All posts by Patrick Francisco

National Soil Health Day – 2021

Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life

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Soil Health Institute Selected as Soil Science Research Partner for Dairy Feed, Soil and Water Outcomes for the Net Zero Initiative

FOR INFORMATION:
Cristine Morgan +1-919-230-0343
cmorgan@soilhealthinstitute.org

 

Research Triangle Park, NC, June 17, 2021 – The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, has been selected as the soil science research partner for Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration, an essential project to advance the work of the U.S. dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI).

In support of the NZI, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) has awarded a $10 million grant as the on-farm pathway to advance the industrywide 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals set by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

The funding will support a six-year project – “Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration: building soil health to reduce greenhouse gases, improve water quality and enable new economic benefits” – that will produce data to be broadly shared among the dairy community to:

  • Provide measurement-based assessments of dairy’s greenhouse gas footprint for feed production
  • Set the stage for new market opportunities related to carbon, water quality, and soil health

The FFAR grant will be matched by financial contributions from NZI partners such as Nestlé, the dairy industry, including Newtrient, and in-kind support for a total of $23.2 million. The funds will be managed by the Dairy Research Institute (DRI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity founded and staffed by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) to conduct vital research on behalf of the industry. SHI will work alongside DMI scientists to address research gaps in feed production and manure-based fertilizers that, once filled, will enable new markets, incentives, and investments in dairy sustainability.

“Addressing the U.S. dairy industry’s emissions is a critical solution to climate change,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “I know dairy farmers are working hard to decrease their environmental footprint and I’m thrilled to support their efforts by advancing research needed to adopt climate-smart practices on dairy farms across the country.”

Through foundational science, on-farm pilots, and development of new product markets, NZI aims to knock down barriers and create incentives for farmers that will lead to economic viability and positive environmental impact.

“After six years, we will have data that accurately reflect our farms’ greenhouse gas footprint for dairy crop rotations with consideration for soil health management practices and new manure-based products,” said Dr. Jim Wallace, senior vice president of environmental research for DMI. “We expect to develop critical insights that link soil health outcomes, such as carbon sequestration, with practice and technology adoption. This will provide important background information to support the development of new carbon and water quality markets.”

Specifically, SHI will be responsible for:

  • Providing the design, implementation, and technical expertise, from plot to national scales, for measuring soil health, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil carbon storage.
  • Quantifying the role of new manure products and soil health systems for reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of dairy feed production.

“Through the adoption of soil health systems, research has shown many on-farm and environmental benefits,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, Chief Scientific Officer at the Soil Health Institute, ”We’re excited to apply these learnings to a dairy context and validate, beyond a proof of concept, real-world outcomes of adopting soil health management and novel manure products on soil health, water quality, and greenhouse gases that have a positive impact for the planet.”

The project will be executed across four dairy regions responsible for about 80 percent of U.S. milk production: Northeast, Lakes, Mountain, and Pacific. It entails a collaboration of NZI, the Soil Health Institute, and leading dairy research institutions, including: Cornell University, University of California at Davis, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Vermont, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research in Kimberly, Idaho.

Dozens of dairies representing climates and soils of these major production regions will participate in a baseline survey of soil health and carbon storage. Additionally, eight farms, including five operating dairies, two university research dairies, and one USDA ARS research farm, will participate in the project. These pilots will be used to engage farmers in soil health management practices and monitor changes in greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon storage, soil health, and water quality.

FFAR builds public-private partnerships to support bold science that fills critical research gaps. Working with partners across the private and public sectors, FFAR identifies urgent challenges facing the food and agriculture industry and funds research to develop solutions.

NZI is an industry-wide effort led by six national dairy organizations: DMI, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, International Dairy Foods Association, Newtrient, National Milk Producers Federation, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. This collaboration represents a critical pathway on U.S. dairy’s sustainability journey.

Ultimately, NZI hopes to support the industry to advance toward its collective goals, realize untapped value to support economic viability, and enable other industries and communities to be more sustainable.

For more information about dairy sustainability, visit www.usdairy.com/sustainability.

ABOUT SOIL HEALTH INSTITUTE

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. We bring together leaders in soil health science and the industry to help farmers, ranchers, and landowners adopt soil health systems that build drought resilience, stabilize yield, and benefit their bottom line. The Institute’s team of scientists, holding doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, has developed highly effective soil health targets and standardized measurements to quantify progress at achieving regenerative and sustainable agricultural systems, and leads the cutting-edge fields of carbon sequestration and decoding the soil microbiome. Healthy soils are the foundation for rejuvenating our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and help agriculture and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale. Visit soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

ABOUT DAIRY MANAGEMENT INC. 

Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI) is funded by America’s 35,000 dairy farmers, as well as dairy importers. Created to help increase sales and demand for dairy products, DMI and its related organizations work to increase demand for dairy through research, education and innovation, and to maintain confidence in dairy foods, farms and businesses. DMI manages National Dairy Council and the American Dairy Association, and founded the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

ABOUT THE INNOVATION CENTER FOR U.S. DAIRY®

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is a forum that brings together the dairy community to address the changing needs and expectations of consumers through a framework of shared best practices and accountability. Initiated in 2008 by dairy farmers, Innovation Center members collaborate on efforts that are important both to us and our valued customers – issues like animal care, food safety, nutrition and health, the environment and economics. The Innovation Center is committed to continuous improvement from farm to table, striving to provide the world responsibly produced dairy foods that nourish people, strengthen communities and foster a sustainable future.

ABOUT THE FOUNDATION FOR FOOD & AGRICULTURE RESEARCH

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

The Soil Health Institute Announces its Virtual 2021 Annual Meeting: “Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life”

FOR INFORMATION:
Byron Rath +1-919-230-0343
brath@soilhealthinstitute.org

Research Triangle Park, NC, June 9, 2021 – The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, announced today its much-anticipated annual meeting will be held on August 11 and 12, 2021. This year’s theme is “Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life” and the event will be hosted virtually.

“Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life” is designed to connect and advance the science, adoption, and environmental benefits of soil health. A wide array of practical information, research, and actionable takeaways will be presented that is relevant to farmers, agribusiness, consultants, scientists, field conservationists, government, and non-governmental organization professionals around the world. There is no cost to attend the event, but you must register at https://soilhealthinstitute.org/2021-annual-meeting.

The two-day event will feature six plenary sessions:

    • Farmers’ Experiences with Adopting Soil Health Systems
    • Business Case for Regenerative Soil Health Systems
    • Agricultural Input Impacts on Soil Health
    • Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation through Soil Health
    • Establishing Soil Health Interpretations for Farmers and Conservation Planners
    • Understanding and Managing the Soil Microbiome

Each day, sessions will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, break for an hour, then resume from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET.

“We’re at a critical juncture in the fight against climate change,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “Our organization hosts this event to connect more people to the most recent science behind soil health to empower implementation of practices and soil health systems that not only benefit farmers’ livelihoods but can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient runoff, and provide many other environmental benefits worldwide.”

For more information about the “Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life” event and to register, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/2021-annual-meeting.

 

ABOUT SOIL HEALTH INSTITUTE

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. We bring together leaders in soil health science and the industry to help farmers, ranchers, and landowners adopt soil health systems that build drought resilience, stabilize yield, and benefit their bottom line. The Institute’s team of scientists, holding doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, has developed highly effective soil health targets and standardized measurements to quantify progress at achieving regenerative and sustainable agricultural systems, and leads the cutting-edge fields of carbon sequestration and decoding the soil microbiome. Healthy soils are the foundation for rejuvenating our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and help agriculture and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale. Visit soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives – 5

CEPHaS_Conservation_Agriculture_Perspectives_Doc_5_May2021_Page_1_Image_0002

Professor Emanoel Gomes de Moura

is professor in the Agroecology Post- Graduate programme at Maranhão State University in Brazil. He is a specialist in tropical agriculture with particular interest in low-fertility

soils and the stabilization of soil organic carbon. Alana das Chagas Ferreira Aguiar is also a professor at Maranhão State University where she works on ecological intensification and nutrient cycling, working with family farmers. They have both been collaborating with Professor Sacha Mooney (University of Nottingham, and CEPHaS project) to examine

and demonstrate the benefits for soil quality and crop production of systems which combine grazing livestock,

trees and crops as an adaptation to climate change. Here they tell us more about the systems they are

studying, an interesting contrast with the conservation agriculture methods which CEPHaS is examining in Africa,

but with some common features.

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CEPHaS 5

Conservation Agriculture Perspectives

1. What are the main ways in which you have seen farmers adapting to climate change in Brazil in recent years?

    • The principal strategy used by large-scale farmers to adapt to climate change in Brazil is the integrated agri-silvo-pastoral system also named low- carbon agriculture. This system comprises planting eucalyptus rows at wide spacings between crop strips intercropped with grass. This increases organic inputs to the soil, building the soil carbon stock and with it soil fertility and structural stability.
    • At the family farm scale, we have recommended an integrated-alley-crop- livestock-system. This system takes advantage of fast-growing leguminous tropical trees which produce high quality biomass which is used to increase and maintain soil organic matter in soil. Zero till is almost always used, although farmers sometimes abandon it because of problems with weed control. Maize — Soybean rotations are used, mainly to reduce root diseases.

2. In what sets of circumstances (biophysical, socio-economic etc) are conservation agriculture practices most likely to be beneficial to rural communities, and in what circumstances are they least likely to be useful?

Conservation agriculture practices are most likely to be beneficial to rural communities when family farmers have at their disposal, technologies, and systems to replace unsustainable models like shifting cultivation systems where land is brought into cultivation, and then abandoned to fallow after a few years. Establishing alternative and sustainable agricultural system

is heavily dependent on support of public decision makers and local government. Conservation agriculture practices fail in rural communities when they are not adequately supported through education and local technicians/agronomists.

