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Climate change will put a drag on U.S. corn, soy, and wheat harvests by 2030

For the last decade, ethanol has helped keep corn in high demand and made it the most-planted U.S. crop. In fact, roughly 40 percent of all corn is now used to make ethanol. Meanwhile, researchers discovered that Midwestern topsoil is eroding at an average rate of 1.9 millimeters per year. Put another way, the authors estimate that the Midwest has lost approximately 57.6 trillion metric tons of topsoil since farmers began tilling the soil, 160 years ago.

Maybe there is an opportunity to shift why we are growing corn and soybeans, and how they are grown. Perhaps agrivoltaics could help enhance soil health, provide farmers with a steady income, and reduce the stress that so many farm families face.

That would allow farmers to grow corn for food (rather than for ethanol), even in the face of climate change adding increasing stress to corn growers.

“Climate change is already making it harder to farm. The long-term solution to this isn’t more fertilizer. We have to start working with Mother Nature again,” said Seth Watkins, owner-operator of Pinhook Farm in southwest Iowa. “For my family and me, this includes growing a more diverse crop rotation, keeping soil covered with crops or cover crops year-round, and strategically restoring prairie to our fields to protect soil and water quality and provide wildlife habitat….”

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Steven Rowell

Midwestern US has lost 57. 6 trillion metric tons of soil due to agricultural practices

The authors of this article estimate that the Midwest has lost approximately 57.6 trillion metric tons of topsoil since farmers began tilling the soil, 160 years ago.

A new study shows that, since Euro-American settlement approximately 160 years ago, agricultural fields in the midwestern U.S. have lost, on average, two millimeters of soil per year. This is nearly double the rate of erosion that the USDA considers sustainable. Furthermore, USDA estimates of erosion are between three and eight times lower than the figures reported in the study. Finally, the study’s authors conclude that plowing, rather than the work of wind and water, is the major culprit.

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Corn 1

USDA: Feed grains sector at a glance

For the last decade, ethanol has helped keep corn in high demand and made it the most-planted U.S. crop. In fact, roughly 40 percent of all corn is now used to make ethanol.

The major feed grains are corn, sorghum, barley, and oats. Corn is the primary U.S. feed grain, accounting for more than 95 percent of total feed grain production and use.

  • The United States is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of corn in the world.
  • On average, U.S. farmers plant about 90 million acres of corn each year, with the majority of the crop grown in the Heartland region.
  • Most of the crop is used domestically as the main energy ingredient in livestock feed and for fuel ethanol production.
  • Corn is also processed into a multitude of food and industrial products including starch, sweeteners, corn oil, and beverage and industrial alcohols.
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Corn and soybean production up in 2021, USDA Reports, Corn and soybean stocks up from year earlier, Winter Wheat Seedings up for 2022

For the last decade, ethanol has helped keep corn in high demand and made it the most-planted U.S. crop.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2022 – Increased acreage and higher yields for corn and soybeans led to record high soybean production and near-record high corn production, according to the 2021 Crop Production Annual Summary released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

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Judy Anderson

Biden-Harris administration announces availability of Inflation Reduction Act funding for climate-smart agriculture nationwide

The funding is starting to reflect the urgency of slowing down climate change. We can pay for increasingly expensive disasters, or we can invest now to slow down climate change — and help communities become more resilient.

[Jargon alert, the article will explain more]

The IRA funding includes an additional $8.45 billion for EQIP, $4.95 billion for RCPP, $3.25 billion for CSP, and $1.4 billion for ACEP. The increased funding levels begin in fiscal year 2023 and rapidly build over four years. These additional investments are estimated to help hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers apply conservation to millions of acres of land.

Additionally, the IRA provides $300 million to quantify carbon sequestration and greenhouse gases (GHG) through the collection and use of field-based data to assess conservation outcomes. Information gained through this effort will be used to….

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

How satellite-guided cows might save the Kansas prairie and make ranchers more money

Cattle may not boost plant biodiversity on the prairie as much as bison do, but The Nature Conservancy thinks it’s possible to manage them in ways that support healthier grassland. They are working with a Flint Hills cattle rancher near Strong City in Kansas, along with Kansas State scientists, to see how fitting a herd with GPS collars might help.

STRONG CITY, Kansas — Third-generation rancher Daniel Mushrush has 30-plus miles of barbed wire fence to tend to.

Calves wriggle beneath it. The wires get loose. Wild animals take a toll. And when streams surge after storms, rushing water often snaps sections in two.

For Mushrush and his family, the fence-mending on their Flint Hills ranch never ends. It’s inescapable.

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Alley cropping case studies in Appalachia

Monoculture cropping is often hard on soils, requiring considerable input of fertilizers and weed killer. Integrated cropping is shown to have multiple benefits to farmers, as well as soil health and climate impacts.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) describes alley cropping as having several conservation purposes, including reducing surface water runoff and erosion, improving soil health, altering subsurface water quantity or water table depths, enhancing wildlife and beneficial insect habitat, increasing crop diversity, and increasing carbon storage.

Much like agrivoltaics with crops and/or cattle, the combined farming practice can increase overall yields and benefits. Plus, funding may be available. The case study focuses on Appalachia but could be emulated elsewhere.

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Solar Cows

Solar farms put cow comfort and crop yield ahead of harvesting electrons

Solar can be a key part of farm viability and soil health. But we must prioritize this approach and ensure the policy is there to back it up. The U.S. is getting left behind, and as a result, we will lose a lot of farmland.

Solar arrays that promise to generate happier, healthier cows and crops, while producing cheap electrons on the side, are being put into practice in France, following a series of government-led energy tenders with a difference…

To really drive home this focus, the French government used contracts for the difference where the price per MWh is set for 20 years above the market value to compensate for the prioritization of agriculture and livestock over maximum solar production…

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Agrisolar Clearinghouse

Farmer first solar: Agrivoltaics webinar series

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is hosting a series of webinars around the ins and outs of agrivoltaics. This might be a good thing to share with community members, your friends and neighbors, and other conservation folks.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is an information-sharing, relationship-building public communications hub for all things agrisolar. The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is offering a free series of webinars regarding research on how solar and agriculture can work (and are working) together to enhance farm/ranch viability, soil health, and water management.

Webinar topics include: the cost of agrivoltaics, growing crops under solar panels, taste differences among crops grown under panels, solar and pollinator habitats, and more. You can sign up here, or watch recordings of past webinars.

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Solar panels help French winemaker keep climate change at bay

Europe is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to elevated solar and agrivoltaics. It doesn't have to be that way. With funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, communities and states could incentivize Farmer First Solar — which enhances agriculture, like in this story. Check out the images, too.

A roof of solar panels shades Pierre Escudie as he inspects the last plump grapes to be harvested at his vineyard in southwest France, after a year of hard frosts and blistering heat that damaged many of his neighbors’ crops.

The solar panels insulate the grapes during periods of extreme cold and shield them from the sun’s harsh rays during heat waves. The panels also rotate to allow more light to hit the vines on more overcast days…

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