Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): cover crops

Water is a high-level priority at COP 28, we need to look to ground-level users for solutions

Water has finally reached the highest levels of global climate negotiations. The path to a sustainable freshwater future, however, lies with ground-level users. At COP 28, EDF is elevating their voices, their needs and the approaches they find most useful.

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While greenhouse gases drive climate change, many of its impacts are inherently liquid. Whether through drought, flood, sea-level rise, or contamination, water increasingly forms the turbulent core of the climate crisis.

Over the past year, this basic reality was finally acknowledged at the global planning table.  Thanks to a strong push from its Egyptian hosts, last year’s edition of the main UN climate conference, COP 27, made water a central theme. The cover decision — the summation of the conference’s key agreements — featured water and food for the first time. The decision acknowledged the central role of water in countering climate impacts and called for water-related targets in national climate planning.

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Cover crop costs vary significantly: new data from 83 Minnesota farms shows

farm with a barn in the background

Data on the financial impacts of climate-smart practices, like cover crops, can help inform farmers’ financial decisions when considering these practices. While cover crops can help improve soil health and make farms more resilient to extreme weather, farmers continue to have questions about the types of financial impacts cover crops will have on their operations. A multi-year collaborative project is collecting and analyzing data to help farmers and their advisers answer these questions.

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New analysis shows cover crops and no-till reduce crop insurance claims

Soybeans in a cover crop (cereal rye).

The extremely wet spring of 2019 caused 14.2 million acres of cropland to go unplanted in the Midwest. Farmers across the region had flooded fields that kept them from getting equipment onto the fields to plant their crops. This resulted in over $4 billion of prevent-plant crop insurance claims, which assists farmers when weather conditions keep them from planting a crop altogether. Amidst these adverse weather challenges, farmers who were using cover crops and no-till reported facing less water on their fields, which allowed them to plant when their neighbors couldn’t.

A new study backs up these Midwest farmer stories with big data. Read More »

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Five ways U.S. agriculture can adapt to climate change

Farmers have a long history of steadily increasing crop yields through technological innovation and improvements in management practices. However, as climate change makes weather more extreme and variable than ever before, productivity progress will likely stall by 2030 — even if the U.S. maintains past rates of R&D investment and innovation. Adaptation efforts must begin now to protect food supplies and farmer livelihoods.

Adaptation options can be deployed at various scales to combat the unknown challenges ahead.

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How will climate change affect U.S. crop yields?

As the UN climate conference kicks off in Egypt, food and agriculture are central to negotiations for the first time. More severe droughts, warmer temperatures and heavier rainfall fueled by climate change are making it harder than ever for the world’s one billion farmers to grow food and fiber. While some farms and regions are more vulnerable than others, climate change will affect farmers everywhere.

Here in the U.S., where farmers have a long history of steadily increasing yields, climate change will likely cause crop productivity gains to stall — or even reverse — as soon as 2030.

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New program sheds light on cover crop financials with big data

This post was co-authored by Katherine Wilts Johnson, extension economist at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management.

Farmers’ interest in cover crops is growing rapidly along with increased focus on soil health. But one of the most important questions farmers continue to ask is how cover crops will impact their finances.

A new program launched by Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management (CFFM) aims to answer the economic questions farmers have about cover crops by developing a new farm financial benchmarking program within the FINBIN database — the largest publicly available farm financial database in the country.

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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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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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Change in weather shifts Iowa farmer’s approach, saving money and time

This blog is authored by Bethany Baratta, senior writer at Iowa Soybean Association. It originally posted on the Iowa Soybean Association Newsroom

Wayne Fredericks and his wife Ruth began farming in northern Iowa in the early 1970s. For the first 19 years of their farming careers, their farm was managed conventionally: corn stalks were plowed and soybean stubble was tilled before planting.

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Iowa farmer Wayne Fredericks says his integrated cropping system saves time and money and protects natural resources. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

It was a change in the weather that altered their conventional farming practices — for the better. Read More »

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Cover crops reduce cropping input costs, with other benefits farmers “can’t put a price on”

This blog is authored by Bethany Baratta, senior writer at Iowa Soybean Association. It originally posted on the Iowa Soybean Association Newsroom.

Cover crops have proven benefits for soil health. A recent Iowa Soybean Association study shows that cover crops can also reduce the input costs associated with growing crops.

“Cover crops are an added cost to the operation. However, this study shows a subset of participants in a corn-soybean rotation are able to offset those costs by finding a yield advantage, reducing inputs or both to improve overall profitability,” said Heath Ellison, ISA senior conservation agronomist who led the study in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund and Iowa-based Regional Strategic, Ltd. Read More »

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