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Pasture, Rangeland, & Grazing Management

Proper planning and management of pastures, rangeland, and grazing practice can provide opportunities to significantly improve farm profitability and concurrently reduce environmental degradation.

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ATTRA’s Managed Grazing Tutorial

Have you heard that changing the way you manage your grazing animals can change the condition of your land and finances for the better? Interested in finding out more about how managing your livestock can improve your soil health, your pasture condition and your bottom line? This tutorial features sessions taught by National Center for Appropriate Technology specialists who are also livestock producers.
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Janet Bachmann, updated by Tammy Hinman NCAT Agriculture Specialists Published 2008 IP320 Abstract Garlic is a cool-season crop grown in most regions of...

NCAT’s ATTRA Agriculture Specialists are producing short videos to share what they are doing on our farms and homesteads, in hopes of giving people ideas for building food security and resiliency at home and in their communities. In this video, Devona Bell, NCAT’s director of sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities, shares her seed starting system – which is based in the sun room of her Virginia home and features homemade grow tables. Devona also discusses potting mix and her choice of seed varieties. We also hear from Eric Sharp, operations manager at Seven Springs Farm, where Devona buys her potting soil....

Here on my farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, I am extremely eager to get my garden started. Due to the uncertain times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am motivated to achieve greater self-sufficiency and resilience for my family.
By Devona Bell, Director of Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Communities & Local Foods...

I can hardly think of a perennial fruit easier to grow than elderberries. And I can hardly think of a food item with a stronger claim to health benefits. Coupling the ease of growing with this fruit’s new popularity as an effective medicine, this could be an opportune time for growers to consider establishing an elderberry planting for their family, or perhaps, more ambitiously, a commercial venture.
By Guy K. Ames, NCAT Horticulture Specialist...

This publication provides a foundation and tools for farmers looking to begin a CSA operation. It also explores many variations to the traditional model that have developed over the last generation and looks into what the future might hold for CSA.
By Daniel Prial, NCAT Agriculture Specialist ...

This webinar discusses conservation practices available to cotton farmers. It outlines weed control benefits, water use efficiency, and reduction of chemical fertilizers. If you are interested in reducing costs while maintaining yields, this webinar is for you....

This is a recording of the Electric Deer Fence Workshop that NCAT led on November 15, 2019 at Cobblestone Farms in Fayetteville, AR. In this video Kenny Simon from the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service discusses the components of an electric deer fence and demonstrates how to set up a 3-strand deer fence configuration. You will learn how to select an appropriate energizer, properly set ground rods, select fence posts, choose the right poly-wire, and test your fence. You can find more information on electric fencing for livestock at our Fencing and Watering Systems topic area. This workshop was supported by Assistance Agreement...

Well-managed soils infiltrate and store water (and nutrients) more effectively and help protect water quality above and below ground. Without sufficient organic matter, soil function, including water infiltration and storage, can be severely impaired. Our soils aren’t ready for the stresses, extreme rainfall events, and the droughts that climate change will bring. This webinar will help you understand how to protect against these stressors....

Related ATTRA Publication: Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding historically underserved producers participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) of the advance payment option. This option allows beginning, veteran, limited-resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to get conservation practice payments in advance of practice implementation. Under the advance payment option, such producers may request payments when they have final designs and job sheets and are ready to begin their EQIP practices. Advance payments provide at least 50% of the payment rate for each practice and must be spent within 90...

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a new proposed rule in the Federal Register, specifying four criteria the Agency would consider when determining whether an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage has occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act. According to the rule, USDA would test for undue preference using these four criteria: cannot be justified on the basis of a cost savings related to dealing with different producers, sellers, or growers; cannot be justified on the basis of meeting a competitor's prices; cannot be justified on the basis of meeting other terms offered by a competitor;...

A multi-stakeholder initiative led by Croatan Institute received a $700,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS. The project is aimed at developing an innovative, place-based financing model to support the adoption of farming systems that improve "soil wealth." According to a press release, this project will develop the emerging concept of rural regenerative organic agricultural districts, also known as ROADs, to help agricultural producers and landowners finance soil wealth using land-secured financing mechanisms and other place-based investing approaches that could unlock new sources of capital for implementing conservation practices with regenerative agricultural features. The national project will focus on four particular...

Scientists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research completed a study that shows plants produce healthier fruit when their leaves have been wounded by insects. Researchers found that when strawberry plant leaves were damaged to mimic insect feeding, plants activated a defense mechanism that resulted in more antioxidants in their fruit. The study had its origins in a theory that organically grown produce could have higher levels of beneficial compounds due to a higher incidence of insect activity. Researchers say the results of this study could affect the way that both conventional and organic produce is grown, by introducing pre-harvest stress tools...

Related ATTRA Publication: No-Till Case Study, Miller Farm: Restoring Grazing Land with Cover Crops USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) released The Fate of Land in Expiring Conservation Reserve Program Contracts, 2013-16. The report tracks what happened to 7.6 million acres of land that expired from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during this period. Under the CRP, landowners voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive cropland for 10 to 15 years in exchange for an annual rental payment. The report shows that 36% of land under expired contracts was reenrolled, while 51% was put into some type of crop production. About 13% of expiring CRP land...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Marketing Sheep and Goat Products: Vegetation Management Services The California city of Anaheim is using grazing goats as part of its fire-prevention plan, reports KQED. Goats are able to navigate the steep terrain of city hillsides, and they consume invasive grasses and plants that experts say are making fire danger worse. The company Environmental Land Management contracts with the city for grazing services. Even though some challenge the effectiveness of goats for protecting homes from fire, company Operations Manager Johnny Gonzales notes soaring demand for goat-grazing services. "It's not an underestimation to say that we got over...

Answer: In conventional turkey production, the Broad Breasted White is the most commonly used variety. The Broad Breasted White is a fast-growing bird, able to reach a marketable weight in about 12 to 14 weeks. However, they have trouble reproducing naturally without the aid of artificial insemination and may have health problems stemming from rapid growth. Although the Broad Breasted White can thrive in pasture-based systems, many consumers are more interested in purchasing heritage-breed turkeys. Reasons cited for this interest include taste differences, genetic conservation, or interest in something different than the perceived norm. Unlike heritage breeds, Broad Breasted Whites...

National Seed Swap Day is set for the last Saturday of January each year; this year's date is January 25, 2020. Organizations across the country are invited to host seed swap events for gardeners and farmers. A list of currently scheduled events is available online, including seed trading opportunities and educational programs....

The Natural Resources Institute at Texas A&M has published Status Update and Trends of Texas Working Lands 1997–2017. The report, based on Census of Agriculture datasets by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, is in its fifth iteration. The report reveals significant population growth in Texas, as well as increases in land values in proximity to major metropolitan areas. Texas gained approximately 1,000 new working farms and ranches per year from 1997 to 2017, although average ownership size decreased from 581 acres in 1997 to 509 acres in 2017. The report also notes that from 1997 to...

Mt-Glen farms, owned and operated by Dean and Rebecca Jackson, received the 2019 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award of $10,000 and a crystal award. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters in 20 states who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Mt-Glen Farms is known for protecting the environment while raising high-quality dairy cattle. The Jacksons use agricultural conservation practices that retain nutrients on the soil while protecting water quality....

Members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) are inviting individual farmers and ranchers to sign on in support of the Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture. This letter will be sent to Congressional members and leaders with USDA in the spring of 2020 to lift up farmer voices to speak about the impact of a changing climate on their communities and the solutions agriculture has to offer. The letter does not endorse specific policy proposals but broadly calls for investments in agricultural solutions to the climate crisis, including soil health, farmland conservation, on-farm renewable energy, sustainable livestock...

Solar energy project owners are increasingly using grazing animals as an alternative to mowing their solar sites, reports Solar Power World. Owners find that grazing animals cost considerably less than fossil-fuel-powered mowing over the life of a project. What's more, they reduce carbon production of projects and help support a healthy local agricultural economy. Solar projects in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and other states have successfully employed sheep for site maintenance. Some solar projects are also changing the plantings on site to include more diversity, pollinator-friendly plants, and more native species....

USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have launched a Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation. The new website describes the federal review process for certain biotechnology products and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies charged with overseeing agriculture biotechnology products. ...

More than 70 scientists from 21 countries collaborated on a road map to insect conservation and recovery, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. They say that all over the world, insect species are suffering from multiple human-induced stress factors: habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change, and overharvesting. The scientists state that "insects are vitally important in a wide range of ecosystem services of which some are indispensible for food production and security, as in pest control." The road map calls for immediate, mid-term, and long-term actions. The scientific experts involved in the road map agree that insect...

USDA approved the first set of plans submitted by states and Indian tribes for the domestic production of hemp under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. Plans were submitted by the states of Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes. To produce hemp, growers must be licensed or authorized under a state, tribe, or USDA production program. USDA maintains a list of plans under review and approved plans on its website....

Related ATTRA Publication: Maple Sugaring: An Introduction to Small-Scale Commercial Production The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets commissioned market research on Vermont maple syrup and value-added maple products to determine market conditions, trends in consumer demand, and current distribution channels. The report, completed by Atlantic Corporation, identified a growing role for maple syrup as a healthy alternative sweetener and recognized its health benefits. The report also noted an increasing role for maple syrup as an ingredient in more food products, and pointed out a number of new food products containing maple. The goal of this research is to provide Vermont...

In this first part of a two-part series, Felicia Bell, sustainable agricultural specialist at NCAT’s Gulf States Office in Jackson, Mississippi, interviews Wendell Paris about the history of food cooperatives in the South and his involvement in this movement, specifically in the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Mr. Paris is the Chairman of the Board for Panola Land Buyers Association and has been involved in the Federation of Southern Cooperatives since its inception, which took place during the Civil Rights movement. In this episode, he describes the connections between the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of the food cooperative model in...

Managed Grazing Innovation Center (MGIC), an online school created by Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA), is opening its courses to the general public beginning Spring Semester 2020. MGIC is offering anyone the same slate of six classes required for Apprentices: Dairy Cattle Health and Wellness; Milk Quality; Dairy Cattle Nutrition, Feeds and Feeding; Soil and Water Resources Management; Farm Business Management; and Managed Grazing Systems for Dairy Cattle. Students can take courses individually or complete all six within five years to earn a Managed Grazing Dairy Certificate. The one-credit Spring Semester classes began January 6, 2020, and run through March 28,...

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued an updated guideline on documentation needed to support animal-raising claims made on meat or poultry product labeling. The updated guideline, which was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2019, includes changes made in response to comments on the guideline posted in October 2016. The guidance addresses the use of animal-raising claims such as "vegetarian-fed," "grass-fed," and "raised without the use of antibiotics" on product labels. This guideline is intended to facilitate the approval process for labels bearing animal-raising claims. ...

University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences published results of research on irrigation efficiency for container-grown plants in the journal HortScience. Researchers compared container irrigation guided by leaching fraction with evapotranspiration-based irrigation scheduling that used real-time weather information. The researchers found that small daily adjustments to the amount of water applied based on evapotranspiration were not beneficial for saving water compared to adjustments made every one to three weeks, based on leaching fraction tests. The leaching fraction is determined simply by dividing the amount of container drainage by the amount of irrigation water applied to the container. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and Whole-Farm Revenue Protection: Understanding the Differences Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has released Volume 6 of its updated 7th edition of the Farmers' Guide to Disaster Assistance. This volume focuses on USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). The 64-page PDF publication provides basic information on NAP, including eligibility and coverage, how to apply, collecting benefits, and appeal rights. It is available free online....

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The interim rule includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill. Changes to ACEP for agricultural land easements include the following: authorizing assistance to partners who pursue "Buy-Protect-Sell" transactions, requiring a conservation plan for highly erodible land that will be protected by an agricultural land easement, and increasing flexibility for partners to meet cost-share matching requirements. ACEP aids landowners and eligible entities with conserving, restoring and protecting wetlands, productive agricultural lands, and grasslands. NRCS accepts ACEP applications...

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis are exploring the yield potential of "lost crops," productive plants that were grown in North America for thousands of years before being abandoned. Historical evidence shows that people purposefully tended crops of goosefoot, erect knotweed, maygrass, little barley, and sumpweed. Natalie Mueller leads research that is trying to rediscover how these crops were grown and how well they produced. In the Journal of Ethnobiology Mueller reported research results showing that growing goosefoot and erect knotweed together is more productive than growing either one alone. In fact, when grown together, the two plants have...

Answer: The smut and bunt diseases can basically be broken into two groups. In the first group, fungal spores occur on the exterior of the seed coat. This group includes common bunt of wheat, covered smut in barley, and loose smut in oats. These spores on the coating of the grain infect the plant after seeding but before emergence. These diseases can be quite serious: common bunt can wipe out 60% to 70% of a crop. However, because these spores are on the exterior of the seed, some organic treatments show promise. Organic producers in Europe have had success with a...

Related ATTRA Publication: Non-GMO Dairy Transition Guide USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) updated its guideline on how establishments can make label claims concerning the fact that bioengineered or genetically-modified (GM) ingredients or animal feed were not used in the production of meat, poultry, or egg products. These "negative claims" are termed a special statement or claim that must be submitted to FSIS for approval before it may be used on a product distributed in commerce. However, the updated guideline specifies that certified organic products may be labeled with negative claims without additional third-party certification or documentation when the negative claim...

Related ATTRA Publication: Soil Solarization and Biosolarization Oregon State University (OSU) plant pathologist Jennifer Parke found that soil solarization may offer Northwest organic farmers an effective way to control soil pathogens and weeds, reports Organic Farmer. Although the technique has proven effective in hotter climates, it didn't work in the cooler Pacific Northwest until Parke tried using new, non-condensing film made for the greenhouse industry. Using the film for solarization heats the soil by about 10°C: enough to kill pathogens but not beneficial microorganisms. Field testing in nurseries showed dramatic reductions in weeds and produced healthier plants. Parke's research team is now...

A three-year research project funded by Northeast SARE looks at the whole health and resilience of the farmer(s) and farm employee(s). It's the project of a research team that includes Leslie Forstadt from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Anu Rangarajan and Violet Stone from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Jennifer Hashley from Tufts-New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Rachel and Steffan Schneider from the Institute for Mindful Agriculture/Hawthorne Valley, and Daniel MacPhee from Blackbird Rise Farm. The project will focus on creating reflective spaces for farmers to gather and contemplate how elements of wellness play out in their lives and...

A report from the University of Illinois, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, explored the feasibility of regional phosphorus recycling in the Midwest. Mined phosphorus is used as an agricultural fertilizer, and there is some concern about the longevity of these supplies. At the same time, phosphorus runoff from fields and phosphorus from livestock manure, ethanol and soybean processing, and wastewater poses a water-quality problem. The University of Illinois study found that phosphorus can be recovered from water and altered into a plant-accessible form, but the cost of doing so exceeds the current cost of mined phosphorus. Nonetheless, the...

Related ATTRA Tutorial: An Illustrated Guide to Growing Safe Produce on Your Farm Penn State Extension has developed food safety training curriculum materials tailored specifically for Amish and Mennonite growers. According to a press release, the educational materials are aimed at accommodating Amish produce growers who do not prefer computer or other electronic training materials. They are designed to be presented in a way that reflects the unique farming practices and learning preferences of these farmers. The curriculum materials include a FSMA Produce Grower Training slide set and a Training Flip Chart for Amish Harvesters and Handlers of Fresh Produce....

Related ATTRA Tutorial: Managed Grazing Speakers during the Minnesota Cattlemen's Convention held in December highlighted the soil health benefits of rotational grazing, reports Minnesota Farm Guide. Several speakers demonstrated how rotationally grazed pastures prevent erosion and increase the soil's water-storage capacity. Brian Pfarr, Redwood County SWCD resource specialist, explained how cost-share funding through NRCS helped him put the fencing and water infrastructure in place to begin rotational grazing. After eight years he has nearly halved the amount of pasture it takes to feed a cow-calf pair, and 23 native species of plants and flowers have returned to the pastures, while large stands...

