Warming climate brings ‘existential challenges’ to agriculture

The warming climate means we should expect more floods, more droughts and a decline in some important crop nutrients, but good soil management practices may mitigate some of the worst effects.

So said two scientists at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s final Ag Tech Professional Forum for 2019, capping a year of forums examining how climate change affects agriculture.

Robert Beach, Ph.D., senior economist and fellow at RTI International, discussed research that shows a decline in levels of zinc, iron, and protein in many food crops due to increased CO2 levels.

Rising CO2 levels may slow or reverse nutritional gains across all regions, but the effect is worse in many developing countries in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Beach noted that two billion people are already deficient in one or more of these nutrients. Falling levels of protein in rice, he added, have resulted in “major implications for food security.”

In addition, rising CO2 levels affect both the quality and quantity of food, although there are wide variations across geographies, crop types and climate models.

Beach did offer some hope that increasingly sophisticated agricultural practices may mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

Read the full story here: https://www.wraltechwire.com/2019/12/16/warming-climate-brings-existential-challenges-to-agriculture/

No-Till Cropping System Reaches Milestone in Wettest Year

“NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), PIERRE, S.D., December 11, 2019 – In the wettest year on record for South Dakota, half the cropland in the state that was planted used a cropping system without tillage. That system, no-till farming, has been the predominant cropping system on South Dakota cropland in recent years, but this is the first year the practice was used to plant 50 percent of the state’s crops.

““It’s a milestone for farmers in this state. The incredibly wet weather we had the previous fall and in the spring of 2019 complicated planting for most farmers, and may have contributed to them meeting that milestone,” Jeff Zimprich, State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) told an audience at the Ag Horizons Conference in Pierre.

“The NRCS has tracked tillage systems and no-till for 37 years to help measure progress in the use of soil saving and soil building farming systems. “This highest ever percentage of no-till may be because one heavy rainfall after another during the spring planting season left only a very narrow window for planting, and the more stable soil structure that’s developed with no-till systems and cover crops allowed no-till producers to plant fields that were not overwhelmingly saturated during that narrow window,” Zimprich said. “Or it may be there’s more interest in no-till and healthy soils. In either case, more no-till systems and cover crops are a bonus to producers and all of us who live in South Dakota, because healthier soils and cleaner water are benefits we can all enjoy.””

Read the full story here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/sd/newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd1517222

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter December, 2019

Update from the Executive Director 

In this holiday season, the ESMC team would like to thank our members, collaborators and stakeholders for their contributions and efforts as partners in establishing the premier U.S. full service ag-based ecosystem services market. Farmers and ranchers are the foundation of this program; we rely on ag producers for food, feed, fuel and fiber, as well as for natural resource conservation and preservation of healthy ecosystems. Building the tools and opportunities to enable farmers and ranchers to continue to meet these needs, to be paid a fair share, and to show measured progress is the aim of ESMC and ESMRC, our research effort. Working with producers and the full food and beverage and agriculture value chain is exciting and rewarding and will help us scale outcomes in a measured and certified program that meets the needs of everyone. We are grateful for your continued support and extend our warm wishes and heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to work with you!

Thank you to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) for hosting our second in-person member meeting at AFBF Washington, DC, headquarters on 14-15 November. The meeting brought together ESMC members operating under the ESM Research Consortium (ESMRC). ESMRC is made possible through a $10.3M grant award from our partners at the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which was announced last week with FFAR and ESMC/ESMRC members during the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you to all members who participated in the event and voiced continued support for this important work! We are collectively working together to raise and match FFAR’s award with $10.3M in cash and in-kind contributions to help invest in R&D to support a fully-functioning ecosystem services market for U.S. farmers and ranchers. To date we’ve raised just under $3M in match, and we would like to thank everyone for their generous contributions!

Thank you also to our members for the robust discussion during our November meeting, which helped to refine the value propositions and key services and linkages needed to remove risk from a full-service market while ensuring rigor, cost-effectiveness, and transparently quantified and monetized outcomes. Addressing technical, scientific, and sociocultural aspects of the program while also further developing the programmatic infrastructure needed for a functioning market at scale takes time and deliberation, and the discussions were constructive, informative, and helped to elaborate next steps.

We have begun planning for our February 12-13 meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, to be hosted by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) during their annual meeting. Thank you to NACD for your support and for hosting!

Also during this period we have been focused on continued elaboration of working group efforts; development of protocols for additional U.S. regions and production systems (the Midwest and Northern and Western plains regions and production systems); alignment of pilot project efforts for 2020 and beyond; and evaluation and assessment of the Southern Great Plains pilot project. Our team has participated in many informative and constructive conferences and events that collectively show great progress and promise for supporting ecosystem service markets development, whether to address climate mitigation and adaptation or to achieve improved natural resource outcomes. ESMC’s timing is serendipitous in that it coincides with a wave of scientific evidence about natural carbon sinks playing a key role in climate mitigation and about the ancillary benefits of soil carbon and working land enhancements in meeting societal needs. Additionally, ag tech is exploding, and will continue to play a key role and provide beneficial lift in our free-market approach.

