial incentives to add the crops to their operations, said a report based on a survey of 795 farmers nationwide. Half of the participants in the National Cover Crop Survey said they had received some sort of payment for cover crops in 2022.
Ukrainian scientists say soil samples from the Kharkiv region show that “high concentrations of toxins such as mercury and arsenic from munitions and fuel are polluting the ground,” according to a Reuters report.
Only 5 percent of U.S. cropland is planted to cover crops amid debate over their financial benefits to farmers. Congress may need to offer a "sizable" subsidy to growers if it wants large-scale adoption of the farming practice, said two university economists.
A growing number of farmers, researchers and nonprofits are working to transform the Midwestern corn and soybean belt into a more diverse cropping region, including a new USDA-funded project at Purdue University designed to study how to help growers diversify their farms. (No paywall)
Four months after it announced a temporary rule change, the USDA said on Wednesday that it would alter crop insurance rules permanently so farmers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops at any time and still be eligible for a full prevented planting payment.
High prices for corn and soybeans, coupled with the ethanol mandate and generous crop insurance, are spurring farmers in the Great Plains to plow up native grasslands in favor of commodity crops. The loss of these ancient carbon sinks "poses a conundrum for the Biden administration," which wants to cut agriculture's carbon emissions to net zero and conserve 30 percent of the nation's land in a bid to protect biodiversity.(No paywall)
The urgent need for systemic change in order to avoid biodiversity collapse and further climate catastrophe echoed across the opening weekend of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France. In a speech to kick off the congress on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of addressing both biodiversity and climate change in an integrated way, saying, “There is no vaccine for a sick planet.”(No paywall)
Five farm-state Republicans unveiled a package of climate bills that in one instance would allow private-sector donors to USDA conservation accounts to specify where the money would be spent and put "a name or a brand" on a project. Another of the bills would allow landscape-scale forest management projects of up to 75,000 acres — bigger than the District of Columbia — to reduce wildfire risk through forest thinning, controlled burns, salvaging dead or endangered trees, and creation of "fuel breaks" up to one-half mile wide.
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.
U.S. cropland could lose two inches of soil nationwide by 2035 if climate change delivers its expected droughts and floods, said the Union of Concerned Scientists on Thursday. In a report, the group recommended such steps as crop insurance discounts for farmers who adopt practices that reduce erosion and improve soil health.
In less than a decade, U.S. corn, soybean and wheat fields wiped out an expanse of native grasslands and other ecosystems larger than the state of Maryland, according to a new analysis, destroying crucial wildlife habitat and spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The new fields produced lower crop yields than existing farmland.(No paywall)
Agricultural processor Cargill said on Wednesday that it would support the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices on 10 million acres of North American farmland over the next 10 years.
Often cited as a way to reduce erosion or improve soil quality, cover crops are also useful in controlling weeds that have developed an herbicide tolerance, said a survey of farmers by the Conservation Technology Information Center on Wednesday.
Rattan Lal, one of the world's leading soil scientists, is this year's winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize, "the Nobel of agriculture," for his breakthrough research on the importance of carbon to soil health and the potential of carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. Lal's research "transformed the way the world saw soils," said the foundation that awards the annual prize.
As efforts to wean society off fossil fuels have stalled, “natural climate solutions” such as soil carbon sequestration have rapidly gained steam. But, as Gabriel Popkin reports in FERN's latest story, published with Yale Environment 360, "a growing number of scientists worry that mounting societal pressure to do something to counter climate change is pushing money into so-called carbon farming before the science needed to underpin it is mature."(No paywall)
Maine Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree rolled out a five-point plan to “support farmers in the fight against climate change,” offering a contrast to the Green New Deal announced earlier this year, which largely sidestepped agricultural issues and came under criticism for not engaging with farmers.(No paywall)
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.
Miscanthus, a fast-growing grass often grown as a biofuel, is now planted on six military sites, from Kansas to Kazakhstan, in a three-year NATO-run effort to clean up contaminated soil. At a conference earlier this month at Kansas State University, researchers reported that the grass stabilizes contaminants in the soil, preventing them from escaping into the air and water, and then gradually absorbs them.
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.