This episode is the second of two featuring a conversation between Kara Kroeger, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program, and Fred Provenza. Fred is a well-known author and expert on animal health, human health, plant health, and how they are related – as well as their role in the care of ecosystems. Kara works out of NCAT’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. The conversation took place at the recent 2019 Regenerate Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosted by the Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and the American Grassfed Association. There may be a bit of background...

The Kansas Department of Agriculture, along with several Kansas ag partners, unveiled KansasAgStress.org, a new website to provide resources and support to those dealing with ag-related stress. The website addresses the challenges that Kansas farmers, ranchers, and their families face, such as natural disasters, depressed commodity prices, and other issues that can lead to mental and emotional distress, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Visitors to the website can find local and national resources for those issues, as well as support in areas ranging from stress management to financial and legal challenges....

Chipotle Cultivate Foundation has announced a new Seed Grants program in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and Niman Ranch. The foundation donated $250,000 raised through sales in Chipotle restaurants on December 6, 2019, its first "Farmer Friday," to the National Young Farmers Coalition to help start the new Seed Grants Program for young farmers. The Seed Grants program will offer startup grants to young farmers under age 40. Support can go towards needs such as a new barn, new equipment, or a just a day-to-day jumpstart. In addition, during the Rose Parade on January 1, 2020, the...

Trials at Carrington Research Extension Center in North Dakota demonstrate how intercropping can increase yields, reports Farm and Ranch Guide. Research agronomist Mike Ostlie notes that today's equipment makes it possible to plant two crops at once, harvest them at once, and then separate them. Intercropping works best with a large-seeded crop and a small-seeded crop. Some examples are field peas and canola or chick peas and flax. With intercropping, the farmer is able to gain more yield in a given amount of space, because the different crop plants utilize different resources. However, the cost of separating and marketing the...

The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) awarded nearly $57 million for agricultural land use planning and land conservation to promote infill development and keep the state's valuable farm and ranch lands available for agricultural production. The investment of California cap-and-trade dollars in the fifth round of SGC's Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) will fund six planning grants and 31 agricultural conservation easements in regions across the state. SGC awarded more than $55.5 million to land trusts and local governments working with farm and ranch owners to implement agricultural easements to conserve their properties. These projects were selected based on...

USDA has issued an end-of-year summary of implementation accomplishments for the 2018 Farm Bill, documenting actions taken since the Farm Bill was signed a year ago. The department's top accomplishments are listed by Farm Bill title in a press release. USDA notes that it will "continue to work diligently to implement the remainder of the Farm Bill." ...

ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is encouraging consumers to participate in a week-long Factory Farm Detox consumer challenge to eliminate factory-farmed foods and replace them with more humane and sustainable alternatives. Participants can choose any week during January to participate in the challenge. Participants can opt for products bearing meaningful animal welfare certifications, including Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 2+, or plant-based products. Participants receive support via a text-based helpline that aids them in finding more humane food, online label guides, discussion starters, and...

Answer: There are many differences when it comes to processing plants. Small to mid-size plants can especially differ in these key areas. When analyzing a processor, the following factors should be taken into account and then investigated to see if they will properly fit the needs of your livestock operation. First, a processing plant should be located within an appropriate range of your operation. Transporting animals over long distances can result in excess stress and have a negative impact on the quality of meat harvested. With poultry or other smaller stock, losses can occur, especially in inclement weather. Excess time spent...

Related ATTRA Publication: Crop Insurance Options for Specialty, Diversified, and Organic Farmers USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced a new crop insurance option for hemp growers in select counties of 21 states in 2020. The pilot insurance program will provide Actual Production History (APH) coverage under 508(h) Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) for eligible producers in certain counties in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The MPCI coverage is for hemp grown for fiber, grain, or CBD oil for the 2020 crop year....

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service updated its High Plains Crop Profitability Analyzer budgeting tool for 2020. The spreadsheet contains four sections: enterprise budgets that require user input, break-even price estimates, comparative returns, and optimal irrigation analysis. Irrigated crops available for analysis are alfalfa, canola, corn, corn silage, cotton, peanuts, sorghum, sorghum seed, sorghum silage, sorghum Sudan grass, soybeans, sunflowers, triticale, and wheat. Dryland crops include canola, cotton, sorghum, sorghum Sudan grass, sunflowers, and wheat. Though budgets are for the High Plains, the tool is flexible enough to modify for use in other areas of the country, as well....

The USDA National Agroforestry Center has posted a Story Map that provides an overview of windbreaks in the Great Plains. Little information is available regarding the status of windbreaks. USDA National Agroforestry Center and partners at the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station Forest Inventory & Analysis are developing methods to inventory and map these trees. Working with partners at state forestry agencies, the partners are producing high-resolution mapping outputs that provide information to assess the status of these trees and monitor trends towards the future. This Story Map provides an overview of the benefits, types, and trends of windbreaks,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Renewable Energy Opportunities on the Farm Two guides to help landowners navigate solar leases are available from the National Agricultural Law Center. The Farmland Owner's Guide to Solar Leasing helps landowners understand solar energy development and the solar leasing process. It covers topics such as property taxes, government programs, common legal documents, and more. A second publication, Understanding Solar Energy Agreements, provides information for landowners considering and negotiating leases. Topics addressed include conflicting land uses, responsibilities of each party, and typical payment structures. Both publications are available online....

Profiles in Land and Management, a project funded by the McKnight Foundation, the NoRegrets Initiative, and TomKat Ranch, features profiles showcasing land managers who are using livestock as a positive tool to achieve their goals. The profiles feature large and small operations on public and private lands across the West. However, they share the theme of innovative land managers thoughtfully harnessing the impact of grazing livestock as a valuable tool for ecological management to improve soil health, decrease bare ground, and increases water infiltration and retention. ...

Soil Centric has introduced a beta version of its Pathfinder Tool, designed to help identify regenerative opportunities. The tool lists opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and land stewards, as well as nonfarmers. For farmers, opportunity categories include improving soil health, incorporating agroforestry, and integrating animals. The listings range from information resources to internships to online courses. Nonfarmer opportunities range from volunteering to eating at carbon-neutral restaurants....

Related ATTRA Publication: How to Accept SNAP Cards at your Farmers Market The Idaho Statesman reports that even as Idaho farmland is lost to development, the number of small farms is increasing in some counties. Some of these small farmers are able to sell what they produce locally, thanks to a network of robust farmers markets. Idaho has 47 registered farmers markets, ranging from small to large, but even the smaller ones can help farmers generate a significant portion of their income. On the large end of the scale, the Boise Farmers Market boasts 115 vendors and more than $1 million in...

Related ATTRA Resources: Podcasts University of Vermont Extension has introduced The Ag Engineering Podcast. This series of 10- to 20-minute, in-depth podcasts chats with small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers who share tools, tips, and techniques to improve the sustainability of your farm. The first three episodes address caterpillar tunnels, managing multiple sales channels, and forming habits that create a sustainable farm business....

The Ecological Farming Association will present the Steward of Sustainable Agriculture Awards (Susties), the Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture Awards (Justies), and the Golden Pliers Award at the EcoFarm Awards Dinner Banquet on January 24, 2020, as part of the 40th EcoFarm Conference. The Sustie Award honors those who have been actively and critically involved in ecologically-sustainable agriculture and have demonstrated their long term, significant contributions to the well-being of agriculture and the planet. This year's recipients are Lynn Coody, Leonard Diggs, and Rosie and Ward Burroughs. Meanwhile, the Justie Award honors those who has been active advocates...

Cornell University researchers have published a study that examined how organic farming practices affected soil health in the long term. The study also explored how different aspects of soil health affected crop productivity. For example, it found that measuring soil invertebrate populations can indicate soil health. The study compared four cropping systems following 12 years of organic management and found that past nutrient inputs, how much soils had been disturbed, weed management, and the preceding crop all produced lasting productivity effects. In particular, the study found that low microbial activity and reduced soil aggregate stability can limit crop productivity even...

