blueberries and cherries

Climate Change & Conservation News

Agriculture

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…

Read More »
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.

Read More »
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…

Read More »
Ag Cows Solar Shade

Video: Solar shading for dairy cows

We all know Minnesota summers can be hot, especially for our grazing dairy herd. We’ve installed solar panels in our pasture to provide shade for our cows. Brad Heins, WCROC dairy scientist, and Kirsten Sharpe, graduate student, share more information…

Read More »
Cows And Solar
Chris via Geograph

Solar panels provide cow comfort

In the urgent push to transition to renewables, agricultural land will either be overcome with solar—or managed in partnership with solar that is specifically designed to be compatible for agricultural production. The examples are growing. To make it widespread, conservationists will need to advocate for it.

Research from the University of Minnesota on solar panels at dairy farms is leading to some interesting results. The panels produce electricity to run the farms, but also provide shade for the dairy cattle—thus improving cattle comfort.

A 30-kilowatt solar-powered system is in the pasture of the rotational grazing system at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. The center is located in Morris, Minnesota. According to University of Minnesota assistant professor and Extension Organic Dairy Management Specialist Brad Heins, the system provides shade for the center’s milking herd and energy for the milking parlor…

Read More »
Dairy Cow
Judy Anderson

Caring for the land is caring for ourselves

Profitable farms cultivating healthy people; thriving, diverse communities; clean water, flood reduction, stable climate, and biodiversity are possible…

Read More »
Rancher With Cattle
FINN RYAN

‘Grassland 2.0’ seeks to transform Upper Midwest agriculture through perennial grasslands

With chronically low and erratic milk prices, Bert Paris has controlled dairy production costs with managed grazing. Pasture management can increase carbon in the soil, reduce run-off, and lower emissions like CO2 and N2O—greenhouse gases that need to be reduced.

Bert Paris loves dairy farming. After more than 30 years, he’s beginning to transition the farm he operates near Belleville, Wisconsin, to his daughter, Meagan Farrell, who is excited about moving her family home to run it.

Despite years of terrible headlines about the dairy industry, farmers like Paris and Farrell are bullish on dairy because, despite chronically low and erratic milk prices, they’ve controlled their production costs with managed grazing. “Grazing, financially speaking, was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business,” Paris says.

Paris is a participant in Grassland 2.0, a newly formed collaborative group based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison that is working to create more opportunities for grazing and other types of perennial grassland farming.

Read More »
Cows On Savanna
Mastodon Valley Farm video

Wisconsin farmer mimics ecosystem where mastodons and ground sloths once roamed

Regenerative agriculture is gaining traction. Rotational grazing is now discussed in different ways to connect with different audiences.

Peter Allen is taking inspiration from the oak savannas that were once widespread in the Midwest.

He says conventional agriculture depletes the soil, but this approach to raising livestock can help build topsoil and store carbon.

“We’ve grown about three inches of topsoil in six years,” Allen says. “So that’s really inspiring.” By learning from the past, Allen hopes to produce food while also preserving savanna ecosystems for the future.

Read More »
Elevated Solar
Send2Press Newswire

Installed: elevated solar supports family farm, cows, and crops

There is a growing effort to treat farm and ranchland as limited—and valuable—assets, as part of renewable installations. That means dual-use designs that ensure longer-term farm and market flexibility.

Generally, solar projects on agricultural land face pushback because traditional solar systems cover the ground in a manner that significantly reduces the amount of available farmland. This project did not face this kind of opposition because a dual-use system doesn’t replace crops, it works with them.

The array is designed to allow sufficient sunlight for the crops and is raised high enough in the air to allow tractors continued access underneath…[It] is designed with 20 ft. row-spacing and a minimum panel height of 10 ft. to improve performance and allow tractors continued access. Dual-use systems use special solar photovoltaic (PV) racking to harvest power from the same sunlight that nourishes the crops that grow under the mounts…

Read More »
Midwest Destruction
Robert Franklin/AP

Extreme weather [just] devastated 10 million acres in the midwest. Expect more of this

Farmers are feeling the impacts of climate change differently, depending on the region and landscape. By 2050, U.S. corn yields could decline by 30%. State-level climate solutions could help. Conservation groups can elevate those efforts to increase awareness about the importance of action.

The impacts of climate change are real and profound for our most basic industry: food. Fortunately, science tells us that we can make a real impact on climate change by planting less corn and more grass that sequesters carbon. Paying farmers to build soil health and retain water is a better investment than writing a crop insurance check for drought.

Farmers on the frontlines of climate change are trying to become more resilient to extreme weather by planting permanent grass strips in crop fields and planting cover crops for the winter that suck up nitrogen and CO2. The rate of adaptation would be quickened if conservation funding programs were not always under attack…

Read More »