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Tweaking cows’ diets can reduce climate-warming pollution

Optimizing their feed reduces a herd’s methane emissions by up to 40%, research suggests.

[T]weaking a cow’s diet can cut those emissions by up to 40%, according to some estimates. Providing feed that’s easier to digest, adjusting the proportions of nutrients, and supplementing with certain additives can help reduce the methane produced.

Wightman says it also boosts milk production because less of the energy contained in the feed goes to waste.

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Black And White Bird

2021 Plowprint Report

Certain landscapes, like the Great Plains are being torn up at a ferocious rate — with grave implications for biodiversity and carbon storage.

In a concerning trend, WWF’s 2021 Plowprint Report has revealed that, for the second year in a row, grassland plow-up across the Great Plains has continued to accelerate. The 2021 report, which utilizes the USDA’s annual Cropland Data Layer and the Canadian Annual Crop Inventory from two years prior to its release date, finds that from 2018-2019 an estimated 2.6 million acres of grassland were plowed-up, primarily to make way for row crop agriculture. This is an area larger than Yellowstone National Park. Within the Northern Great Plains (NGP), the Great Plains’ most intact region, nearly 600 thousand acres were plowed up during this same period.

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Sunlit Field
Tetra Images/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

America’s native grasslands are disappearing

The Great Plains are being torn up at a ferocious rate — with grave implications for biodiversity and carbon storage.

Lendrum led a research team that released a report in September showing that from 2018 to 2019 an estimated 2.6 million acres of grassland were plowed up, primarily to make way for row crop agriculture — an area larger than Yellowstone national park.

For a few years, the rate of grassland loss was decreasing. But then in 2018 and 2019, the number started to increase again, Lendrum says. “That’s an alarming trend.” It’s also a huge blow for efforts to fight the climate crisis and represents a little reported unfolding environmental disaster in the US…

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Creative Commons

Climate change’s impact on soil moisture could push land past the ‘tipping point’

Soils are critical to our ecological and agricultural systems. It's time we start talking about the impacts of extreme weather on soils and the necessity to transition off fossil fuels to save these soils — while there's still time.

The impact of climate change on soil moisture could push land past a “tipping point” — turning it from a net carbon “sink” to a source of CO2, one study finds.

The research, published in Nature, shows that levels of soil moisture — which are impacted by rising temperatures and extreme events such as droughts — can have a “large negative influence” on the land’s ability to store carbon…

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Judy Anderson

Agrivoltaics looks at farming around and among solar panels

We are predicted to need 8-10 million acres of solar to adequately transition from fossil fuels. When installed thoughtfully, solar can benefit farming, and farm viability, including large animal operations. We just need to push for it.

If you are driving to the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), look along U.S. Highway 59 for large pastures where cows graze among solar panels.

The cows, under the direction of Bradley Heins, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, use the panels for shade and shelter.

Double cropping solar power and organic dairy production works successfully here, but the concept — called agrivoltaics — is still very new…

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Eggplant Squash Carrots
Judy Anderson

Land conservation combatting climate change

Farms and farmland can be an important part of the climate solution, but we have to understand the barriers and what's realistic. This land trust is working to find creative solutions, including supporting renewables that are compatible with farming, and tapping into federal and state funding for soil health and farming practices.

Agricultural Stewardship Association is working to position farmers and farmland as part of the climate solution. Here’s an excerpt from their website:

ASA is dedicated to helping mitigate climate change. Here’s how:

  1. We are helping farm families permanently protect the most valuable and resilient land for farming and growing food.
  2. We are educating our community about the importance of keeping land in farming and the connection with increasing resilience to a changing climate.
  3. We are partnering with other organizations to help farmers adopt soil health practices and generate renewable energy in ways that are compatible with agriculture and keep productive land in farming…
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Coastal Rivers
Nate Poole

Coastal Rivers takes leap towards carbon neutrality with solar array

I think you will appreciate the leadership of land trusts like Coastal Rivers, who are making it clear that an integrated approach to slowing down climate change, matters.

For those who braved mud or ice to stroll the slopes at Round Top Farm this winter, they may have spotted something shiny and new in the southwest field behind Darrows Barn.

As of Jan. 3, contractors with ReVision Energy completely installed eight rows of solar panels on a one-acre parcel at the farm and are in the process of finishing the wiring on the array. ReVision broke ground on the project in the fall.

Hannah McGhee, Coastal Rivers outreach and communications manager, said the location for the panels was selected for the minimal impact it would have on the visual landscape at Round Top for the public and abutters.

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Solar sharing for both food and clean energy production

Farmland without water is an increasing risk no matter where you are in the country. Corn, soybeans, vegetables, and orchards are all feeling the stress; agrivoltaics (often elevated solar) could make a difference. You might find this scientific study on agrivoltaics (with corn), interesting.

Research on the performance of agrivoltaic systems for corn, a typical shade-intolerant crop.

This article concerns research conducted at a 100-m2 experimental farm with three sub-configurations: no modules (control), low module density, and high module density. In each configuration, 9 stalks/m2 were planted 0.5 m apart. The biomass of corn stover grown in the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control configuration by 4.9%. Also, the corn yield per square meter of the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control by 5.6%.

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Times Hudson Valley Media

The future of farming?

Lightstar has one potential site in mind for the Town of Montgomery: a 3.4 mW installation on 16 acres. The acreage is currently being used for vegetable and hay production, with Lightstar offering financial and agricultural support for the next two decades.

Large solar arrays have begun to line the Wallkill Valley landscape. Solar farms are springing to life where agriculture — and in one case a miniature golf course — once ruled the land.

But what if a farmer wanted to continue to grow crops on a farm and was able to plant and grow them underneath solar panels that alternately allowed for shade and sunlight for the crops? What if the farmer could lease space to the provider of solar energy and earn additional income while continuing to operate the farm?

This concept, known as agrivoltaics, is catching on. It could soon come to the Town of Montgomery, provided a change in the town’s solar laws is approved…

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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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