Answer: Instead of creating a custom potting mix from scratch, you may choose to purchase a basic commercial mix and boost it with additional organic amendments. This allows you to save time mixing bulk ingredients, but still end up with a premium potting mix. A basic "peat-lite" mix, composed primarily of peat moss and perlite and/or vermiculite, makes a good foundation for a custom mix. These commercial mixes already have a balanced pH and contain an organic wetting agent to help the peat moss absorb water. A starter fertilizer is usually included in commercial peat-lite mixes, but you may choose...

A feature from Purdue University showcases the development of FieldWatch, a voluntary program that allows participants to register crops on a public database to help protect them from pesticide drift. The program began as an effort to protect specialty crops by alerting neighbors and pesticide applicators to the presence of sensitive crops. Later it expanded to include listings of row crops and bee hive locations. The program has grown to cover 22 states and a Canadian province, and plans further expansion. More than 30,000 individual FieldWatch users have enrolled more than 1.3 million acres in the program. Participants call the...

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is accepting public comments on its draft Request for Grant Applications for the next round of healthy soils funding to be awarded through its Climate Smart Agriculture Incentives Programs. These programs include the Healthy Soils Program (HSP) Incentives Program and the HSP Demonstration Projects. The draft RGAs establish parameters by which competitive grants for the HSP Incentives Program and the HSP Demonstration Projects must be submitted and evaluated. Public comments on the draft guidelines will be accepted until January 7, 2020. "We hope these changes will make this program more accessible to a...

A study by University of California Cooperative Extension examined how wildfire smoke affected wine grapes near burned areas. After 2018 wildfires in California, many growers scrambled to find new markets for grape crops that buyers feared were tainted with smoke. This study showed that wind direction and speed, temperature, and a vineyard's proximity to an active fire are factors that can help growers and winemakers predict smoke damage to fruit. For example, tests revealed that grapes from some smoke-filled vineyards were not discernibly affected by smoke, because they were far enough from fires that the volatile gases that most affect...

Related ATTRA Publication: Food Safety Considerations for Integrating Livestock into Produce Cropping Systems A new study from Iowa State University shows that livestock grazing can be integrated with organic crops without posing a significant food safety risk. The study involved experimental organic farming systems in Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania on which corn and soy crops were rotated with cattle grazing on small grains. Researchers found no traces of common strains of E. coli or salmonella on the meat produced in the experiments, and pathogens detected in feed, fecal, and hide samples remained below thresholds commonly detected in conventional production systems. Iowa State...

Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas Cover crops can help the sustainability of star fruit farms, according to research reported by the American Society of Agronomy. Florida International University researcher Ariel Freidenreich says star fruit, or carambola, is becoming more popular as a crop in south Florida. It offers an alternative to citrus and avocado, crops that are challenged by disease in Florida. In this study, the research team explored how cover crops of sunn hemp and velvet bean contribute organic matter to the soil and improve nutrient availability for the cash crop. The cover crops can...

In this video, Colin Mitchell and Lindsey Richards from the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative lay out how to plant, maintain, and terminate Sunn Hemp in the hot subtropical climate of the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is a warm season nitrogen fixing species that can reach over six feet tall. This upright legume creates substantial biomass that can outcompete weeds, can be grazed as a high protein forage, and is resistant to root rot nematodes. It can be terminated with a crimper-roller, making it a good option for organic systems that are not allowed to use herbicides....

In this video, Colin Mitchell and Lindsey Richards from the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative discuss using Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan) as a cover crop option for hot and humid areas. Pigeon pea is grown around the world as a protein-rich food source. In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and other subtropical areas, it can be used as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop that stands up well to extreme heat once established. Pigeon pea does a fantastic job of shading the soil in hot summers, provides bioavailable nitrogen for the next cash crop, and reduces both wind and water erosion. While...

In the hot and humid subtropics of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, Iron and Clay Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) can be used to cover the soil during the spring, summer, and fall. Cowpeas fix nitrogen, provide habitat for beneficial insects, reduce wind and water erosion, and more. In this video, Colin Mitchell and Lindsey Richards from the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative discuss the benefits of Iron and Clay Cowpea and lay out the process for inoculating legume cover crops and checking to see if they are creating active nodules--putting nitrogen into soils that will be bioavailable for the next cash crop....

Researchers from Cornell University found that consumer perception of produce was influenced by having a label that identified it as locally grown. In a blind taste test of broccoli, consumers rated California broccoli higher than local broccoli on taste and appearance. However, when the produce was labeled as locally grown, consumers ranked its flavor higher and indicated their willingness to pay more for it. The study results could have implications for efforts to develop an East Coast broccoli industry using varieties with an appearance different from the standard California broccoli. Researchers say the study results could also influence efforts to...

This episode is the first of two featuring a conversation between Kara Kroeger, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, and Fred Provenza. Fred is a well-known author and expert on animal health, human health, plant health, and how they are related – as well as their role in the care of ecosystems. Kara works out of NCAT’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. The conversation took place at the recent 2019 Regenerate Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosted by the Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and the American Grassfed Association. There may be a bit of...

Colorado State University announced creation of the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative, a first-of-its-kind collaborative to support profitable, sustainable, and healthy livestock production. CSU livestock and animal health experts will work alongside industry, government, and other stakeholders in addressing 21st-century challenges, as well as training livestock industry professionals. The collaborative will look at enhancing sustainable and healthy livestock systems through the examination of new technologies and disease treatments as well as soil, plant, animal, and atmospheric microbiomes, among other areas. The collaborative is spearheaded by College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and includes Colorado...

Through a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) grant, researchers at Furman University studied the feasibility of transforming forested land on southern farms to silvopasture systems. Professor John Quinn and colleagues studied suitable understory forage mixtures specifically for grazing pigs, removed invasive weed plant species to determine how that impacted wildlife nesting and foraging habitat, and compared soil quality of managed and unmanaged forested land. They found that some forage mixtures did not provide enough forage or provide for soil retention. They also found little difference in soil quality in this short-term study. "The results suggest that forest...

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) announced that Lauren Langworthy will serve as the new executive director of the organization. Langworthy was the program director before taking on the role of interim executive director in March. Langworthy joined the staff at MOSES in early 2015. She and her husband also own a 153-acre farm in Wheeler, Wisconsin, with rotationally grazed sheep and Highland cattle. MOSES is a nonprofit organization that supports organic and sustainable agriculture and is well-known for the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country's largest event focused on organic and sustainable farming. ...

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is awarding about $12.5 million to 19 projects through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. The program supports the development of innovative systems and technologies for private lands conservation. In 2019, the program focused on four priority areas: water quantity, urban agriculture, pollinator habitat, and accelerating the pace and scale of conservation adoption. A full list of recipients, with brief project descriptions, is available online....

Related ATTRA Publication: Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting public comments on its interim rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The rule includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill. These include creating incentive contracts and payments for incentive practices to better support locally led conservation needs, as well as requiring NRCS to offer an advance payment option for historically underserved producers. The interim rule also raises the payment cap for producers participating in the Organic Initiative to $140,000. Additionally, it expands the Conservation Innovation Grant program,...

A wide range of food stakeholders met recently in Wyoming for a Conference on Forming a Wyoming Food Coalition and Action Agenda, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. Wyoming is the only state that doesn't have a food council, and participants in this meeting were looking at how the private sector and state nonprofits could collaborate to address several different food-system issues. Farmers and ranchers are operating on narrow margins, yet comparatively little of the produce purchased in the state is grown there. Though 13% of state residents experience hunger, Wyoming has a low rate of participation in the SNAP program. Participants...

Related ATTRA Resources: Local Food Systems University of Maine at Presque Isle, University of Maine at Farmington, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Jasper Wyman & Sons, and Sodexo are partnering on a project that will increase capacity to process locally grown vegetables in Maine, reports Mainebiz. The project received funding from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation through the New England Food Vision Prize. The project will help connect sustainably grown New England vegetables with the institutional market, as well as with hunger-relief programs in schools and at food banks. This project is one of six funded by the New England Food Vision Prize,...

