What larger lesson have you gleaned from your work?
The lesson is what’s out there in nature - how does nature do it? What can we learn from that? How can we take those ideas and either manipulate them and use them in our farming systems to accomplish the same kind of things that we’ve done as we’ve short circuited [the process] with off-the-shelf chemicals? If we do it by using systems that nature has evolved, we bypass the danger zone of creating things that nature hasn’t learned how to deal with. And we’re using materials and ideas that already exist on the planet. There’s microbes that already exist and know how to metabolize the stuff. The planet knows how to deal with these things as part of the system.
Nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry. Another billion people are obese. At the same time, one third of the food produced for human consumption spoils or goes to waste. These problems have become pervasive throughout the globe. They affect industrialized and developing nations alike. Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson of Chicago, Illinois saw these statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as symptoms of a failed global food system. In response, they launched Food Tank: The Food Think Tank as a platform for anyone with a stake in the global food system to contribute to a solution. According to the non-profit’s website, “Food Tank: The Food Think Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day.”
Greenhouse gardening might be a technology dating from Roman times (the emperor Tiberius reportedly enjoyed greenhouse-raised cucumbers daily), but Village Farms has taken their brand of hydroponic greenhouse horticulture to 21st century levels.
The publicly traded company was born some 25 years ago when CEO Michael DeGiglio was selling agricultural hardware to commercial greenhouses and decided to try his own hand. His first hydroponic greenhouse facilities covered a mere 10 acres. A couple of decades later, Village Farms facilities cover some 262 acres, providing fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers to major retailers in the U.S., Mexico and Canada under the Village Farms® and Home Choice® brand names. Last year, the company saw more than $160 million in sales.
News Release – The Federal Government should launch a coordinated effort to boost American agricultural science by increasing public investments in that economically important domain and rebalancing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research portfolio, according to a new report by an independent, presidentially appointed advisory group. The report also calls for the creation of a network of public-private agricultural “innovation institutes,” to leverage the strengths of government scientists and commercial interests.
News Release – Many vegetable farmers want to improve soil quality, but because they operate in a competitive, rotation-intensive environment, any soil-building practice they are likely to adopt needs to be backed by solid data.
That is why Oregon State University (OSU) Extension specialists have spent six years studying the role cover crops play in fertility management, to the benefit of hundreds of farmers in the highly productive Willamette Valley. To date, the OSU researchers’ main contribution is a calculator for estimating the cost and nitrogen (N) contribution of cover crops, compost, and organic and synthetic fertilizers. The calculator has been used by more than 620 people since 2010, representing more than 52,000 acres.
News Release – The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) has released a new report entitled Conservation Practices in Outdoor Hog Production Systems: Findings and Recommendations from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
The report, written by N.C. State University animal science Research Associate Silvana Pietrosemoli, explains strategies for reducing the environmental impacts of outdoor hog production systems, which can pose environmental risks if not properly managed.
The project, started in 2011 with a competitive grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, is led by Stan Harpole and Lori Biederman, Iowa State University Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology.
For most of us soil, or “dirt”, is something to get rid of, even to fear. Millions are spent on television ads to tell us how to fight dirt and win. A farmer’s relationship with the stuff that gets under fingernails, however, is starkly different. To reap a harvest and turn a profit, a farmer must work with dirt, or as one crop advisor calls it, “that black box we call soil.” All inputs, chemicals included, are applied to optimize harvests and net profit. But earth, from which seeds sprout, though seemingly simple in its brownness, is not a single entity; rather it is a complex ecosystem as full of mystery as the depths of the sea. Since it is from the earth that all terrestrial life springs, it is worthy to ask: what of crop plants, agricultural chemicals and this little known realm that absorbs them?
Guiltinan is a professor of plant molecular biology in the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He currently runs the Guiltinan Lab, where he studies crop improvement and sustainable farming methods. Guiltinan was a key player in The International Cocoa Genome Sequencing Consortium, a worldwide effort to sequence and analyze the genome of the Criollo variety of the Theobromo cacao plant, the key ingredient in high-quality chocolate. Using genome sequencing programs and computer clusters at Penn State and abroad, Guiltinan and his colleagues have mapped the cacao genome and are working to breed better, more disease-resistant cacao plants.
Research Finds Ag and Food Production Contribute Up to 29 Percent of Global Greenhouse Gas EmissionsNovember 2, 2012 | CGIAR
News Release – COPENHAGEN - Feeding the world releases up to 17,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, according to a new analysis released today by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). But while the emissions “footprint” of food production needs to be reduced, a companion policy brief by CCAFS lays out how climate change will require a complete recalibration of where specific crops are grown and livestock are raised.
News Release – ARCHIBALD, La. – Michael Blazier is familiar with growing trees. As an LSU AgCenter forestry researcher, he has been involved in many timber-related projects that have helped determine the most efficient methods for producing quality lumber. Now, he is working on growing switchgrass, a fast-growing native plant that shows promise as a biofuel feedstock.
“Switchgrass is native to nearly the entirety of North America. In Louisiana, it is native to the Cajun prairie ecosystem,” Blazier said.
But rural areas, despite their wide-open spaces and fertile farmland, can be food deserts, too.
An Ohio State University Extension community development specialist worked with two student interns to examine this seeming paradox to discover more about people who live in rural food deserts and how they access fresh produce.
Penn State Led Research Project Receives $10 Million Grant to Develop Perennial Feedstock Production SystemsOctober 28, 2012 | Penn State University
News Release — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Northeast could help lead the way to a renewable-energy-based economy by utilizing marginal and abandoned land to grow energy crops such as perennial grasses and fast-growing woody plants.
That’s the goal of a new research and education project led by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and supported by a $10 million grant,