Posted by Andrew McGuire | April 30, 2014
Organic matter is the key to soil quality, but building soil organic matter levels can be slow and expensive. There is an alternative. Research shows (Franzluebbers, 2002) many soil functions improve when organic matter is concentrated the top 2-3″ of the soil, and that, for many soils and environments, this may be the most effective way to improve soil quality. Read more »
Posted by David Granatstein | April 28, 2014
Every now and then a news story or article really makes me stop and think. I just listened to an interview on NPR on Monday, April 14, with Dr. Martin Blaser, infectious disease specialist and author of the new book “Missing Microbes.” He is the Director of the NYU Human Microbiome Program. The microbiome refers to the diverse array of micro-organisms that live in or on our bodies. It turns out that some 70-90% of the cells in and on our body are not our own human cells – they are cells of various bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other critters we cannot see with our eyes or normally detect with any of our senses. Read more »
Posted by David Granatstein | February 24, 2014
I had the good fortune to attend the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, Nebraska recently. Soil health is in the limelight these days, with a new soil health initiative at the USDA-NRCS, a new Soil Health Partnership from the National Corn Growers Association, another soil health initiative from the Noble Foundation, and several recent meetings on soil health here in the Northwest including a session at the Washington State Horticulture meeting last December and a day-long soil quality workshop in Mt. Vernon. Read more »
Filed under Event, Perspectives on Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 5, 2014
Farm bills over the last forty years have shaped today’s agriculture systems and technology. They have done so by setting the “rules of the road” and defining or shaping research and investment priorities.
The new farm bill provides farmers, agribusiness, rural communities, and the food industry a more stable policy framework in which to make investment and planting decisions. But my sense is this farm bill could mark a historically significant inflection point. Farm bills since the 1970s have tried to become more market-driven, by lessening the impact of USDA farm programs on the choices made by farmers. Read more »
Posted by Andrew McGuire | January 28, 2014
This post follows Chad Kruger’s introduction to the discussion of GMOs and sustainability.
In a past post, I argued that killing a cover crop with an herbicide was better for building soil than killing it with tillage. Here is another option. Why not develop genetically engineered (GE) cover crops that die easily when sprayed with an innocuous substance? Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | January 24, 2014
Historically, there has been passionate resistance from advocates of organic and sustainable agriculture systems to the introduction and use of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The position, as most often stated, is that GE and sustainable agriculture (specifically organic agriculture) are mutually exclusive. This position is codified in the National Organics Standards which have excluded the intentional use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in organic production and handling. The high-profile ballot initiative (I-522) had this issue front and center in Washington State for most of last fall. Read more »
Posted by Craig Frear | January 22, 2014
In recent years, increasing numbers of consumers have become interested in making sure the food system is more sustainable. However, the bulk of effort and attention has gone toward the part of the food system that leads up to their forks. Much less attention has been paid to the “post-fork” part of our food system. This part of the food system is big. In 2008, food losses were estimated to be 30% at the retail and consumer levels in the U.S., with a total estimated retail value of $165.6 billion (Buzby and Hyman 2012). Other estimates are similar, ranging from 25–40%. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | December 11, 2013
My colleague Chuck Benbrook posted a fascinating article this week summarizing his recent paper that evaluates how organic milk impacts human nutrition. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the comments of Chuck’s post, another colleague Andy McGuire inquires and Chuck confirms, the likely reason organic milk is nutritionally superior to conventional milk is the composition of the feed ration (i.e., more grass).
Posted by David Granatstein | November 3, 2013
In the 1970s, I was part of the “back to the land” movement and very interested in organic farming as the solution to sustainability problems in agriculture. At that time, organic was close to invisible on the agricultural and food landscape. In spite of this, many of us strived toward “the whole world being organic.” A lot has changed since then; and a lot has not. Organic has undergone exponential growth in the marketplace, with increases in both the number of farmers and the land area involved. Organic is still a small fraction of the market, however, and many of the problems we saw decades ago still persist. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | September 6, 2013
Full disclosure: I come from a livestock-producing family tradition and I eat meat. And I like it. A lot.
In his latest provocative post, my colleague Andy McGuire reflects on a new paper that assesses the potential to feed a growing global population by shifting from meat consumption to a vegetarian diet. The paper presents a very compelling scientific rationale for the shift and has Andy contemplating his future dietary choices. Go read Andy’s post – it’s worth your time. In the conclusion of his post, Andy asks readers whether they would quit meat to feed the planet.
My answer to Andy is an unequivocal “No.” Read more »