Economic Impact of Organic Agriculture Hotspots in the United States

Authors: I. Julia Marasteanu, and Edward C. Jaenicke | Published: February 2018

In this paper, we assess whether or not organic agriculture has a positive impact on local economies. We first identify organic agriculture hotspots (clusters of counties with positively correlated high numbers of organic operations) using spatial statistics. Then, we estimate a treatment effects model that classifies a county’s membership in an organic hotspot as an endogenous treatment variable. By modeling what a hotspot county’s economic indicators would have been had the county not been part of a hotspot, this model captures the effect of being in a hotspot on a county’s economic indicators. We perform the same analysis for general agricultural farm hotspots to confirm that the benefits associated with organic production hotspots are, in fact, due to the organic component. Our results show that organic hotspot membership leads to a lower county-level poverty rate and a higher median household income. A similar result is not found when investigating the impact of general agriculture hotspots.


Nature Can Reduce Pesticide Use, Environment Impact

Author: Michigan State University | Published: March 1, 2018

Farmers around the world are turning to nature to help them reduce pesticide use, environmental impact and, subsequently, and in some cases, increasing yields.

Specifically, they’re attracting birds and other vertebrates, which keep pests and other invasive species away from their crops. The study, led by Michigan State University and appearing in the current issue of the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, showcases some of the best global examples.

“Our review of research shows that vertebrates consume numerous crop pests and reduce crop damage, which is a key ecosystem service,” said Catherine Lindell, MSU integrative biologist who led the study. “These pest-consuming vertebrates can be attracted to agricultural areas through several landscape enhancements.”

For example, Lindell and graduate student Megan Shave led earlier research to bring more American kestrels to Michigan orchards. Installing nest boxes attracted the small falcons, the most-common predatory bird in the U.S., to cherry orchards and blueberry fields. The feathered hunters consume many species that cause damage to crops, including grasshoppers, rodents and European starlings. In cherry orchards, kestrels significantly reduced the abundance of birds that eat fruit. (Results from blueberry fields are pending.)


Grazing Management That Regenerates Ecosystem Function and Grazingland Livelihoods

Author: Richard Teague and Matt Barnes | Published: July 14, 2017

Adopting a systems view and regenerative philosophy can indicate how to regenerate ecosystem function on commercial-scale agro-ecological landscapes. Adaptive multi-paddock grazing management is an example of an approach for grazinglands. Leading conservation farmers have achieved superior results in ecosystem improvement, productivity, soil carbon and fertility, water-holding capacity and profitability. Their method is to use multiple paddocks per herd with short grazing periods, long recovery periods, and adaptively changing recovery periods, residual biomass, animal numbers and other management elements as conditions change. In contrast, much research on grazing management has not followed adaptive research protocols to account for spatial effects, for sufficient time to produce resource improvement, sound animal production, and socio-economic goals under constantly varying conditions on rangelands. We briefly review what management has achieved best outcomes and show how previous reviews of grazing studies were limited in scope and applicability to larger, more complex landscapes. We argue that future research can provide better understanding of how multi-paddock grazing management can improve socio-ecological resilience in grazing ecosystems, while avoiding unintended consequences of possible management options, by involving realistic scale and context, partnering with innovative land managers on real operations, applying adaptive treatments, and combining field studies with modelling approaches.


Regeneration of Soils and Ecosystems: The Opportunity to Prevent Climate Change: Basis for a Necessary Climate and Agricultural Policy

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Author: Íñigo Álvarez de Toledo, MSc


We are probably at the most crucial crossroad of Humanity’s history. We are changing the Earth’s climate as a result of accelerated human-made Greenhouse Gases Emissions (GHG) and biodiversity loss, provoking other effects that increase the complexity of the problem and will multiply the speed with which we approach climate chaos1, and social too:

We explain and justify scientifically the need to give absolute priority to the regeneration of soils and ecosystems. The sustainability concept has driven positive changes but has failed on two levels: it has been easy to manipulate because of its inherent laxness, and because of the fact that since the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) indicators show much worsening and certainly no improvement. Global emissions increase and soil erosion is every year hitting new negative records.

Ecological and agrosystem regeneration necessarily implies a change for the better, a positive attitude and the joy of generating benefits for all living beings, human or not. For all, because it is the way to not only reduce emissions to the atmosphere but to allow natural, agricultural and livestock soils to act as Carbon sinks, reducing the threat of an all too sudden increasing Climate Change.Regeneration improves products’ quality, thereby increasing their market value. It improves the properties not just sustaining but carrying them into a future of permanent virtuous processes, in the long and short run. In this way it tackles the increasing intergenerational justice problems. By means of increasing the resilience of the agrosystems, it also substantially contributes to Climate Change adaptation.


New Report Ranks Countries on Food Waste, Nutrition, and Sustainable Agriculture

Author: Marisa Tsai | Published: December 2016

The newly released 2016 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, ranks countries on food system sustainability based off three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges.  The index, presented at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan in December 2016, aims to encourage policy makers to place food and its production issues as high priority items in their policy agendas. According to the FSI, The world population is projected to reach 8.1 billion by 2025. The vast majority of the growth, 95 percent, will come from developing countries, many of which are dealing with the double burden of hunger and rising obesity. Meanwhile, climate change is presenting new challenges to the agriculture sector. By highlighting performance of different countries and identifying best practices, the index establishes a comparable benchmark for leaders around the world to reference and measure their progress in establishing a sustainable food system.  According to the authors, “The FSI is a tool for policymakers and experts to orient their action, for students to be educated, and for the public to conscientiously adjust their behavior for the food of our health and our planet.”


