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Grazing Cattle Can Reduce Agriculture’s Carbon Footprint

Ruminant animals like cattle contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and grasslands, and proper grazing management can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and overall footprint, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.

Richard Teague, professor emeritus in the Department Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and senior scientist of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon, said his research, published in the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, presents sustainable solutions for grazing agriculture.

The published article, authored by Teague with co-authors who include Urs Kreuter, AgriLife Research socio-economist in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, was recognized at the society’s recent conference as a Soil and Water Conservation Society Research Paper for Impact and Quality.

Teague’s research shows appropriate grazing management practices in cattle production are among the solutions for concerns related to agriculture’s impact on the environment. His article serves as a call to action for the implementation of agricultural practices that can improve the resource base, environment, productivity and economic returns.

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El manejo holístico ya muestra sus bondades productivas y ambientales

De a poco, la ganadería se asoma a un nuevo paradigma. Ya no alcanza con producir la carne más rica del mundo, ahora hay que hacerlo reduciendo la huella ambiental: lo piden los consumidores y los mercados. En ese camino hay investigadores y productores de todo el país midiendo, probando y corrigiendo manejos.

En el noreste, por ejemplo, donde los pastizales cubren alrededor del 40 por ciento del área total y están compuestos por especies estivales -en el invierno el crecimiento es muy bajo a nulo-, la gran pregunta es cómo aprovechar mejor esa oferta forrajera despareja para mejorar los índices productivos al tiempo que se mejoran los servicios ecosistémicos.

En ese sentido, el establecimiento “El Rincón de Corrientes” está obteniendo algunos resultados muy interesantes. Pasando una parte de su rodeo del manejo tradicional con pastoreo continuo a lo que llaman un “manejo holístico” lograron aumentar la carga animal y mejorar los índices de destete al tiempo que capturaban más de dos toneladas de carbono por hectárea extra por año.

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Living Off the Fat of the Land—Not the Fat of the Lab

All of my life I have heard, and used, the expression “Living off of the Fat of the Land.”

To me, that expression means doing well from the excesses that come from what you have. It is kind of like living on the interest that is paid on your savings account.

The definition of the idiomatic phrase supports that meaning:

To live off the fat of the land means to live well, to live off the surrounding abundance. The term live off the fat of the land was first used in the King James Version of the Bible, translated 1611, Genesis 45:18: “And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.”

An ecosystem that is operating optimally results in an abundance, which is true wealth. This abundance occurs only when the carbon cycle, water cycle, mineral cycle, energy cycle, microbial cycle, and all of the myriad of other cycles are operating properly.

Food that is produced naturally in a good working ecosystem is good for you. It is what nature produces, and what we evolved to eat. It is the true Fat of the Land.

Sadly, industrial, centralized, commodity farming practices are very effective at breaking these natural cycles. Much of the food that we now eat is manufactured in a laboratory. I think of it as the Fat of the Lab.

We now make meat in laboratories through methods that come from reductionist science. We are told that this fat [and protein] of the lab are better for us than the fat [and protein] of the land.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown expressed how he thinks the meat market will be obsolete in 20 years.

“From a nutritional standpoint our products match the protein quality and content of the animal products that they replace” and “ours is a clear winner from a health and nutrition standpoint,” [Brown] said in a “Mad Money” interview.

“This is why I think people are increasingly aware plant-based products are going to completely replace the animal-based products in the food world within the next 15 years. That’s our mission. That transformation is inevitable,” he told host Jim Cramer.

What could possibly go wrong in these laboratories? Many scientific processes and technologies are invented through reductionist science. These scientific methods almost always have unintended consequences that go unnoticed, often, for decades.

Of course, there can be good consequences (like penicillin for example). But more often than not, what we may call a “scientific breakthrough” at the time can later be recognized and recalled for dangerous unintended consequences.

Think about the number of modifications that we tried to impose on natural cycles, only to find out the unintended consequences later: using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant or in aerosol sprays that depleted the ozone, adding antibiotics in poultry and livestock feed that are growing antibiotic-resistant diseases, eliminating wolves from national parks that led to overpopulation and starvation.

Brown says that the transformation from meat to to plant-based products made in a lab is “inevitable”. To that I say:

• There is no natural cycle that creates fake meat.

• There is no regeneration of land when meat is made in a lab.

• Nor is there any reversal of the impoverishment of rural America that was caused by industrialized agriculture.

• There is nothing inevitable or permanent about creating a new manufacturing process, unknown to nature.

The Fat of the Lab is very new. The Fat of the Land has been under testing for a really long time. In our family, we’ve been living and eating The Fat of our Land since 1866. I trust cows and hogs a Helluva lot more than I trust chemists and marketers.

Wall Street and Silicon Valley will lie to you. Livestock don’t lie. CEO’S are self-serving. Cows are sincere.

Will Harris, owner of White Oaks Pastures Farm in Bluffton, Georgia, is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher. Harris is a co-chair of the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

Manejo holístico. Recuperación y regeneración de pastizales en una zona difícil

El paisaje de muchos campos del centro de Río Negro es bastante monótono: tierras áridas con monte arbustivo de bajo valor forrajero, hacienda en pastoreo continuo desde hace muchos años y una muy reducida carga animal: normalmente se requieren 300 hectáreas para sostener diez vacas de cría, que generan bajo porcentaje de preñez y destete.

Esta realidad es consecuencia de las escasas precipitaciones -220 mm de promedio anual- y del sobrepastoreo con ovinos durante muchos años, que diezmó las especies forrajeras valiosas, provocó desertificación y dejó principalmente jarilla y chañares, dos especies rechazadas por la hacienda.