3. What components of conservation agriculture systems are most problematic from the perspective of farmers?

We have found that many smallholder farmers in the Amazonian periphery view the greater complexity of the systems from conservation agriculture, like integrated-crop-livestock-systems, as a significant barrier to adoption. This highlights the need to improve how technicians and researchers engage with farmers. The substitution of simple low-cost systems like slash and burn with

CEPHaS_Conservation_Agriculture_Perspectives_Doc_5_May2021_Page_2_Image_0004Integrated agri-silvo-pastoral system in an extensive farm in the Amazonian periphery.

more complex and expensive ones such as no-tillage in alley cropping cannot succeed without efficient support by public agencies to overcome principal bottlenecks. Training in soil-crop management practices and increased understanding of the functioning of systems and their components, fertilizers, and soil amendments are needed urgently.

In addition to improving the dissemination of technology, efficient strategies to add value to the harvested product and to reduce the impact of costs of inputs on farmers’ evaluation of the system are needed.

4. What do you think should be priority research topics if agriculture in Brazil is to adapt to climate change and contribute to mitigation?

In tropical regions, climatic factors promote the loss of soil organic matter through fast decomposition, and the loss of fertility through leaching of nutrients. Unless this is countered by soil management, land degradation (and consequently shifting

cultivation) will occur. The continuous management of soil in the humid tropics requires soil organic matter accumulation and stabilization, increased retention of base cations in the root zone, and improvements to the soil structure. This requires approaches which do more than promote crop productivity in any one season, but which increase the stabilization of soil organic matter, and improve the cycling of nutrients to maintain fertility. The alley cropping system using leguminous trees that we have been using is

one such option, but we need future research to consider others.

 

 

To find out more, visit our webpages at www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS and follow us on twitter @CEPHaS_Soil

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CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives – 4

CEPHaS is interested in a broad perspective on conservation agriculture, in the context of the farming system, the constraints farmers face and the ways in which they are adapting to climate change. For this reason we have engaged with a range of partners, and in this series we invite them to respond to some questions.

The Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) is a private company in Zambia with a board of directors drawn from stakeholders across the public and private sector. Its principal mandate is to conduct research in agricultural policy and to undertake outreach activities, supporting the agricultural sector in Zambia and pursuing agricultural development which is sustainable and pro-poor. More information can be found at their website https:// www.iapri.org.zm/

Dr Hambulo Ngoma (pictured above) answers our questions.

CEPHaS 4

Conservation Agriculture Perspectives

1. What are the main ways in which you have seen smallholder farmers adapting to climate change in southern and central Africa in recent years?

Farmers in Southern Africa adapt to climate change mainly through staggered planting, planting early maturing and drought-tolerant varieties, and the adoption of conservation agriculture practices. Farmers have diversified their livelihoods by venturing into non-farm enterprises like trading. More about farmer responses to climate change in Zambia has been published by Mulenga et al. (2017). Climate Trends and Farmers’ Perceptions of Climate Change in Zambia. Environmental Management 59, 291–306.

2. In what sets of circumstances (biophysical, socio-economic etc) are conservation agriculture practices most likely to be beneficial to rural communities, and in what circumstances are they least likely to be useful?

Biophysical
CA would be most likely to be beneficial under semi-dry conditions with low rainfall, I am not sure that it would be beneficial in under very dry and wet conditions.
Socio-economic
CA is most beneficial for those with finance to hire in labour and, more importantly, to afford herbicides and to finance other CA activities. Secure tenure might help the uptake of CA and make it more feasible to retain crop residues.

3. What components of conservation agriculture systems are most problematic from the perspective of farmers?

Making planting basins under minimum tillage with hand hoes is challenging for farmers because of the drudgery, as is weeding, where they do not have access to herbicides. Retaining residues is difficult given competing uses, and on communal open grazing land. Limited market access for legumes makes full rotation an issue for some farmers.

4. What do you think are the main research questions that need to be addressed to support food security in sub-Saharan Africa under climate change?

An overarching area of interest is to understand how best smallholder farming systems can best become resilient to climate change while meeting a rising demand for food. A top priority should be to identify instruments to enhance resilience, and to test these out. It would also be interesting to understand how markets can enhance food security and help support the uptake of CA amidst climate change.

Biography of Dr Hambulo Ngoma (pictured overleaf)

Dr Hambulo Ngoma was a research fellow at IAPRI and lead, climate change and natural resource management thematic area at the time of this interview. He is now Agricultural Economist, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Dr Hambulo Ngoma is a Development Economist with research interests spanning the development-environment nexus. His current research applies various methods to understand the connections among land use, agricultural practices, and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the context of climate change in Southern Africa. He is particularly interested in factors influencing the adoption of new technologies and the impacts of these practices on livelihoods and welfare of smallholder farmers.

 

 

 

 

To find out more, visit our webpages at www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS and follow us on twitter @CEPHaS_Soil

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