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Farmers must care for soil health, USDA expert says - News

Farmers must care for soil health, USDA expert says - News | sustainablity | Scoop.it

Eight years ago, Ray Archuleta was at a loss.

He was working as a U.S. Department of Agriculture agent in Oregon.

His friend, a frugal Mormon farmer, wanted to pass the farm on to his son, and his son wanted to farm.

The transition was not possible, though, because input costs were so high that the farm was unprofitable.

And Archuleta did not know how to fix his friend's problem.

He had not yet recognized that the man was destroying his soils by not taking care of soil microorganisms.

"I gave bad advice because I did not see the wholes," Archuleta told hundreds of farmers a week ago at Shady Maple banquet center in East Earl.

Archuleta now works as a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service soil health expert in North Carolina.

He was the keynote speaker at a daylong gathering organized by the Elanco Region Source Water Collaborative.

The collaborative is an effort of municipalities and water authorities to protect drinking water sources in northeastern Lancaster County.

Farmers should "follow nature's template" and see their farms as operating ecosystems that they can either damage or help thrive, Archuleta said.

Keeping soil organisms healthy will lead to healthier soils and cleaner water with less runoff.

Soil is not merely a medium for food to grow; it is itself living.

"You need to deal with ecology. Your farm is alive," he said.

Yet "the majority of our farmers are disconnected from their land," he said.

Archuleta said tillage disrupts the natural soil ecosystem by breaking up fungal colonies and awakening a class of bacteria Archuleta called "little piranhas."

"(They) will eat the glues," such as the protein glomalin, that hold soils together, he said.

The glues naturally last about 27 days, so farmers need to continually feed the microbes that make them, he said.

Without the glues, the soils are more likely to fall apart and be carried away by rain.

Improving soil health can increase water retention by 17,000 to 25,000 gallons per acre, he said.

Forestland can absorb 100 times more rainfall in an hour than conventionally tilled soil while producing a tenth of the runoff.

No-till farming on its own is not enough, however. No-till farms can still erode unless they are paired with cover crops, he said.

Cover crops and manure are also a vital source of carbon, which the microbes need for food.

Cover crops can provide a year-round buffer from the rain. While "manure is awesome," it will just run off if applied on frozen soil, Archuleta said.

The most limiting element in soil is not nitrogen but carbon, he argued. Organic matter is 58 percent carbon.

"Fertilizer does not feed the plant, ladies and gentlemen. Soil does," he said.

Cover crop roots break through compacted soil at 1,400 pounds per square inch. The roots also leak sugar, amino acids, enzymes and other foods for soil microbes, he said.

Farmers, though, are repeating some of the mistakes that led to the 1930s Dust Bowl disaster across the Midwest rather than taking care of the soil, he said.

Modern agriculture, like many other sectors, has "preached the gospel of efficiency," Archuleta said.

The emphasis on efficiency forces farmers to rely on many inputs instead of being self-sufficient.

As a result, agriculture is a fragile industry that does not handle volatility well, Archuleta said.

Energy costs are a major cause of farming's fragility. So are pesticide costs, he added.

Organic farming is not necessarily the answer. "Some of the most degraded farms I've seen in California are organic farms," he said.

Nor is regulation the best way to make farming more stable because it relies too heavily on enforcement, Archuleta said.

It would be better to have people unite based on principles, and better yet to have virtuous people who love their neighbors and the land find ways to keep soil and water healthy, he said.

"You are the most anti-fragile people I've known," he told the mostly Mennonite group, citing their tight-knit community.


Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/932019_Farmers-must-care-for-soil-health--USDA-expert-says.html#ixzz2neIXARCN


Via Giri Kumar
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Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft and Putting More Trust in Communities than Corporations…

Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft and Putting More Trust in Communities than Corporations… | sustainablity | Scoop.it
From Dan Gilmour Backchannel I’m done sending my money and data to corporations I don’t trust… When I became a technology columnist in the mid-1990s, the public Internet was just beginning its first big surge.
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Consumers Want GMO Labels, Not Barcodes - NationofChange

Consumers Want GMO Labels, Not Barcodes - NationofChange | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Evidence proves that GMOs may cause health problems in humans, but U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, believes consumers should use barcodes to identify GMO foods instead of requiring labels.
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Designing for Happiness: The Ultimate Sustainability Solution?

Designing for Happiness: The Ultimate Sustainability Solution? | sustainablity | Scoop.it
We’ve all been there before—took a wrong turn and ended up in a “scary” neighborhood. Quickly now, roll up the windows, lock the doors—¼ inch of glass will save our lives. What causes us to react this way?

