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Meadowlark
Robert Harwood/Audubon Photography Awards

Innovative bill would promote regenerative ranching in California

National Audubon is working to promote land management that benefits farmers, ranchers, and wildlife, and that slows down climate change. How might your land trust work to support farming and ranching, as well as climate reduction practices? Has your state considered something like this?

The program would encourage regenerative agricultural practices similar to those promoted by Audubon’s Conservation Ranching initiative (ACR). The program partners with ranchers to adopt techniques including rotation of pastureland and limited use of feeds other than grass itself. The practices allow a variety of native grasses, with their extensive root systems (a potent carbon sink), to grow and thrive by allowing grasslands to rest and recover.

That, in turn, provides habitat for imperiled grassland birds, whose numbers have declined by 50 percent over the past 100 years. In return, ranchers participating in ACR can brand their meat with Audubon’s “Grazed on bird-friendly land” seal, earning up to $2 per pound more for their premium, grass-fed products…

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Loggerhead Shrike
Roger Baker/Audubon

Protocols for bird-friendly habitat management certification

National Audubon is working to promote land management that benefits farmers, ranchers, and wildlife, and that slows down climate change. How might your land trust work to support farming and ranching, as well as climate reduction practices? Has your state considered something like this?

Audubon and its partner ranchers employ a variety of tactics to manage the land upon which cows graze. Together, these tactics are what leads to Audubon’s certification that certain beef products are produced with bird-friendly land-management practices

To get certification, ranchers follow a set of program standards in four areas: habitat management; forage and feeding; animal health and welfare; and environmental sustainability…

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Upland Sandpiper
Lucy Britton/Audubon Dakota

What in the world is conservation ranching?

National Audubon is working to promote land management that benefits farmers, ranchers, and wildlife, and that slows down climate change. How might your land trust work to support farming and ranching, as well as climate reduction practices? Has your state considered something like this?

“Wild bison were unwitting conservationists. As they roved the Great Plains, snacking here, trampling there, the hefty mammal carved diverse plant landscapes for any species’ nesting, mating, or hunting requirements. When humans substituted these shaggy ungulates for cows, the territory transformed. Without guidance, cattle mow fields to a single height and encourage only a couple plants to rebound. Few birds thrive in this monotony…”

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Solar And Kale
NREL

Benefits of agrivoltaics across food, water, energy sectors

Food and energy security need not be competing objectives. In fact, taking a holistic, integrated approach to food-energy-water decision making can increase resiliency of both food and energy systems…

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Solar Field From Above
Robin Lubbock/WBUR

Farms will harvest food and the sun, as Massachusetts pioneers ‘Dual-Use’ Solar

We are losing farms and ranches at an alarming rate. What if compatible solar was part of the economic strategy to keep family farms and ranches viable, and pass them on to the next generation? We have the technology. We just need the community will to make that happen.

Fickle weather and fluctuating prices make farming a risky business, so five years ago, [Paul] Knowlton installed a new cash crop: solar energy. He turned 19 acres into two solar energy fields. “Doing the solar was very beneficial,” he says. “In the wintertime there is no revenue for a farm. It’s a tough game.”

Knowlton wants to increase the production of solar power on his farm, expanding it to another 14 acres. But this time, cutting-edge technology is making it possible to harvest both the sun’s energy and crops on the same land. It’s called “agrivoltaics” or “dual-use solar”…Knowlton has nine children, and hopes solar will help the farm stay in the family. “We’re going to keep it for the next generation to enjoy,” he says.

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Tilled Farmland
Dan Gunderson | MPR News 2019

A ‘carbon bank’ could mean extra cash for Midwest farmers

Farming can be part of the climate solution with "climate-smart" farming practices. A lot of these practices are common sense, but with farming margins tight, many farmers and ranchers need economic assistance to make it happen. Check this out—and consider what your state can do.

A well-known Minnesota agribusiness hopes to turn climate change concern into cash for farmers.

Land O’Lakes, through its sustainability arm, Truterra, last week launched a carbon exchange program in which companies that want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions can buy credits, and farmers get paid for increasing carbon storage in the soil…

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Solar Farm Screenshot
video screenshot

Solar installation—Matsuda Farm

Local land trust's projects and creative solutions to climate change speak volumes about how they see their role in the climate crisis.

Does your land trust have an opportunity to install solar on its lands as part of an overall project, and education strategy?

The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust is passionate about conserving land to protect the natural ecosystems and rural character of their islands amidst today’s rampant development. They created a video to talk about a solar installation on a farm they own and how it relates to their conservation goals.

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Solar And Ranchers
Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Beneath solar panels, the seeds of opportunity sprout

“On a humid, overcast day in central Minnesota, a dozen researchers crouch in the grass between rows of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Only their bright yellow hard hats are clearly visible above the tall, nearly overgrown prarie grasses—which are growing exactly as expected.

Bent over white, square frames, some of the researchers catalog the number and type of native plants growing on a square foot of land. Others press double-forked meters into the ground, measuring the soil moisture below the solar panels and in open ground. Nearby, beekeepers check on the health of local hives.

Their research is part of an ongoing study to quantify the benefits of a new approach to solar installations: low-impact solar development…”

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Many Solar Panels
Creative Commons

Panel discussion: Integrated Energy Research on Agriculture & Water Challenges

Check out these slides from this detailed panel hosted by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis just a few weeks ago…

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Solar Farmer And Kale
DENNIS SCHROEDER/NREL

Can farmland fix solar power’s real estate problem?

“The farmers we work with are facing the reality of not wanting to sell their farms, but they have a developer knocking on the door...There’s an opportunity to leverage [agrivoltaics] so we can do [elevated] ground-mounted solar without taking any farmland off the table..."

Rooftop panels are great, but there just isn’t enough viable rooftop space for solar to take a meaningful bite out of carbon emissions in the US. For that, the country needs utility-scale solar farms, which can take up a lot of space—they could occupy an area the size of Connecticut by 2030, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

There needn’t be a trade-off between crops and electrons, [Chad] Higgins said; they can grow in tandem. Elevated solar panels installed above crops (so-called “agrivoltaics”) can provide an extra income stream for farmers if they lease the space for them to solar companies. And they can yield benefits for the farm itself: the shade can actually boost the yield of vegetables, decrease water consumption, and preserve the ability of soil to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, according to an ongoing National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study. The study’s pilot sites have also found ways to combine solar with cattle and goat grazing, as well as apiaries for bees…

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