Happy holidays, and best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and successful new year!

– Debbie Reed and the ESMC Team

FFAR Awards $10.3 Million to ESMC   

In a lead up to the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) jointly announced on November 19 the award of $10.3 million from FFAR to establish the research component of ESMC that supports the development of a national environmental credit marketplace. ESMC and its members will match the grant over three years to fund research and development projects in this public-private partnership for a total investment of $20.6 million. Continue reading the full news release here.

ESMC Launches New Facebook Page

ESMC is pleased to announce the launch of its new Facebook page. This will serve as an interactive platform where current members, potential members and the general public can stay up to date on ESMC news and learn more about ESMC. You can find the page by searching the handle @EcosystemServicesMarketConsortium on Facebook, or viewing the page directly here.

ESMC Submits Comments to House Select Committee on Climate Change

ESMC submitted comments to the House Select Committee on Climate Change regarding the importance of market-based solutions such as those being developed by ESMC to address climate change.

ESMC Member News
ESMC Members on Panel at Upcoming Soils Event

ESMC member organizations, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), are on the program for the “Healthy Soils for a Healthier Planet” event being conducted by Resources for the Future next Tuesday, December 17, in Washington, DC. Maria Bowman of SHP and Sally Flis of TFI are two of several panel experts sharing perspectives on how practice, technologies and policies related to soil health are evolving. Find further details, including registration and livestreaming information, here.

Cargill Expands Climate Change Commitments; Reinforces Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Last week, ESMC Founding Circle member Cargill announced its commitment to reduce supply chain emissions by 30% by 2030. ESMC was cited among other initiatives and activities to support Cargill’s focus on supply chain interventions to benefit farmers. The full announcement may be read here. As noted in the article, Cargill has also signed on to the We are Still In Coalition to indicate continued support for the Paris Climate Accord. Other EMSC Founding Circle members who are signatories include Danone North America, McDonald’s, and Nestle USA, along with Legacy Partner, Mars Inc.

Other News of Note
New Project to Measure Carbon Sequestration Levels in Grasslands

The Western Producer (November 28, 2019) – Grassland guardians may finally get their wish to be paid for the environmental services they provide. Land trust agencies, a carbon project developer, ranchers, the eco goods and service development company Viresco Solutions Inc. and Shell Canada are developing a pilot program to measure how much carbon is sequestered and then calculate payments. Continue reading the full article here.

Greenhouse Gases Accelerate to New Peak in 2018, U.N. says
Reuters (November 25) – Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2018, exceeding the average yearly increase of the last decade and reinforcing increasingly damaging weather patterns, the World Meteorological Organization (WM)) said on Monday. Continue reading the full article here.

Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide Emissions Have ‘Increased Substantially’ in the Past Decade, Study Finds
ABC Science (November 18, 2019) – Emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide – are going up faster than we thought. It’s countries in east Asia and South America that are making the biggest contribution to the increasing emissions, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading the full article here.

Advancing Soil Health Through the Power of Partnerships

On this World Soil Day, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Soil Health Institute (SHI) are celebrating critical milestones in soil health research and education. During the past two years, SHI, SHP and TNC have developed a strong partnership, each bringing unique expertise to the table and leveraging one another’s strengths to promote positive change on U.S. farms.

Today, we review the progress we’ve made so far: https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/provide-food-and-water-sustainably/food-and-water-stories/advancing-soil-health-through-partnerships/

Soil is not only one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, it also produces 95 percent of our food, filters our drinking water and reduces the impact of climate change through carbon storage. © David Ike

Farmers learn the science of soil health at Clemson conference

Healthy crops begin with healthy soil and researchers with the Clemson University’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program are teaching farmers how they can benefit from keeping their soils fit.

The researchers teamed up with other agricultural professionals and farmers who have implemented soil health principles by using cover crops, no till and livestock integration to hold a conference to teach about soil health and tools to use to promote healthy soil.

“Soil is one of the most precious resources we have,” said Geoff Zehnder, Clemson SARE coordinator and co-organizer. “We depend on soil for our livelihoods and we must learn how to keep soil healthy so that it will continue to work for us.”

Read the full story here: https://newsstand.clemson.edu/farmers-learn-the-science-of-soil-health-at-clemson-conference/

Cargill expands climate change commitments

“With a global footprint and presence in major food and ag supply chains around the globe, Cargill is committed to protecting the earth’s vital natural resources and reducing its environmental impact. In alignment with its climate commitment, Cargill has adopted a Scope 3 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per ton of product by 2030.”

This goal aligns with many of Cargill’s customers, who are driving toward similar climate goals. Cargill has also reinforced its intent to prioritize climate through three recent activities aligned with companies around the globe, including pledging to the CEO climate statement, signing on to the We Are Still In coalition to continue supporting the Paris Climate Accord and convening at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid.”

Read the full story here: https://www.cargill.com/2019/cargill-expands-climate-change-commitments