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Agrivoltaics Screen Shot

Sustainable farm agrivoltaic project

This research provides clarity on how solar and farming can work together to improve soil health, water management, and enhanced solar energy production.

Solar panels can be positioned to allow plants just the right amount of sunlight, and then the excess sunlight can be harvested for electricity — and produce more than they would without crops below them.

That’s right. Plants help keep the solar panels cool, which makes them more productive. Our studies have shown that panels positioned above plants produce up to 10% more electricity.

Agrivoltaics is a symbiotic relationship where both the solar panels and the crops benefit because they help each other perform better.

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Corn
iStock

Cover crops not enough to improve soil after decades of continuous corn

While this study focuses on the Midwest, the data is transferable to other regions of the country. This is important research when we advocate for climate-smart farming (also called regenerative agriculture). It also helps rethink how we, as a country, have thousands of acres under corn for ethanol production (which is not good for climate in a lot of ways).

Although about 20% of Illinois cropping systems are planted with continuous corn, it’s nearly impossible to find fields planted this way for decades at a time. Yet long-term experiments like one at the University of Illinois, including over 40 years of continuous corn under different nitrogen fertilizer rates, provide incredible learning opportunities and soil management lessons for researchers and farmers alike…

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Sprout
IAEA

USDA offers expanded conservation program opportunities to support climate smart agriculture in 2022

The USDA’s goal is to expand cover crops to 30 million acres by 2030, effectively doubling the amount in the ground currently.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate smart agriculture in 2022. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

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Dust Storm
iStock

A wild, windy spring is creating a soil erosion nightmare for farmers

It's a concerning situation. We might want to also start thinking about elevated solar that helps with cover crops, soil health, and water management. We need leadership in that area. So far, there isn't a push to help farmers tap into elevated solar as a farm viability tool.

Dust storms fueled by climate change, tillage, and drought are causing the loss of tons of topsoil throughout the Great Plains. Cover crop adoption, however, in most states hovers between 3 and 5 percent, says Webster. The USDA’s goal is to expand cover crops to 30 million acres by 2030, effectively doubling the amount in the ground currently.

Bukowski suggests farmers should adopt cover crops sooner rather than later, while it’s still an option. “At some point, we may not have enough precipitation for cover crops,” she says. “We do have a choice. Are we going to rise to the occasion in terms of climate, water resource management, and good farming practices — or are we not?” she asks…

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Piglets
iStock

Farming collaborative plan looks to keep land accessible, open

Vermont Land Trust has long been an organization supporting farm viability as part of its farmland protection strategy. This is an interesting project that reflects climate change, economic viability, and conservation.

Under the land collaborative model, the property will not solely be devoted to agriculture; Sanford-Long’s animals will share land with a planned solar array…

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Solar Farm
Robin Lubbock/WBUR

Farms will harvest food and the sun, as Mass. pioneers ‘dual-use’ solar

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water.

Paul Knowlton owns 300 acres of land in Grafton, and farms about 50. The farm has been in his family for five generation, ever since Knowlton’s great-great-grandfather settled in the Blackstone Valley in 1872.

These days Knowlton grows pumpkins, squash and corn. Up a gravel road, past the family cemetery, corn stalks are still standing from this year’s crop. “Considering the drought situation, we did fair,” Knowlton says.

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Solar Sheep
American Solar Grazing Association

Solar meets sheep (and bees, and more)

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water. Scenic Hudson continues to demonstrate how they are an organization that is learning and helping to lead.

Often solar panels sit on former agricultural land, but aren’t what we’d otherwise think of as a farm.

Agrivoltaics aims to change that by hosting PV panels and agriculture on the exact same land. Often, livestock like sheep graze under the solar panels. Sometimes the projects include pollinator habitat as well, which can benefit biodiversity, honey production, or adjacent pollinator-dependent crops. And trials are being done growing shaded crops under raised panels, too…

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Farmerica
Don Graham, Flickr/Creative Commons

USDA to invest $1 billion in climate smart commodities, expanding markets, strengthening rural America

The USDA will invest $1 billion in climate-smart commodities, expanding markets, and strengthening rural America.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today at Lincoln University that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is delivering on its promise to expand markets by investing $1 billion in partnerships to support America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity will finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits. USDA is now accepting project applications for fiscal year 2022.

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Long Horned Cattle
Brett Deering for The NYT

A different kind of land management: let the cows stomp

This is a good story that you might share. We need farmers and ranchers more than ever — they are critical parts of the climate solution.

Adam Isaacs stood surrounded by cattle in an old pasture that had been overgrazed for years. Now it was a jumble of weeds.

“Most people would want to get out here and start spraying it” with herbicides, he said. “My family used to do that. It doesn’t work.”

Instead, Mr. Isaacs, a fourth-generation rancher on this rolling land in the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle, will put his animals to work on the pasture, using portable electrified fencing to confine them to a small area so that they can’t help but trample some of the weeds as they graze.

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Soil
Picryl

Research on soil sequestration

This is a scientific article that you might find of interest as you learn more about carbon sequestration in soils.

Soil carbon (C) sequestration is one of three main approaches to carbon dioxide removal and storage through management of terrestrial ecosystems. Soil C sequestration relies of the adoption of improved management practices that increase the amount of carbon stored as soil organic matter, primarily in cropland and grazing lands. These C sequestering practices act by increasing the rate of input of plant-derived residues to soils and/or by reducing the rates of turnover of organic C stocks already in the soil.

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