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Farmers Eye Towards Regenerative Agriculture to Fight Dry Summer

VANDERHOOF—This dry summer is creating problems across the province with wildfires, but it’s also taking a toll on farmers. With the lack of rain, it’s tough for farmers to maintain their soil to produce healthy crops. On Thursday, farmers met together to discuss possible solutions.

It’s been a tough summer for rancher Larry Garrett of Garrett Ranches. One that closely resembles what he experienced a few years ago. He says that grasshoppers and the drought hurt his crop growth.

To fix this problem, Garrett has been practicing regenerative agriculture.

“The newest part of science is we need to add ruminates back to the ecosystem. A ruminate expels about 80% of what it eats as manure, so it’s a really key way to build soil health,” said Garrett.

A ruminate is a mammal–such as cattle–that can specially process nutrients from grass. They expel the nutrients through their manure and the nutrients return into the soil, which is a process called grazing.

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Cover Crops Improve Soil Ecosystem

MAGNOLIA, Ill. — Soil health is among the most important foundations for sustaining plants, humans and animals.

Only living things can have “health,” so viewing soil as a living, breathing ecosystem reflects a shift in the way soil is observed and managed.

“We’re really looking at the soil function. Those are things like nutrient cycling, water infiltration and storage, plant protection, preventing erosion and storing carbon within our soils. All of these functions are the things we look at when we talking about soil health,” said Stacy Zuber, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service soil health specialist. “So, how we can take advantage of that and use those functions to help us in our systems?”

Zuber was among the speakers at the Nutrient Stewardship Field Day hosted July 6 by the Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau and partners at a cover crop demonstration site.

There are various tools recommended in the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy that focus on preventing phosphorous and nitrogen loss into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

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Can Soil Inoculation Accelerate Carbon Sequestration in Forests?

When foresters first tried to plant non-native Pinus radiata in the southern hemisphere, the trees would not grow until someone thought to bring a handful of soil from the native environment. “They didn’t know it then, but they were reintroducing the spores of fungi that these trees need in order to establish,” Colin Averill, ecologist at The Crowther Lab, explains. “When we plant trees, we rarely ‘plant’ the soil microbiome. But if we do, we can really accelerate the process of restoration.”

That process of restoration has become one of humanity’s most urgent missions. In order to slow global warming, we know that we need to decarbonize our economy and start removing carbon from the atmosphere – and we’ve largely been looking at doing so through dreams of negative emissions technologies and schemes of tree-planting.

But only very recently has more attention been turned toward another major potential tool for carbon capture: soil. An astonishing 80 percent of the carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems is stored underground. According to the 4 per 1000 Initiative, a modest and achievable increase in soil carbon of 0.4 percent could be enough to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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How Dirt Could Help Save the Planet

The American dust bowl of the 1930s demonstrated the ruinous consequences of soil degradation. Decades of farming practices had stripped the Great Plains of their fertile heritage, making them vulnerable to severe drought. Ravaging winds lifted plumes of soil from the land and left in their wake air choked with dust and a barren landscape. Thousands died of starvation or lung disease; others migrated west in search of food, jobs and clean air.

Today, we again face the potential for extreme soil erosion, but this time the threat is intensified by climate change. Together, they create an unprecedented dual threat to the food supply and the health of the planet—and farmers can be key partners in averting the catastrophic consequences. Both erosion and climate change can be mitigated by incorporating more carbon into soil. Photosynthetic carbon fixation removes carbon dioxide from the air, anchoring it in plant material that can be sequestered in soil.

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Soil Health: How to Take a Seemingly Impossible Path to Healthy Soil

The road to soil health can be difficult, and the knowledge attained during the initial steps may be based on very different systems and practices than a producer is used to. This often leaves producers to take what they’ve learned from other systems and apply it to their operations.  This was the case for two farmers in a high disturbance potato and sugar beet rotation for whom the notion of soil health just ten years ago was considered impossible.

We sat down with Brian Kossman from Paul, Idaho, and Luke Adams from Rupert, Idaho, who have been innovators in cover cropping and limiting disturbance.

How to Introduce No Till into a Sugar Beet and Potato Operation

Much of what Brian and Luke knew about farming and soil health was based on non-irrigated, Midwestern corn-soybean applications. They had to figure out how to take the principles they learned and apply them in a vastly different, high desert operation.

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The Soil-Keeping Approach to Regenerative Justice: 7 Principles

In this critical moment in our shared history, the call for transformational change is growing louder. But what exactly does this involve? Transformational change emerges from deep beneath that which we can see. Our beliefs shape our identities, just as soil health shapes plant life and paradigms shape social systems. Realizing the promise of a just society requires us to remediate inequities embedded in our soils, societies, and selves. However, “systems change” work often stops short of including all of these nested domains, hindering our ability to cultivate conditions conducive to life.

