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Climate Change & Conservation News

Agriculture

Agrivoltaics
Flickr

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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Agrivoltaics
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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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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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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Thoughtful Ag
NRDC

Fighting climate change through farming

In Central California, small ranches and farms are growing their connections — to the land, to the past, and to each other. And that's happening all over this country. This article includes a video that features a Midwest farmer taking action around clover crops. We need to share these stories so people understand that farming is part of the climate solution.

Some research suggests that widespread trapping of carbon in soil through practices such as cover cropping, low- or no-till cultivation, and crop rotation could globally store up to the equivalent of eight billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—nearly matching current annual emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, though more research is needed to determine if the gains decline overtime…

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