The Better Cotton Innovation Challenge is a global project seeking innovative ideas and solutions to improve sustainable cotton farming practices around the world. Sponsored by the The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), with the support of Dalberg Advisors, the challenge calls for innovators to submit disruptive solutions to enable effective and customized farmer training and efficient data collection. The challenge team invites innovators from universities, research and development labs, start-ups and nonprofit organizations to apply. Innovators will undergo three competitive application stages, receive mentorship from experts, and gain access to networking opportunities with industry...

USDA Economic Research Service has released America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2019 Edition. This report provides an overview of U.S. farms, including the latest statistics on production, financial performance, and farm household characteristics by farm size. Among the findings, 98% of U.S. farms are family farms, and these accounted for 88% of farm production in 2018. Although 90% of farms are considered small, they accounted for only 21% of production....

Answer: Wintertime or dry-period feeding may include supplements in addition to hay. Grain (corn, barley, oats) is used as a supplement to provide energy. Soybean or cottonseed meal is used to provide protein. Other potential feedstuffs include crop residues such as cornstalks, crops spoiled by wet weather, cull vegetables, and by-products from cereal milling, wheat milling, and food processing. Trace-mineralized salt or other mineral supplements are also needed. It is best to feed calcium, phosphorous, and trace minerals in the grain or in a salt mixture to ensure that the animals actually eat them. Test your forages to determine their mineral...

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School is making available a free online Farm Lease Builder as part of its Farmland Access Legal Toolkit. The Farm Lease Builder creates a free customized lease draft for farmers based on their specific needs, significantly reducing the cost of legal services. "This tool provides a comprehensive process for helping farmers and landowners think through how they'd like to handle issues that commonly arise in a farm lease situation," explains Amanda Heyman, CAFS project partner and consultant. The tool walks farmers through the decision-making process and creates a draft...

Related ATTRA Tutorial: Beginning Farmer Tutorials California Farm Academy's Beginning Farmer Training Program is accepting applications for 2020. The program runs from February 18, 2020, through the end of September. Classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4:30-7:30 p.m., and two Saturdays per month at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, California, or at other nearby locations. In this immersive educational program, students have the opportunity to gain farm production and business knowledge through lectures by farmers and agricultural professionals, hands-on field experience, and farm visits. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Marketing Sheep and Goat Products: Meat The American Lamb Board has introduced a suite of new tools that focus on why consumers can feel good about eating American lamb, highlight sheep and lamb production throughout history, emphasize how sheep and lamb are intrinsic to our existence, and explain the unique relationship among sheep, humans and other animals. A 9-minute video serves as the central storytelling tool, but the suite of materials includes a 2-minute version of the video, six shorter-form social media clips, photography, and a print narrative. The full video is featured on the new americanlamb.com...

Drones could play an important role in the future of sustainable agriculture, according to a researcher from the University of California, Davis. Elvira De Lange's review article notes that drones can be used in Integrated Pest Management to patrol fields for signs of pest activity and to deliver biological control agents or highly targeted pesticides. Another potential application for drones is assessing plant health and need for fertilizer. ...

A Stanford University study published in Environmental Research Letters showed that Midwest farmers who reduced tillage increased corn and soybean yields while improving soil health and lowering production costs. The research team used machine learning and satellite datasets to develop satellite-based crop yield models. Researchers calculated that, across nine Midwest states between 2005 and 2016, corn yields improved an average of 3.3% and soybeans by 0.74% on fields managed with long-term conservation tillage practices. The researchers calculated that it takes 11 years for corn farmers to see full benefits of reduced tillage, and twice that long for soybean growers. However,...

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $1.2 million in 2019 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants to 15 recipient organizations across the state. The grant program aims to boost the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Minnesota through research, education, or market development projects, such as development of new plant varieties, marketing campaigns, and helping producers comply with food safety requirements. The funded projects are listed online with brief descriptions. They include research on insect and disease control, development of new marketing channels, and expansion of day-neutral strawberry production. ...

Hemp can now be sold legally across the country. For the 2020 crop year, the only way to insure hemp is through a unique federally-subsidized Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policy. This policy protects the value of the whole farm's revenue rather than any specific product a farmer grows. For 2020, industrial hemp in seed, flower, or fiber form can be one of the products insured by a WFRP policy. Jeff Schahczenski, Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist, with NCAT gives an introduction on this whole-farm approach to insuring hemp in 2020....

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Marketing Sheep and Goat Products: Dairy Penn State Extension has created a set of free online tools for small-scale cheesemakers, to help them develop food safety systems for their facilities and conduct risk assessments of their processes. The tools include a Guide for Implementing a Food Safety System in Small-Scale and Raw Milk Cheese Plants, which provides an overview of what is needed and how to approach setting up a food safety system and conducting a hazard analysis. Another tool is the Food Safety Plan for Raw Milk Gouda Cheese Teaching Example, which provides a comprehensive hazard...

Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Farmers Union are partnering on a program to train individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers to recognize signs of stress and offer help. Based on the farm stress program Michigan State University Extension developed for the USDA Farm Service Agency, this combination of online and in-person trainings is designed specifically for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers. It provides participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health concerns, and connect farmers...

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is launching endorsements for soil health, integrated pest management, and wildlife in addition to the 10-year water quality certification a farmer or landowner receives in the program. MAWQCP is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. The MAWQCP partnered with various non-profit organizations, such as Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and state agencies...

In this podcast, Jeff Schahczenski, agricultural and natural resource specialist with NCAT, has a conversation with Marty Mesh of Mesh & Associates of Gainesville, Florida about the current and future development of organic production in the South. While certified organic farming and ranching has been expanding nationwide, its growth in the southern United States has been much slower. In this episode, Jeff and Marty explore many reasons for this slower growth. Marty Mesh is a leader in organic agriculture in the south and nationwide. A pioneer, visionary, and expert in organic agriculture and food systems, Marty began organic production in 1972. Four...

The Savanna Institute has released Overcoming Bottlenecks in the Midwest Hazelnut Industry: An Impact Investment Plan. The 63-page free report represents the first stage in Savanna Institute's push to catalyze the Midwest hazelnut industry. It provides a roadmap for connecting capital with the key practitioners, researchers, and educators on the ground. The report gathers critical information from across the community of hazelnut stakeholders, identifies the industry's central development bottlenecks, considers the competing priorities and merits of various approaches to these hurdles, and conducts an object assessment and ranking of priorities for impact investment....

USDA has announced a $237 million investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The current round of funding will support 640 awards to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Western Pacific. Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration....

Bloomberg reports that a livestock feed supplement developed by Swiss agritech company Mootral reduces emissions enough to qualify the farmers who use it for carbon-offset credits. The credits are offered through the nonprofit organization Verra, whose VCS Program allows vetted projects to turn their greenhouse gas emissions reductions into tradable carbon credits. The garlic-and-citrus feed supplement has been proven to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by dairy cows in England by 38%. Mootral expects the first "CowCredits" to be generated next year, and plans to expand to sheep and goats in the future....

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Selling with: Agritourism and "Pick-Your-Own" A study led by the University of Vermont is inviting farmers throughout the country to participate in a 10- to 15-minute survey on agritourism. The data will be used by cooperative extension and research personnel to develop resources to help increase the success of small- and medium-sized farms that offer on-farm direct sales, education, hospitality, recreation, entertainment, and other types of agritourism. In addition to demographic and farm information, the survey is collecting data on direct sales and agritourism experiences offered, visitor numbers and goals, successes, challenges, and future plans for agritourism....

The University of Connecticut is collaborating with other New England institutions to put together a USDA grant on Agriculture and Food Research Initiatives. The focus is on sustainable poultry production to help small, medium, and large poultry farmers, processors and industry personnel to increase profitability, reduce input costs, increase productivity, and reduce losses due to environmental and biological stresses. In addition, this grant would help develop tools to enhance rural prosperity and health by ensuring access to affordable, safe, and nutritious poultry products to sustain healthy lifestyles. Long-term, the project seeks to ensure the sustainability of antibiotic-restricted broiler production by...

USDA has announced the award of $23.5 million in grant funding through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The programs are designed to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets. There were 49 projects funded under the FMPP and 42 projects through the LFPP. Lists of the recipients are available online, along with brief descriptions of the projects selected for funding. ...

