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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Andrew Burger

Kraft Foods Takes Measure of its Environmental Impact; Sustainable Agriculture Key to Improvement Efforts

December 20, 2011 |

Kraft Foods on Dec. 14 released results of a survey that measured the impact of its activities on climate change, land and water use. Conducted in partnership with Quantis Inc. and reviewed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and academics at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, the multi-year study provides Kraft management a “big picture” views of its environmental footprint that “goes far beyond the company’s walls,” according to Kraft’s media release.

“Having the ‘big picture’ of our total footprint — from farm to fork — validates the focus of our sustainability efforts, particularly advancing sustainable agriculture,” explained Roger Zellner, Kraft Sustainability Director for Research, Development & Quality. Read More

USDA-ARS Study Delves into Relationship Between Biochar, Soil and Crop Growth

December 16, 2011 |

Biochar

Biochar has been around for thousands of years. Pre-Columbian Amazonian natives first created it by burning their agricultural waste in pits that they covered with soil. It is believed that they intentionally used the resulting biochar to increase soil productivity in constrained or infertile soil.

Today, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is studying how the use of biochar – which can be produced from wood or plant material as well as manure – can be used to enhance soil fertility and remediate contaminated soils. Read More

Oregon State U. Study Finds Biofuel Production and Policy Ineffective and Inefficient

December 5, 2011 |

When it comes to cost-effectiveness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, biofuels aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, according to a study conducted by economists at Oregon State University (OSU).

Both the US and EU, as well as other governments around the world, have established ambitious targets for increasing biofuel production and consumption. While the stated goal of these biofuel production initiatives and mandates is to curtail and help phase out fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the OSU study found that this is not always the case. Read More

Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources Key to Feeding a Growing Population, Says FAO

December 2, 2011 |

At a conference this week to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director-general Jacques Diouf called on governments and the international community to develop and enact science-based policies with the specific aim of conserving and making wider use of traditional crops and plant varieties.

Traditional food crop and plant varieties are in urgent need of protection from climate change and other environmental stresses, the FAO noted in a news brief.

“The conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are key to ensuring that the world will produce enough food to feed its growing population in the future,” Diouf said. Read More

Long-term Comparative Study Highlights Benefits of Low External-input Cropping Systems

December 2, 2011 |

Results of a long-term study conducted by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University to compare the agronomic, economic and ecological benefits of conventional versus low external-input (LEI) cropping systems showed that low-input, diversified crop rotation systems can produce high yields of corn and soybean, improve soil quality, suppress weeds effectively, reduce the need for fossil fuel inputs as well as requirement for synthetic N fertilizer.

Synthetic fertilizers represent a major expenses for farmers in Iowa and throughout the US Corn Belt, and they’re often linked to environmental damage and land degradation. Such fertalizers are also tied to the use of fossil fuels, the reduction of which is seen as critical to improving agricultural sustainability. Read More