Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): Climate

USDA’s new climate strategy is a huge step in the right direction

Credit: Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli

Credit: Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just announced a new national climate strategy aimed at reducing emissions from the agriculture and forestry sectors. USDA will partner with farmers and ranchers on voluntary and incentive-based approaches to implement climate-smart agriculture techniques and programs. This approach will also ensure that crops are resilient to increasing fluctuations in weather and climates, and that farmers’ livelihoods are protected.

The new focus on ‘cooperative conservation’ is a huge step in the right direction.

America’s farmers face a challenge: increase productivity to feed a growing population, but do so in an era where climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable, with warmer growing seasons, droughts, and floods. Farmers are also called upon to increase production in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This is a tall order, given that if we continue with current farming practices agriculture could be responsible for 70 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Read More »

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What was an Ohio corn farmer doing in Abu Dhabi?

Fred Yoder, Ernie Shea and AG Kawamura representing the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi.

Fred Yoder, Ernie Shea and A.G. Kawamura representing the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi.

Climate smart agriculture is still a new concept – but it won’t be for long. In the past year alone, there have been several key developments that are bringing sustainable farming to scale:

  • The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture was launched to bring together government, academics, non-profit organizations and the private sectors to support farmers across the world in responding proactively to changing weather conditions associated with climate change.
  • A diverse group of 34 organizations and universities launched the regional North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, which will interface and collaborate with the Global Alliance.
  • Earlier this month at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi, over 3,200 attendees from across the globe – including the Global and North American Alliances – gathered to share their plans for implementing climate change mitigation and conservation practices.

I asked Fred Yoder, chair of the North American Alliance and past president of the National Corn Growers Association, about what happened in Abu Dhabi and why the North American plan may be a template for the rest of the globe. Read More »

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How the private sector can help stem emissions from agriculture

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Credit: Flickr user Rory MacLeod

Here’s the challenge: we need to feed 9 billion people by 2050, yet if we continue with current farming practices agriculture could be responsible for 70 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions by that same year, according to an official at the World Bank.

So what do we do?

We can’t just point the finger at growers and tell them to solve the problem. This is a tall order – and it will require all hands on deck: food companies, suppliers, consumers, and producers. We all need to implement climate-smart agricultural approaches on a global scale to reduce emissions, increase resilience, and protect farmers’ livelihoods.

But climate-smart agriculture absolutely cannot become mainstream without more help from the private sector. We need corporations to invest in research and to make tangible changes to their supply chains. Read More »

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Pill holds promise for reducing fertilizer’s unwanted side effects

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Future fertilizer pill would detect signals from plant roots to reduce nutrient losses. Photo credit: Liz Bokt

Can a little pill solve the problem of fertilizer waste? It sounds futuristic, but it could become a reality in the next 10 years, according to recent article on AgWeb.com.

The article highlighted new developments in nanotechnology aimed at creating a “fertilizer pill” that could detect chemical signals from plant roots and release nitrogen according to those signals. The pill would allow for nitrogen to be released on an as needed basis, thereby reducing fertilizer waste byproducts that are harmful to the environment.

Although fertilizer has undeniable benefits for crop yields, excess fertilizer that runs off into our waterways is damaging to rivers, oceans and the climate.

Read More »

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Reducing risks to corn production requires a supply chain solution

Photo: © John Rae

Photo: © John Rae

Corn is our country’s biggest crop economically and takes up nearly one-third of U.S. cropland. It is a pillar of our food production system – a key ingredient in everything from drinks, sauces and snack foods to dairy products, fuel and meat.

So when news about corn’s risky future pops up, we should all take note, and the entire agricultural supply chain should work toward solutions.

Water & Climate Risks Facing U.S. Corn Production, produced by the nonprofit sustainability advocate Ceres, is the latest analysis to sound the warning bell.

Last year U.S. corn growers harvested a record 14 billion bushels of corn, making them among the most productive farmers in the world (this year’s harvest is expected to be huge as well). But climate change and groundwater depletion are threatening to undermine corn’s success as global demand increases. Inefficient fertilizer use is compounding the problem.

Read More »

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Fertilizer-efficiency credits seed the market for agricultural offsets

tractorFertilizer use is key to increasing the productivity necessary for farms to feed rising populations.  However, not using the right amount in the right place at the right time is one of the biggest threats to a stable climate. Nitrogen fertilizer not used by crops emits nitrous oxide, a heat-trapping gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It also contaminates water supplies, causes algae blooms downstream and erodes soil health.

So, it was welcome news last week when the first greenhouse gas credits for fertilizer efficiency made their debut in the North American carbon market.

Read More »

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