Answer: Since its introduction to the United States, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been a model for connecting people with where their food comes from. By encouraging customers to become shareholders in the farm business, CSA gives farmers a chance to spread both the risks and the rewards of farming across a larger community Having a solid legal footing protects farmers in all sorts of situations. This is especially true for running a CSA, and the most important document involved is the member agreement. The CSA customer signs a member agreement to become a member or shareholder of the operation. It...

USDA is opening signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on December 9, 2019. The signup deadline for general CRP is February 28, 2020, although signup for continuous CRP is ongoing. A separate CRP Grasslands signup will be held after the general signup. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP receive a yearly rental payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. CRP already has 22 million acres enrolled, but the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the cap to 27 million acres. This means farmers...

USDA has announced five new members for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Nathaniel Powell-Palm of Cold Springs Organics in Belgrade, Montana, will serve on the Board in a farmer seat. Kimberly Huseman, the Director of Specialty Ingredients for Pilgrim's, will serve in a handler seat, as will Gerard D'Amore of Munger Farms. Eastside Food Co-op Grocery Manager Mindee Jeffery will serve on the Board in the retailer seat. Lastly, the Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Agriculture Capital, Wood Turner, will serve in an environmental protection and resource conservation seat. These new members will serve five-year terms beginning in...

Related ATTRA Resources: Value-Added and Processing A blog post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition highlights three different farm operations that received Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) to expand their businesses. The post explains how a dairy farm in Alabama, a hog farm in Georgia, and a farmer-led cooperative in Minnesota utilized the VAPG program, and it includes videos of the grant recipients discussing how VAPG helped them. These grant recipients have all successfully utilized VAPG more than once. The post also notes that this year's application period is expected to open soon. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Managing Soils for Water: How Five Principles of Soil Health Support Water Infiltration and Storage Colorado is considering a statewide soil health program that will support farmers and ranchers in efforts to implement regenerative agriculture practices, reports The Colorado Sun. The state's governor has requested funding for the program from the legislature, and the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils is trying to envision the program's role and how it would work. It's a group of farmers, ranchers, and stakeholders from across the state that is exploring ways to encourage and incentivize soil management practices. Agency employees, consultants, and farmers...

A paper published in Ecology Letters by Washington State University scientists shows that small farms with more plant diversity attract more visits by pollinating bees. The researchers say that having a variety of plants that flower at different times and offer beneficial traits is the best way to increase pollinator activity. Increasing bee visits to a farm in turn increases pollinator efficiency. The study showed the effect held true for both honey bees and wild pollinators. "If a farmer is thinking about buying more bees, planting more diverse crops could be an alternative," said study co-author Elias Bloom....

University of Kentucky researchers led a study published in the journal Insects that demonstrated the potential of fine-mesh netting for insect control in blackberries. The fine-mesh exclusion netting reduced the abundance of numerous insect pests and resulted in a higher yield of marketable fruit, compared to organic spinosad insecticide treatment. The researchers point out that fine-mesh netting can be substituted for netting conventionally used to keep birds out of small-fruit crops, because it excludes bird as well as insects. Therefore, using the fine-mesh netting could be particularly feasible for producers of grapes, caneberries, and blueberries who already utilize netting to...

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a deicer solution made from grape skins and other agricultural waste. The new combination causes less damage to concrete and asphalt than salt-based deicer, and also poses less risk to water bodies. What's more, its manufacture creates no waste, and it melts ice faster than other alternatives. The production process can be modified to use other agricultural wastes, as well. Professor Xianming Shi explains, "We can use this same platform technology in different regions of the country but choose a different agricultural product, depending on what source of waste is available."...

Scientists at Colorado State University have determined that there are two broad categories of soil organic matter that are different in origin and makeup. "Particulate organic matter" is made up of lightweight, partly decomposed plants and fungi residues that are short-lived and not well protected, while "mineral-associated organic matter" is largely made of byproducts of the decomposition of microbes that chemically bind to minerals in the soil. Professor Francesca Cotrufo explains that particulate organic matter is like the "checking account" of soils: it turns over continuously and supports nutrient cycling but requires regular deposits to stay vital. Mineral-associated organic matter,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Meat Plants: Improving Profitability in Small and Very Small Operations A program of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill has awarded $500,000 in Small Meat Processor Grants to fund 15 projects to improve the supply of locally produced meat in the commonwealth. The grants include funding for a mobile poultry processing trailer, an organic processing facility, value-added product equipment, and numerous processing facilities to serve nearby farms. At least one farm will implement on-farm meat processing through the grant program. The funded projects will create local jobs and open new markets for farmers....

Today’s episode is the second in an ATTRA: Voices from the Field ongoing series on Direct Marketing Meat. Linda Coffey, a livestock specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program, follows up on a listener’s question by interviewing her colleague, NCAT ATTRA Livestock Specialist Dave Scott and his wife and partner, Jenny, about their direct-marketing meat business, Montana Highland Lamb. Linda works out of NCAT’s Southeast Regional Office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Dave works out of NCAT’s headquarters in Butte, Montana. In the previous episode, Dave and Jenny shared their farm story, and we focused on the marketing aspect of their business. In this episode,...

A study led by Los Alamos National Laboratory and published in Nature Climate Change shows that not only will droughts become more frequent under future climates, but more of those events will be extreme, adding to the reduction of plant production essential to human and animal populations. "Even though plants can, in many cases, benefit from increased levels of carbon dioxide that are predicted for the future atmosphere, the impact of severe drought on destroying these plants will be extreme, especially in the Amazon, South Africa, Mediterranean, Australia, and southwest USA," said lead study author Chonggang Xu. The combination of...

Good Food 100 Restaurants has announced its 2019 Good Food Farmer and Purveyor of the Year Award recipients. The awards honor producers and purveyors from seven regions of the country who are committed to sustainability and transparency. This year's recipients: Carne Locale (New England); PrairiErth Farm (Great Lakes); Good Shepherd Poultry (Plains); White Oak Pastures (Southeast); Niman Ranch (Southwest); Croft Family Farm (Rocky Mountain); and Produce Express-Distributor (West). The awards honor and celebrate one farmer, rancher, fisherman or one purveyor/distributor nominated by the participating 2019 Good Food 100 chefs in each region. Winners are selected by the Good Food...

After a full year of providing education and support to help farmers and ranchers transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture, the Soil Health Academy (SHA) announced that it has become a federally recognized, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. SHA's three-day schools feature instruction by David Brandt, Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Allen Williams, Ph.D., Shane New, and other technical consultants, all of whom are widely considered to be among the most preeminent pioneers, innovators, and advocates in today's soil health and regenerative agricultural movement. As a nonprofit, SHA President David Brandt said, the organization will be better positioned, long-term, to deliver programs and...

Alabama farmer Annie Dee is one of the early participants in an incentive program for carbon sequestration, reports AL.com. Dee enrolled in Indigo Agriculture's Terraton Initiative, which pays $15 per ton of carbon sequestered in the soil she farms. Dee is already a no-till farmer who uses cover crops and crop rotations, so she will collect payment for practices already in place. Indigo Ag predicts that farmers who implement its full suite of regenerative growing practices, including cover crops, no-till, reducing fertilizer and chemical inputs, crop rotation, and integrating livestock, could sequester two to three tons of carbon per acre,...

The USDA National Organic Program announced that it has updated NOP 2040: Instruction on Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp. The updated instruction applies to all USDA-accredited certifying agents and replaces the August 2016 version of NOP 2040. The revised policy allows hemp produced in the United States under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program to be certified as organic under the USDA organic regulations....

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a silk coating for seeds that both protects the seeds and helps them to germinate even in saline soil conditions. The silk coatings are also treated with rhizobacteria that convert nitrogen from the air to a form that plants can uptake, providing fertilizer that helps get the plants off to a good start. Researchers say the seed coating could be applied as a dip or spray, and could make it possible to grow food crops in marginal soil. Next, the team intends to explore coatings that could help seeds germinate...