Sin embargo, en medio de ese desierto aparecen oasis. Es el caso del campo “Doña Rosa”, de Gustavo Urcera, quien maneja una empresa que cortó amarras con la situación tradicional y se animó a avanzar con una nueva carta de navegación -el manejo holístico de pastizales- que le permitió aumentar la carga animal en más de un ciento por ciento.

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There’s a Better Way to Help the Climate than Abstaining from Beef

Jan. 4 Community Voices commentary posed this question: “Why aren’t we all addressing climate change at each meal by skipping the meat?”

The campaign to fight climate change by avoiding eating meat is well-intentioned but not well-informed. In 2017, agriculture contributed 8.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and meat production was responsible for some part of that. But peer-reviewed studies show that even eliminating all of our cattle would have a relatively minor effect on climate change. In contrast, incorporating cattle into a regenerative agriculture system could sequester enough carbon to turn agriculture into a carbon sink, while also eliminating much other environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture.

Photo credit: Pexels

The problem

About 97 percent of the beef produced in the United States comes from cattle that spend half their lives in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as feedlots, each of which might hold tens of thousands of animals.

 

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Pastizales: Evitan el Calentamiento

Por primera vez en miles de años, la concentración de CO2 atmosférico pasó los 400 ppm durante todo un año. Hasta ahora las eras geológicas eran consecuencia de fenómenos naturales, lentos e inmanejables para las criaturas vivientes. Hoy los científicos dan por inaugurado el Antropoceno, la era donde los humanos somos la principal fuerza interviniente. Desde que descubrió el uso del fuego, el hombre fue alterando el paisaje y la vida del planeta, aumentando las emisiones de carbono y destruyendo sus sumideros, como costo asociado al progreso.

Photo credit: Unsplash

El aumento de los gases en la atmósfera produce efecto invernadero y la temperatura media del planeta aumenta. Las consecuencias son: sequías largas seguidas de tormentas de gran intensidad, lo que aumenta las inundaciones.

Las emisiones son como canillas abiertas echando agua en una bañadera. Es necesario cerrarlas, pero también hay que revisar lo que pasa con el desagüe. El problema no son sólo las emisiones, sino el estado de los sumideros. Se cree que la canilla abierta es el consumo de combustibles para uso domiciliario, transporte e industria.

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Forget the Past, Carbon-rich Soil May Be the Ticket to Sustainable Agriculture

TOMALES — Loren Poncia scooped up a handful of dark, damp soil that could change the future of farming.

The nutrient-rich muck was filled with slithery earthworms and thin, white roots sprouting in every direction like lightning bolts.

“This is the carbon farmer’s dream,” he exclaims. “We want to see like 10 worms in a shovel-full.”

Photo credit: Pexels

Poncia’s Stemple Creek Ranch might be a model for future farmers with its sustainable agricultural practices to keep carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere. Along with less greenhouse gas emissions, carbon-rich soil means healthier and more productive plants, according to rangeland ecologist Jeff Creque.

Now, farmers like Poncia have the wherewithal to become better stewards of the land with the support of a collaboration of researchers known as the Marin Carbon Project. Ultimately, these researchers want to help slow climate change by introducing new, sustainable standards to American agriculture.

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Regenerative Agriculture: Taking Organic to the Next Level

“Natural” and “organic” have experienced decades of growing pains as industry-shaping nomenclature. While the intricacies of terminology and philosophy continue to be worked out, progress has made way for the next generation of ideology to emerge. Among these concepts is regenerative agriculture, which takes the principles of organic farming and adds more layers of accountability.

Photo credit: Unsplash

“Regenerative organic agriculture is different in that it considers the long-term consequences of farming practices on the soil, environment, animal welfare, farm and community economics, and human health,” explained Zoe Schaeffer, communications specialist at Kutztown, Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute. “And it ensures that we’re on a path of continual improvement toward all those ends.”

Andrew Pittz is a sixth-generation family farmer and “farmer-in-chief” at Missouri Valley, Iowa-based Sawmill Hollow, the first aronia berry farm in the United States. He also serves as director of Heartland Superfoods, a vertically integrated supplier of organically farmed ingredients.

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Regenerative Agriculture Creates a Sprawling Road Map

Blain Hjertaas of Redvers, Sask., and David Rourke of Minto, Man., were both well-known faces before their panel at the MFGA Regenerative Agriculture Conference in Brandon late last November.

Why it matters: Regenerative agriculture has got lots of time in the headlines, but the movement may look very different for an organic farmer with 3,000 acres of annual crops versus a rancher whose land is mostly pasture.

Both are believers in regenerative agriculture, a movement that, among other things, promises more efficient production, resiliency against drought and flood, and the promise that the farm will not only be sustainable with the environment, but actually help regenerate degraded soil.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A conversation with either may fall towards topics like soil carbon, organic matter or soil structure and water infiltration.

At the same time, the two operations could not be more different.

For Hjertaas, it’s all about livestock.

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An Agro-Ecological Europe: A Desirable, Credible Option to Address Food and Environmental Challenges

Alarming signals about the need for a transition of the agricultural and food system in Europe have been accumulating for several years and social expectation for such a transition is growing. How can we feed Europe – and feed it well – while preserving nature and the climate? This is the purpose of a study, which main conclusions are summarized in this paper.

Key messages

1. Current diets, which are too rich and unbalanced (three times the recommended amount of sugar, double the recommended amount of protein, not enough fruit, vegetables or fibre):

  • contribute to the increase in many conditions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases);
  • lead Europe to depend on the rest of the world for food, through its imports of 40 million tonnes of plant proteins, which represent 20 % of its utilised agricultural land and far exceed the level of its exports.

2. The TYFA scenario is based on abandoning pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, redeploying natural grasslands and extending agro-ecological infrastructures(hedges, trees, ponds and stony habitats) and the generalisation of healthy diets (fewer animal products, more fruit and vegetables).

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