Many people trace the origins of injustice and need for transformational change back to colonization. Looking at the root of this term can help us understand these complexities and devise new healing pathways. The word “colonization” comes from the Latin colere, the noun form of which, colonus, originally signified a tiller of the earth.

Western imagination tends to associate tilling by mechanical plows as the hallmark of industrial progress and evidence of cultural superiority.

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No-till Practices in Vulnerable Areas Significantly Reduce Soil Erosion

URBANA, IL. – Soil erosion is a major challenge in agricultural production. It affects soil quality and carries nutrient sediments that pollute waterways. While soil erosion is a naturally occurring process, agricultural activities such as conventional tilling exacerbate it. Farmers implementing no-till practices can significantly reduce soil erosion rates, a new University of Illinois study shows.

Completely shifting to no-till would reduce soil loss and sediment yield by more than 70%, says Sanghyun Lee, doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at U of I and lead author on the study, published in Journal of Environmental Management.

But even a partial change in tilling practices could have significant results, he adds.

“If we focus on the most vulnerable area in terms of soil erosion, then only 40% no-till shows almost the same reduction as 100% no-till implementation,” Lee says.

The study used physical data and computer modeling to estimate soil erosion in the Drummer Creek watershed, which is part of the Upper Sangamon River watershed in Central Illinois.

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Soil Degradation Costs U.S. Corn Farmers a Half-billion Dollars Every Year

One-third of the fertilizer applied to grow corn in the U.S. each year simply compensates for the ongoing loss of soil fertility, leading to more than a half-billion dollars in extra costs to U.S. farmers every year, finds new research from the University of Colorado Boulder published last month in Earth’s Future.

Long-term soil fertility is on the decline in agricultural lands around the world due to salinization, acidification, erosion and the loss of important nutrients in the soil such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Corn farmers in the U.S. offset these losses with nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers also intended to boost yields, but scientists have never calculated how much of this fertilizer goes into just regaining baseline soil fertility–or how much that costs.

“We know there’s land degradation going on even in U.S. modern agriculture, but it’s really difficult to pin down how much and what impact it has,” said Jason Neff, corresponding author on the paper and director of the Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC).

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4 cosas que hacen de la tierra una de las cosas más asombrosas de nuestro planeta

La tierra es una de las maravillas más subestimadas y poco comprendidas de nuestro planeta.

Bajo tus pies hay cosas maravillosas, asegura Bridget Emmet, especialista en tierra del Centro para la Ecología y la Hidrología de Reino Unido, y, con las siguientes palabras, le explicó a la BBC por qué cree eso.

Lejos de ser mugre, se estima que en un solo gramo de tierra puede haber hasta 50.000 especies de organismos microscópicos.

En una sola cucharadita, hay más microorganismos que personas en la Tierra.

Pero mucho de lo que hay ahí abajo, en este universo profundo y oculto, todavía nos es ajeno.

1. Es desconocida pero invaluable

A pesar de estar literalmente bajo nuestros pies, los humanos hasta ahora solo han identificado una pequeña fracción de la extraordinaria vida que abunda bajo tierra.

Sin embargo, los animales y microorganismos que conocemos sabemos que desempeñan un papel invaluable.

Millones de años de competencia evolutiva han llevado a los microorganismos a producir compuestos antibióticos para luchar contra sus vecinos.

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La edad del suelo influye mucho menos en un ecosistema que los cambios ambientales

En un comunicado, este organismo científico ha señalado que en este estudio han participado investigadores del Grupo de Enzimología y Biorremediación de Suelos y Aguas del Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura (CEBAS-CSIC).

Además, la investigación sugiere que este contexto ecológico controla los procesos de fertilidad, acumulación de carbono y producción de plantas a lo largo de millones de años.

Fertilidad del suelo

Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, coordinador del estudio y director del laboratorio de Biodiversidad y Funcionamiento Ecosistémicos de la Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Sevilla), ha explicado que las zonas áridas siempre tendrán suelos menos fértiles, menor contenido de carbono y menor capacidad para producir alimento que ecosistemas templados o tropicales, independientemente de la edad de los ecosistemas.

De igual manera, los ecosistemas que se forman en suelos arenosos siempre serán menos fértiles que los ecosistemas que se desarrollan sobre suelos volcánicos, independientemente de su edad, ha añadido Delgado-Baquerizo.

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