Answer: The pear psylla (Cacopsylla pyricola), an aphid-like insect whose only host is the pear, is the crop's most significant insect pest. In conjunction with fire blight, pear psylla is largely responsible for declining eastern pear production. The honeydew left by the psylla damages the fruit by supporting growth of sooty mold and causing a black russeting; these two effects account for most of the economic damage caused by the psylla. It is also an important vector of fire blight and pear decline disease and can weaken trees in areas of heavy infection. Although the psylla develops resistance to insecticides, it...

The popularity of hemp farming has exploded in the United States this past year, reports National Public Radio, but the young industry is experiencing struggles. About 90% of hemp is grown for cannabidiol, but growers are challenged with production of a crop that can turn from being high quality to having illegal concentrations of THC overnight. If THC goes over the legal limit, crops must be destroyed, resulting in losses for the grower. Also, a glut of hemp on the market has overwhelmed processors and caused prices paid to farmers to drop. Some farmers have opted for the long-term fiber...

Related ATTRA Publication: Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Wastes: Factors to Consider Some Massachusetts dairy farmers are combining manure with food waste to produce renewable energy, reports PBS. Dairy farmers are diversifying their operations, working with a renewable energy company that builds anaerobic digesters on their farms. The digesters not only help farmers manage manure, but also take in food waste from the surrounding area. Unsold produce, spent distillers grains, and food-processing waste are trucked to the farms, ground, and used to produce energy for the farms and surrounding communities. The feature notes that a state ban on food waste in landfills and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Beneficial and Pest Birds: Vertebrate IPM Tip Sheet University of California researchers found that hedgerows bordering farmland support beneficial, bug-eating birds that help with pest control. A study published in Ecosphere tested how access to habitat improved the predation success of birds on codling moth cocoons. Not only hedgerows, but also the presence of mature walnut trees, helped birds reduce codling moth populations. The study authors also point out that, in addition to birds, hedgerows can attract beneficial insects to a farm, including pollinators....

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has developed a global map that illustrates the sustainability of food systems on a country-by-country basis. The assessment was based on 20 indicators in four dimensions: environment, economic, social, and food and nutrition. According to CIAT, the tool can be used to track changes in sustainability over time and has the potential to guide policy and action as climate change, rising populations, and increased demand for food place unprecedented pressure on global food systems. Christophe Béné, the study's lead author, commented, "Our research highlights how little is currently known about food systems. [N]ational...

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the award of more than $24 million in grants through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants program. NRCS announced that 16 projects are receiving these funding awards, including nine awards under the Soil Health Demonstration Trial. These nine projects focus on the adoption and evaluation of soil health management systems and practices. The remaining seven projects focus on irrigation water management, precision agriculture, and a variety of management technologies. A complete list of recipients is available online....

Registration is now open for the 10th Organic Seed Growers Conference, scheduled to take place in Corvallis, Oregon, February 12-15, 2020. The conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America, bringing together hundreds of farmers, plant breeders, researchers, food companies, seed companies, and others. The biennial conference has been convening the organic seed community for nearly two decades and includes a packed agenda of presentations, panel discussions, networking events, and celebration. Farm tours and short courses are held prior to the full two-day conference. ...

ATTRA: Voices from the Field is taking a bit of a holiday break this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. We sincerely hope that everyone has a terrific holiday. Next week, we’ll be back with the second in the Direct Marketing Meat series. In it, Linda Coffey and Dave Scott, both livestock specialists with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, along with Dave’s wife, Jenny, will talk about the always important issue of processing. In the meantime, don’t miss the chance to register for the inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference, March 30-31 in Bozeman, Montana, on the campus of Montana...

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is one of 33 organizations that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has selected for Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance awards totaling $2.1 million. With these funds, the recipients will provide technical assistance to the applicants and awardees of CDFA's Alternative Manure Management Program and the Healthy Soils Program. Grant recipients will perform outreach for the programs and assist farmers in many application-related tasks such as developing a project design, estimating the benefits of proposals, and submitting applications. "These technical assistance grants are so important to supporting farmers and ranchers of...

Related ATTRA Publication: Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Native Roots Researchers from Pennsylvania State University say that forest farming could provide a model for the future of forest botanical supply chains. They say that transitioning from wild collection to forest farming as a source of medicinal herbs such as ginseng would create a sustainable supply chain, not only in terms of the environment, but also in terms of social justice for people who harvest the plants. The researchers point out that forest farming would allow more transparency in the supply chain, which could lead not only to better-quality herbal products, but also to...

In December, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will be mailing surveys to more than 22,000 U.S. producers involved in certified or transitioning-to-certified organic farming. The 2019 Organic Survey results will expand on the 2017 Census of Agriculture data by looking at several aspects of organic agriculture during the 2019 calendar year, including production, marketing practices, income, expenses, and more. Producers who receive the 2019 Organic Survey are required to respond by federal law. Farmers and ranchers are asked to complete their surveys online via the secure NASS website by January 10, 2020....

Researchers at the University of Illinois have been studying how well honey bees do in agricultural areas. They found that although bee colonies thrive on the soybean flowers and corn pollen early in the summer, the lack of flowering plants later in the summer causes populations to crash. Later in the summer, bees forage primarily on clover near field edges. The researchers found that when bees were moved to restored prairie with more blooming plants, colonies rebounded to healthy levels. The scientists say there's not enough prairie available to "rescue" all the bee colonies from agricultural land, so they recommend...

Related ATTRA Publication: Agroforestry: An Overview A report in The Christian Science Monitor explains the benefits that farmers are finding in practicing silvopasture. Advocates say that combining trees and livestock helps sequester carbon, improves soil health, and helps protect the livestock from heat stress. Silvopasture is apparently on the rise in the United States, and some universities are offering farmers technical help and incentives to try the practice. Experts advise, however, that simply turning animals into a woodlot is not the same as implementing a silvopasture system that maximizes the health of both trees and animals....

Related ATTRA Publication: Climate Change and Perennial Fruit and Nut Production: Investing in Resilience in Uncertain Times The Climate Adaptation Fellowship has posted a Climate Adaptation Curriculum on its website. The curriculum includes four separate modules tailored for northeastern land managers (farmers or foresters) and the advisors who work with them. Modules are designed to address the specific issues and concerns of vegetable/small fruit producers, dairy producers, tree fruit producers, or foresters who live and work in the northeastern United States. Each module was created by a team of researchers, outreach and technical service providers, and land managers and will be refined...

Answer: The specifics of how you build your grape trellis will depend on the system you select, but there are many common factors across all trellis systems. It will behoove you to set your trellis posts before planting the grape vines in the high tunnel, so as to avoid damaging vines in the process of setting posts. In addition, it may be easier to set trellis posts before the high tunnel construction is finished so that the high tunnel bows do not obstruct the equipment you are using to set posts. However, you will want to have the ground anchors...

Related ATTRA Video: Food Safety, Farmer's Perspective Researchers from Washington State University recently published results of a study on the food safety of using dairy manure as fertilizer on red raspberries. The study evaluated a number of manure-derived fertilizers: anaerobically digested liquid effluent, aerobically composted dairy manure, and more concentrated refined fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate and phosphorus solids. The study found no Shiga toxin-producing E. coli or Listeria monocytogenes in any soil samples. Though Salmonella was found in some fertilizer samples, it was not present in soil, foliar, or fruit samples taken after two or four months. Based on results...

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has published a newsletter highlighting several recently completed projects funded by its Farmer Grants. These include production of verijuice from unripe grapes, exploration of materials for seasonal wreaths, disease management in hops using sheep, and a test of the feasibility of organic Belgian endive as a winter crop. ...

Wisconsin's fifth round of Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants has been awarded to 27 groups of farmers by the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Farmers will work with conservation agencies and organizations to address soil and water issues specific to their local conditions. Grants range from just over $7,500 to $40,000 for conservation practice incentives, education and outreach, and water quality testing and monitoring efforts. All projects are led by farmers in collaboration with local partner agencies and organizations to increase conservation activities in their watersheds. ...

