Recently in Agriculture Category
Feeding the world's growing population is shaping up to be the challenge of the century, but where does conservation fit into the equation?
Joe Fargione, senior director for The Nature Conservancy - North America Region, attempted to answer just that in last Wednesday's Frontiers in the Environment presentation, "Peak Cropland: Saving Room for Nature While Feeding Humanity this Century."
Spirited voices mixed with the scent of Indian spices in The Commons: Meeting and Art Space at Institute on the Environment last Monday night. Dozens of Acara students, mentors and investors were gathered for a showcase of the 2012-13 Acara Challenge contestants.
Attendees supped on fare from Gandhi Mahal and mingled with the young entrepreneurs before settling in for brief presentations on seven start-ups developed by Acara alumni. The goal of each business - in addition to viability and profit - is to address a social or environmental issue at home or abroad.
BY JUSTIN MILLER
Whether you're an environmental scientist working to restore biodiversity in the Amazon or just someone practicing an eco-friendly lifestyle to the best of your abilities, you know the little things are important. However, the day-to-day routine can give you tunnel vision. At some point we all need to step back and refocus on the global picture.
On Friday, May 10, a group of graduate students and a professor from the University of Minnesota set off for the Minnesota-South Dakota border excited and anxious. The plan: go from farm to farm and school to school by bike and on foot, collecting media artifacts on innovative agricultural practices for 7th-12th grade teachers and students following along.
Toward the end of the first day the "Grown to Run" adventure learning team saw plumes of white and gray smoke drifted across the road. Traffic slowed as flames flickered from a prairie reserve being burned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Armed with cameras, the G2R team videotaped a segment of the daily adventure update that would illustrate the role fire plays in prairie ecosystems.
The team took more video footage that evening of farmer Carmen Fernholz incorporating a cover crop as a green manure into one of his fields. With camp set up on the front lawn, the team gathered with the Fernholz family for dinner.
Over the next five days en route to Stillwater, Minn., the G2R team traveled with stiff winds, rain, shine and temperatures ranging from 29 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Along the way, team members visited four more farms and a handful of schools.
Moonstone Farms, Betsy's B & B, Burns' Farm and Garden Fresh Farms each illustrated different aspects of innovative farming for those following along. Students saw diverse agricultural systems ranging from perennial pasture to the incorporation of grass buffer strips and catchment ponds to high technology.
At schools, the team members worked through complex questions with students. They visited the classroom of Ben Johnson in Clara City. His seventh graders gasped when they saw maps of the decrease in landscape diversity between 1937 and 2002 in the Expert Video by Iowa State University professor Lisa Schulte-Moore.
By the time of arrival in Stillwater, the team had traveled more 200 miles, visited five farms, delivered four lesson plans online to around 300 students, recorded more than 50 gigabytes of multimedia, tweeted more than 100 tweets, and seen a wide variety of innovative ways Minnesota farmers deliver food, fiber and fuel.
To learn more about the project, visit the project website, where you can find farm videos, lesson plans and other resources on innovative Minnesota agriculture.
This work was funded by the Institute on the Environment and sponsored by the Farm to School Program and Coca-Cola.
Bryan Runck is a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota working on the dissemination of agroecological information and head of the G2R project. Photo courtesy of Bryan Runck.
Many of the increases in food production during the Green Revolution can be attributed to a single element in the periodic table -- nitrogen. Begun in the early 1900s as an effort to convert nitrogen gas from the air we breathe into a solid form that could propel ammunition farther, the Haber-Bosch process later became the key mechanism for boosting crop yields through mass production of nitrogen fertilizer. Unfortunately, excess nitrogen degrades our drinking water quality, causes many coastal areas to be oxygen-depleted "dead zones," and adds a very powerful greenhouse gas to our atmosphere. How can we manage our farmlands more effectively?