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Cows
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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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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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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