World Soil Day Hails Symbiotic Role of Pulses to Boost Sustainable Agriculture

Author: UN Food and Agriculture Organization | Published on: December 5, 2016

New report explores how nitrogen-fixing plants enhance nutritious diets, carbon sequestration and soil fertility.

5 December 2016, ROME- Soil and pulses can make major contributions to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population and combating climate change, especially when deployed together, according to Soils and Pulses: Symbiosis for Life, a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization released on World Soil Day.

“Soils and pulses embody a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Pulses are environmentally resilient crops that deliver high-nutrition foods to people and critical nutrients to biological ecosystems. Soil, a non-renewable resource, is essential for plant life and 95 percent of the global food supply.

Pulses such as lentils, dry beans and chickpeas are nitrogen-fixing plants that can benefit soil health, leading to better growing conditions for themselves and for other plants. On average, cereals grown after pulses yield 1.5 tonnes more per hectare than those not preceded by pulses, which is equal to the effect of 100 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer.

The new book illustrates a variety of ways that pulses and soils can be “strategic allies” in forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems.


The Slow Food View on FAO’s State of Food and Agriculture Report 2016

Published on: October 17, 2016

The climate is changing; food and agriculture must too. This was the main message UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) chose to transmit as they honored the global World Food Day 2016 at the FAO Headquarters in Rome.

World Food Day, celebrated annually on October 16th, the day that FAO was founded in 1945, was initiated to increase public awareness of issues relating to world hunger, underline the importance of helping rural communities and create an international solidarity network in the war against hunger and poverty. On this World Food Day, FAO called attention to the profound and intrinsic relationship between the food industry and climate change, taking the Paris Agreement as a signal that:

“the international community is now committed to making transformative and sustainable changes in the face of an unprecedented challenge: ending hunger and poverty while addressing the impacts of climate change.”

In acknowledging this challenge, and the necessity for immediate and concrete action to limit the impact of climate change on food security in already food-insecure regions, it is essential that the discussion focuses on what strategies will bring about the most positive impacts.

Farmers, fishers and pastoralists are hit hard by rising temperatures and the increasing frequency of weather-related disasters. By 2030, the negative impacts of climate change will put an increasing squeeze on food production as the essential nutritional values of crops, such as of zinc, iron and protein, will diminish. Furthermore, as emphasized by FAO, the impacts of climate change are more strongly observed in rural communities, where there is a higher dependency on agriculture both as a source of income and for sustenance. The negative effects of the West’s dependence on imported foods are clear for all to see, the transport costs of which contribute significantly to carbon emissions. It is imperative that this dependence is reduced, and indeed, that nutritionally self-sustaining communities remain so.


Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future

The aim of raising global awareness on the multitude of benefits of pulses was integral to the International Year of Pulses. This coffee table book is part guide and part cookbook— informative without being technical. The book begins by giving an overview of pulses, and explains why they are an important food for the future. It also has more than 30 recipes prepared by some of the most prestigious chefs in the world and is peppered with infographics.

Part I gives an overview of pulses and gives a brief guide to the main varieties in the world.

Part II explains step-by-step how to cook them, what to keep in mind and what condiments and instruments to use.


4 Levels of Regenerative Agriculture

Author: Maddy Harland | Published on: 16 September 16, 2016

Today the Terra Genesis team have released an important white paper, 4 Levels of Regenerative Agriculture. Written by Ethan Roland Soloviev (author of 8 Forms of Capital) and Gregory Landua, it describes how Regenerative Agriculture can begin as a single technique on a farm but quickly evolve into a movement for global systemic change.

Soloviev says, “In the last 18 months, the term ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ has rocketed into the spotlight. As more and more people become aware of the term, there is a real risk that the term becomes oversimplified, fragmented, and seen as simply a set of best practices or techniques.”

The goal of this white paper is to enhance the global conversation around Regenerative Agriculture and support its practitioners, proponents, and investors to radically transform Earth’s agriculture. Landua says, “Regenerative Agriculture has real potential to reverse climate change. We can also go further putting humans back in their role as a positive keystone species in the global ecosystem.”


10 Options for Agriculture at Marrakech Climate Talks

Authors: Dhanush Dinesh and Vanessa Meadu | Published on: September 2, 2016

New guidance to help countries make crucial decision on future of agriculture under climate change

There is no question that action is needed to address climate impacts on agriculture while reducing greenhouse gases produced by food and farming. In fact the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement explicitly referred to food security, and a large majority of countries at the Paris climate conference showed their willingness to take action on agriculture. A major opportunity lies ahead, as a 5-year discussion on agriculture under the UN Climate Talks culminates at the November meetings in Marrakech. New guidance is now available to help countries decide how to shape the future of food and farming under a global climate agreement.

Since 2011, a United Nations technical body (known as SBSTA) has been deliberating issues related to agriculture, with many parties and observers making submissions, and debates continuing over several workshops on the topic.

To provide countries with the necessary knowledge base to make a decision in Marrakech, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and partners have compiled a new report setting out 10 options that build on the latest submissions and deliberations by countries. Each option is elaborated with an overview, ways forward and pros and cons.