Growing Returns

Understanding the impact of conservation tillage on operating expenses

This blog was originally published by Dr. Maria Bowman on Soil Health Partnership’s blog.

When farmers consider implementing a soil health or conservation practice on their farm, one question they inevitably ask is: what will the financial impacts be?

In an effort to answer this question, we recently released Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line — a report developed in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund and the agricultural accounting firm K·Coe Isom — to better understand the benefits, opportunities and limiting factors associated with common conservation practices. Read More »

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Study shows healthy soils protect corn yields and lower crop insurance payouts

Managing risks presented by extreme weather conditions such as heat and drought is a top priority of farmers and policymakers, as researchers predict that higher temperatures and reduced precipitation could reduce yields by up to 30% over the next 50 years.

Farmers are already experiencing these impacts and becoming increasingly dependent on the Federal Crop Insurance Program to manage the resulting yield risks. As of this February, 2020 crop insurance indemnities totaled $7.7 billion, with just over 60% of the average crop insurance premiums covered by the taxpayer. Read More »

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3 lessons from a Texas groundwater district on managing during drought

The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in central Texas urges residents to “please protect your aquifer by limiting water use.” The district manages groundwater in Hays County, Texas, one of the top five fastest-growing counties in the U.S.

Due to drought, the district has imposed a 20% curtailment on groundwater pumping districtwide and a 30% curtailment in a 39 square-mile region within the district that includes the iconic Jacob’s Well spring, the second-largest underwater cave in Texas and a popular tourist destination. Read More »

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3 actions Congress can take now to build more resilient coasts

Earlier this year, NOAA released findings indicating that the rate of sea level rise has doubled over the last century and, even if global emissions reduction targets are met, sea level could increase 12 inches by 2100.

Coastal states are already feeling the effects of sea level rise with high-tide flooding increasing from 300% to 900% in some places compared to 50 years ago. Hurricanes are also getting stronger and dumping more rain, and last year’s Atlantic hurricane season was the most active ever. Read More »

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Report shows how nuts and managed vegetation are a winning combination for California growers

California is an agricultural powerhouse, producing billions of pounds of nuts in 2020 and tree nut acreage continuing to increase year after year.

The bountiful Central Valley provides fruit and nuts to the majority of the U.S., but these orchards offer additional potential that growers have yet to reap.

A new report, Managing Vegetation for Agronomic and Ecological Benefits in California Nut Orchards [PDF], details opportunities for growers to build a more resilient agricultural system in California — with both sustainability and profitability in mind. Read More »

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A breakthrough to measure agriculture’s environmental impact

Nitrogen (N) is essential for high crop yields to feed a growing population, but excess nitrogen contributes to climate change as nitrous oxide and to water pollution as nitrate.

Historically, measuring nitrogen losses has been expensive and time consuming. Environmental Defense Fund’s N-Visible framework remedies that.

N-Visible provides an easy-to-use, scientifically robust way for farmers and their advisers to assess nitrogen losses from individual fields. It also allows food companies and policymakers who promote on-farm sustainability to measure progress toward improved environmental outcomes at regional scales.

An open-source implementation guide is now available for download. Here’s what it contains and how to use it. Read More »

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Farm budget analysis finds 3 ways conservation affects the bottom line

Soil health practices can provide many public environmental benefits including reduced soil erosion, increased soil organic carbon and improved water quality. However, adoption of soil health practices such as no-till and cover crops only represent 26% and 4% of U.S. farmland respectively.

Still, we know farmers can be rapid adopters of new technologies, including new seed varieties and equipment, when presented with a profitable solution. Read More »

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How to advance water security for Arizona? These 3 bills are a good start.

With dozens of water bills introduced in the Arizona Legislature this session, EDF Action and the Water for Arizona Coalition are focusing on long-overdue steps needed to ensure water security for all, especially rural communities that face high water risk.

Rural Arizona is the only substantial region left across the seven Colorado River Basin states where an “open access” approach to groundwater management is still the norm. This anything-goes approach puts people and ecosystems in rural Arizona at a disproportionate risk of water insecurity and economic instability. Read More »

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New York’s environmental bond can deliver lasting resilience and create jobs

New York State, like the rest of the country, is suffering from compounding economic and public health crises as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the state remains increasingly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise.

A new report released this week by AECOM, the world’s premiere infrastructure firm, and Rebuild by Design, a community-focused organization advocating for resilient infrastructure, offers hope for recovery for the Empire State as it demonstrates how investments in the environment can help New York not only build lasting climate resilience but also create jobs at a time when they are desperately needed. Read More »

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5 challenges to sustainable groundwater management in Texas and how to tackle them

In 50 years, Texas’ population is expected to grow by 70%. That’s 20 million more Texans who will need water in a state that has repeatedly faced drought-induced water shortages and will likely suffer more intense droughts in the future.

As the population grows, groundwater will continue to play a critical role in supporting Texas’ ecology and economy. Today groundwater provides approximately 60% of the 16.1 million acre-feet of water used in the state annually and an estimated 30% of the flows in rivers, streams and springs across the state. Read More »

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