Via jean lievens
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What’s the True Impact of the Alternative Economy? Researchers Decide It’s Time to Find Out

What’s the True Impact of the Alternative Economy? Researchers Decide It’s Time to Find Out | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Successful initiatives are investing in human relationships, not faceless call centers or centralized headquarters.
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More Farmers Predicted to Go Non-GMO and Organic in 2015 - Cornucopia Institute

More Farmers Predicted to Go Non-GMO and Organic in 2015 - Cornucopia Institute | sustainablity | Scoop.it
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Popular 'BPA-Free' Chemical Causes Brain Damage, Study Finds

Popular 'BPA-Free' Chemical Causes Brain Damage, Study Finds | sustainablity | Scoop.it
See where this harmful substance hides...
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Hershey's Most Popular Chocolates Will Go GMO-Free by End of the Year » EcoWatch

Hershey's Most Popular Chocolates Will Go GMO-Free by End of the Year » EcoWatch | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Hershey Company announced it will remove genetically modified ingredients from Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars to
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Mitch McConnell, hemp hero

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It's always seemed crazy that industrial hemp got swept up in the war on drugs. The senate's Republican majority leader thinks so too.
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The City as Commons

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A commons-based economy cannot thrive without appropriate institutions, especially those that represent a "partner state" approach.
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Strong Link Between California Drought & Climate Change Revealed Today

Strong Link Between California Drought & Climate Change Revealed Today | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Rain and snow have graced the West recently, causing many residents to breathe a sigh of relief about possible easing of the severe drought conditions that have worsened there over the past three-plus years.

Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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BLM Opens Southwest Colorado to Oil, Gas Development

BLM Opens Southwest Colorado to Oil, Gas Development | sustainablity | Scoop.it
DENVER - Conservationists, land owners and local officials all say they're concerned about the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Tres Rios Resource Management Plan. The plan opens up over 90 percent of the 800,000 acres managed by the BLM to oil and gas development in southwest Colorado. Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, says the BLM's decision failed to include adequate public input. ...
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Students Devise Way To Feed Homeless Meals, Cut Food Waste All At Once

Students Devise Way To Feed Homeless Meals, Cut Food Waste All At Once | sustainablity | Scoop.it
One Philadelphia homeless shelter used to have a major pea problem.

Bethesda Project's My Brother’s House had an abundance of smooth Alaska peas for its clients, but demand did not match supply, Drexel Now reported.

"One of the probl...
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In France, Pesticides Get in Way of Natural Wines

In France, Pesticides Get in Way of Natural Wines | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Growers are going to court to be able to refrain from spraying their vines.
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4 Million People Demand Obama Administration to Protect Bees from Toxic Insecticides » EcoWatch

4 Million People Demand Obama Administration to Protect Bees from Toxic Insecticides » EcoWatch | sustainablity | Scoop.it
A coalition rallied today in front of the White House and delivered more than 4 million signatures calling on Obama to protect bees from neonicotinoids and other
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Inside the bizarre cow trials of the 1920s

Inside the bizarre cow trials of the 1920s | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Eugenics, milk production, and the "honorable court of bovine justice."
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Royal Dutch Shell Wants to Look for Oil in the Most Dangerous Drilling Environment in the World

Royal Dutch Shell Wants to Look for Oil in the Most Dangerous Drilling Environment in the World | sustainablity | Scoop.it
An ice-choked ocean, tens of thousands of whales, no proven technology in case of emergency, and a mission for oil: what could possibly go wrong?
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Streets are our most fundamental shared public spaces, but they are also one of the most contested and overlooked.
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Study Shows Organic Farms and Industrial Ag Are Equally Productive

Study Shows Organic Farms and Industrial Ag Are Equally Productive | sustainablity | Scoop.it
A new study released this week by Berkeley University has good news for health-conscious Americans. The new study analyzed 3 times as much data as previous studies and found the organic farms’ productivity is much nearer to industrial agriculture than previously believed. According to an article in Berkeley’s NewsCenter, “In terms of comparing productivity among the two techniques, this paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture,” said t
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People, Planet, Profit: How Triple-Bottom-Line Businesses Lead the Way Toward Sustainable Economies » EcoWatch

People, Planet, Profit: How Triple-Bottom-Line Businesses Lead the Way Toward Sustainable Economies » EcoWatch | sustainablity | Scoop.it
Worldwatch Institute's Governing for Sustainability takes a look at how entrepreneurs and business people are considering the "triple-bottom-line" when it
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McDonald’s Is Changing Its McNuggets—and the Move Could Save Lives

McDonald’s Is Changing Its McNuggets—and the Move Could Save Lives | sustainablity | Scoop.it
The chain announced new standards for its poultry providers that drastically limit the use of antibiotics.
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Whole Foods is selling you fish farmed by prisoners

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According to a recent investigation by Pacific Standard, your tilapia may have come from a federal prison in Cañon City, Colo.
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WA Greens move to compensate organic farmers for GM contamination

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Motion to create national GM contamination insurance scheme comes after farmer Steve Marsh claims he lost organic certification after GM canola drifted on to his land
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Hundreds of Farmers Block Roads in Protest of Monsanto's GMO Crops

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Poland’s largest farmer uprising ever has occurred as tractors took to the roads in protest of GMO infiltration and land grabs by biotech corporations.

Via CineversityTV, SustainOurEarth
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Global warming helped trigger Syria's civil war

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Gulf of Mexico Turns Deadly for Dolphins

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A scientific explanation has proved elusive, but evidence is building that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has played a role in harming the mammals.
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