After a review of 130 studies, researchers have concluded that organic farming systems use significantly less nonrenewable energy than conventional farming.
The farm energy savings for organic are often 20 per cent or more.
"We concluded that the evidence strongly favours organic farming with respect to whole-farm energy use and energy efficiency both on a per hectare and per farm product basis," states the study.
Men still own and operate the vast majority of large farms with commodity crops such as wheat or soybeans that require heavy equipment, capital and labor. But woman-run farms cover the gamut, USDA figures show, reflecting everything from widows running dairy businesses to recent college grads entering specialty markets such as grass-fed goats or heirloom tomatoes.
Their farms range from one acre to more than 500 but trend toward the small. About 40 percent are under 50 acres.
Letting damaging chemicals cross property lines is trespassing, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday. Moreover, since those pesticides made his crop unsalable in the organic market, Johnson is entitled to damages from the company that applied it, the Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Co., the court said.
"Whenever this happens it will give people with overspray a legal avenue to pursue," said Doug Spanier, an attorney with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which administers pesticide enforcement regulations in the state. And that could go for any farmer whose crop is made inedible by someone else's chemical spray and even homeowners whose property has been damaged by a neighbor's overuse of RoundUp, legal experts said.
Claims by biotech giant Monsanto that its glyphosate-based pesticide, Roundup, can improve crop yields and lessen the strain of fighting weeds for farmers may now be a liability after a recent study published in the current issue of Weed Science finds that a number of weed species are showing resistance to Roundup.
Twenty-one species, according to the study, have become resistant to glyphosate-based pesticides, with many also capable of surviving applications of other pesticides, earning them the moniker “super-weeds.”
So I was dawdling about on Twitter, and I see a tweet from Mark Bittman about the "shocking" (his words) survey just out from Thompson Reuters and NPR Health about organic. What's so shocking about it? Fifty-eight percent of ALL Americans want organic food!!!!! OK, I'm not going to take credit, but I am going to say...YAY! Hip, hip, hooray!
Today, the biotech field is changing again. The assortment of GM crops is about to multiply, far beyond the corn-soybean-cotton mainstays of the past 15 years. Soon coming to market are GM versions of bluegrass, sugar beets, cabbage, wheat and alfalfa, to name a few. Even more striking, the next generation of GM traits promises a bigger bag of tricks.
"Over the past 15 years, it's been principally a story of being able to kill bugs and kill weeds more effectively for growers," said Syngenta's Morgan.
The next GM generation, he said, will focus more broadly - growing crops that require less water, or enhancing certain flavors, or delivering health benefits to consumers.
Here on our ranch, the yard and gardens are now humming with so many busy bees that if I let our two-year-old go barefoot outside, I'd probably get arrested for child endangerment. Meanwhile, a suburban woman recently complained to me that she hadn't seen a single bee in her garden this year. This contrast would make perfect sense to scientists at the University of California - Berkeley, who've just released a study showing that grazing lands provide critical habitats for wild bees and other pollinators.
The research was led by Berkeley environmental sciences professor Dr. Claire Kremen, among the world's foremost pollinator authorities. The team evaluated the role of wild pollinators, concluding that they are essential to our food system and that livestock grazing areas are vital for protecting them. "Preserving rangelands has significant economic value, not only to the ranchers who graze their cattle there, but also to farmers who need the pollinators," Kremen concluded from her study.
Weeds in cotton fields have gotten so tenacious — some with stems 4-inches around — that farmers are paying itinerant crews to chop them down by hand.
"In the Bootheel they're hiring people to go out there with hoes," said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. "I swung a hoe for 15 years, and I fail to see the romance in it."
The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is getting worse: Weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to Monsanto's Roundup, sold generically as glyphosate, forcing farmers to use other herbicides or "multiple modes of action." But during this season especially farmers are finding that these other modes of action aren't working either — and there appears to be little relief on the horizon. In Missouri, herbicide dealers have sold out of Cobra, one of the herbicides most widely used in tandem with glyphosate.
Nathan Anderson, with the help of dad Randy Anderson and fiance Sarah Joachim, has been restoring a perennial pasture on which they graze a cow-calf herd of eight cows with calves and five heifers. Nathan has taken this pasture, which was once continuously grazed, and implemented a rotational grazing system to try to improve the health of the land and the animals being raised there.
According to Anderson, increased agriculture production since the 1940s has decreased native grass and bird habitat, decreasing their prevalence across the plains of Iowa. One of the high points of the day for Anderson was being able to show others the difference that rotational grazing has made on his pasture in just a little over a year's time. "It's amazing how resilient the environment is and what Nathan has accomplished with proper land management," explains participant Steve Reinart. "By giving pastures short rest periods, we can bring the land back to a healthier state."
A genetically engineered grass expected to hit U.S. markets without government review could speed the evolution of hard-to-control weeds, and perhaps require a return to toxic herbicides scrapped decades ago.
On July 1 — a Friday afternoon, a time usually reserved for potentially controversial news — the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Scotts Miracle-Gro’s herbicide-resistant Kentucky bluegrass would be exempt from tests typically required of transgenic crops.
Scotts Miracle-Gro is the largest U.S. retailer of grass seed, and the modified grass could be widely used in residential lawns. It’s resistant to glyphosate, a front-line herbicide known commercially as Roundup.
The grass will survive extra doses of Roundup, allowing more than usual to be applied. That’s the problem, said agricultural biotechnology expert Douglas Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The more a chemical is used consistently, the more likely that somebody’s weeds will become resistant. That’s standard, agreed-upon science,” said Gurian-Sherman. “The way that Roundup is used because of transgenic crops exacerbates that problem.”