Environmental Defense Fund has released a new report, How Conservation Makes Dairy Farms More Resilient, Especially in a Lean Agricultural Economy. Four Pennsylvania dairy farmers opened their books to allow for a comparative analysis of how their conservation practices impacted their budgets. The overriding lesson learned from this analysis is that conservation contributes to the economic well-being and resilience of dairy farms. The report also finds that conservation practices can pay at the farm level, often in unanticipated ways. The report also offers recommendations for increasing educational, technical, and financial resources for farmers to make adoption of conservation practices more...

Whitney Economics has released "The Field of Dreams: An Economic Survey of the United States Hemp Cultivation Industry," a cultivation and processing report. The survey concludes that hemp has the potential to become the third-largest agricultural crop in the United States by revenue, second only to corn and soy. According to the report, the total value of the hemp biomass is an estimated $11.3 billion or roughly 6% of the total value of the entire U.S. cash crops. However, the report also reveals that 65% of farmers who responded to the national survey did not have a buyer, and that...

Related ATTRA Resources: Biosecurity Basics Tipsheet for Pastured Poultry With funding from the first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and PennAg Industries are launching the Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence to assist swine, poultry, and small ruminant producers with everything from expanding processing capacity to biosecurity planning. The center will provide the following resources and investments to the industry: biosecurity education and planning assistance; biosecurity implementation grants; regional workshops for strategic and emergency communications planning; buildout of statewide animal agriculture infrastructure; research to approve hemp for animal feed; and Investments in improved food safety infrastructure....

University of Minnesota research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution evaluated the productivity and biodiversity of land that had once been used for agriculture and then abandoned. The study considered grasslands and savannas in Minnesota that were abandoned for agricultural use as recently as one year previously to as long as 91 years ago. Researchers found that local grassland plant diversity increased significantly over time, but incompletely recovered, and plant productivity did not significantly recover. Even 91 years after abandonment, the fields had just 73% of the plant diversity and 53% of the plant productivity of neighboring land...

Related ATTRA Resources: Urban and Community Agriculture The American Society for Horticultural Science reports that researchers from the University of Florida have published a review of literature exploring how controlled-environment production can be applied to urban agriculture. Celina Gómez and her fellow researchers delved into the likelihood that controlled environments will revolutionize urban food systems and the techniques that can be employed for them to do so. The review identifies many factors worthy of consideration regarding controlled-environment production in urban areas: local demand and supply of food, location, population density, facility design, and crops produced. Additionally, there are market considerations: sustainability...

Purdue University is receiving about $1 million of a $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant awarded to North Carolina State University through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. Purdue scientists are part of a team of researchers who will examine the benefits of cover crops in corn, soybeans, and cotton during the five-year study. Purdue scientists are interested in how much nitrogen cover crops can add to soil. As part of the study, researchers will be monitoring the impact of cover crops on water movement through soil, soil temperature, soil moisture, and other...

This episode is the first of an occasional ATTRA: Voices from the Field series on Direct Marketing Meat. Linda Coffey, a livestock specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program, follows up on a listener’s question by interviewing fellow NCAT ATTRA livestock specialist Dave Scott and his wife, Jenny, about their direct-marketing meat business, Montana Highland Lamb. Linda works out of NCAT’s Southeast Regional office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Dave is on the staff at NCAT’s headquarters in Butte, Montana. Although the listener was asking about lamb, and both Dave and Jenny produce lamb, this series will be useful for anyone direct marketing meat. Dave...

A paper published by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that diversifying crop production can make the food supply more nutritious, reduce resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land. This conclusion is based on assessment that used rice production in India as an example. Scientists note that, over time, the diversity of cultivated crops has narrowed considerably, with many producers opting to shift away from more nutritious cereals to high-yielding crops like rice. They say that planting less rice...

DISARM, an active European network dedicated to finding innovative solutions for antibiotic resistance, has launched a new range of platforms inviting farmers, veterinarians, agricultural advisors, and others to join discussions about farmed-animal health and antibiotic usage. The DISARM Project brings people together from agricultural sectors across Europe to share knowledge and ideas. It aims to reduce the need for antibiotic treatments in livestock farming by keeping animals healthy, preventing disease, and promoting appropriate, prudent use of antibiotic treatments. New resources developed by the network include a dedicated DISARM website www.disarmproject.eu, which provides details on events and workshops,...

A group of botanical experts has published a paper in the journal Planta Medica, warning of the effects of climate change on medicinal plants. In Scientists' Warning on Climate Change and Medicinal Plants, they write that "populations may be threatened by changing temperature and precipitation regimes, disruption of commensal relationships, and increases in pests and pathogens, combined with anthropogenic habitat fragmentation that impedes migration." The paper warns that these effects, combined with unsustainable harvest, could push many plant populations to extinction. Furthermore, they note that increased environmental stresses could alter the chemical content of medicinal plants. The authors recommend measures...

A feature in Knowable Magazine explores a role for low-input agriculture as a middle road between organic and conventional agriculture. The article discusses the extent of the organic agriculture yield gap, the relationship between organic agriculture and biodiversity, the performance of organic agriculture in aspects other than yield, and the failings of conventional agriculture. It identifies a need for more research to advance organic agriculture and highlights the production potential and environmental benefits of greater use of low-input agriculture....

Research at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the United Kingdom, published in Environmental Pollution, found that high concentrations of microplastics in soil can reduce worm fertility by 50%. Ecotoxicologist and study leader Dr. Elma Lahive explained that the smaller the plastics, the greater the reduction in reproduction, which could be linked to ingestion of plastics by the worms. "Given we know that microplastics are accumulating in our soils and can stay there for a very long time, we clearly need to understand the effect they are having on our soil ecosystems and the long-term risks they may pose,"...

Related ATTRA Publication: Farmer Profiles: Two Organic Grain Farm Case Studies MOSES and OGRAIN are organizing farmer-led groups to build communities of organic grain farmers around the Midwest. Farmers who are interested in being part of a group can sign up online....

Answer: One of the main marketing points that pastured poultry farmers use to sell their products is that their meat and eggs are different from those produced by confinement-based poultry. While some critics dismiss these claims, a multitude of customer experiences reinforces the claim that pastured poultry is indeed different. As pastured poultry production fills an ever-larger niche, research is beginning to explore claims of different nutritive profiles for pastured eggs and meat. In the case of eggs, evidence is emerging that the poultry products from grass-fed flocks tend to have less cholesterol, more vitamins A and E, multiplied Omega-3 content,...

A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) addresses the risks associated with the dwindling genetic diversity of livestock and poultry. Protecting Food Animal Gene Pools for Future Generations—A paper in the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050 is available free online from CAST as a 24-page PDF. In it, authors argue for greater efforts to protect the genes of animal livestock breeds, noting that "up to 25% of global livestock breeds are either at risk of being lost, or have already been lost." The paper includes five...

Related ATTRA Publication: Downy Mildew Control in Cucurbits Organic Farming Research Foundation shared results from a project it funded to assess resistance among selected cucumber and muskmelon seedstocks to the problematic diseases Bacterial Wilt and Cucurbit Downy Mildew. The first year of the project (2018) identified cucumber seedstocks that performed well, and a second grant in 2019 supported testing those varieties more broadly with a goal of releasing the varieties with best resistance in 2020. ...

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has published a white paper on the environmental footprint of beef production in the United States. Data in the report shows that only 3.7% of U.S. greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions come directly from beef cattle. This report also offers data showing that all agriculture accounts for 8.4% of U.S. GHG emissions, while the transportation sector is responsible for 28% of U.S. GHG emissions. The white paper also discusses improved efficiencies in beef cattle that are credited with reducing the environmental impact of U.S. production. A lifecycle assessment that evaluates sustainability achievements and opportunities across the entire...

Related ATTRA Publication: Fruit Trees, Bushes, and Vines for Natural Growing in the Ozarks The Savanna Institute has produced a new series of free "Key Perennial Crop" information sheets in collaboration with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the USDA-SARE program. The information sheets offer descriptions of 12 key Midwestern agroforestry crops: Aronia, Asian Pear, Black Currant, Black Walnut, Chinese Chestnut, Cider Apple, Elderberry, Hazelnut, Honeyberry, Northern Pecan, Pawpaw, and Serviceberry. They are available free online. ...