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Farmer Economics and Saving The Planet: The Case of Herbicides

Luckily, “smart sprayers” have arrived! These sprayers use machine-vision technology that enables weed recognition and the targeting of individual weeds. According to a recent survey, 20% of precision technology dealers indicated they were already offering the sprayers, and half the dealers foresaw offering the sprayers in the near future, given farmer interest and product improvements. …Precision spraying means less herbicide residue outside the target. Good for the soil, good for the water, and good for endangered species everywhere.

GM Crops, Climate Change and Protecting the Environment: The Latest Research

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) associated with land use account for somewhere between 21-37% of all anthropogenic emissions. Agriculture is the main culprit, both as a cause of deforestation and as a major emitter of GHGs, especially carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Agriculture is also destroying biodiversity and pushing all sorts to species to the brink of extinction.

How Much Do US Farmers Make?

Note that most farms lose money (specifically, 54.2% of all farms have “negative income” from farming). Small farms in particular depend on off-farm income to survive. Midsize farm households do okay - but they take in a lot of nonfarm income too. Not counting the nonfarm income, midsize farm households earn about what a mid-career registered nurse makes. Large-scale farmers are doing a lot better On average, their household income is on par with what a typical plastic surgeon earns in a year.

Help Flowers Help the Planet: Part II

In Part I of this series, we established that the biosphere was in trouble because close to a fifth of all land plant species are threatened with extinction; 90% of all living land plants are flowering plants; and, most of terrestrial life depends, either directly or indirectly, on flowering plants. Houston, we have a problem…So, let’s create and manage flower and pollinator habitat! Focusing on urban spaces, home gardens, and farmland…

GM Crops: Good News, Bad News, and Some Fixes

The USDA and National Institute of Food and Agriculture do have a bunch of suggestions on how to deal with insect resistance, many of which would also help protect vulnerable birds and non-target insects. As follows…

First Step in Helping Farmers Help the Environment: Listen, Don’t Tell, Part II

In the case of corn-soybean farmers in Michigan, winter cover crops can delay or complicate spring planting; land that is not tilled for years might be invaded by difficult-to-control weeds; reducing fertilizer, insecticide, and herbicide use may  sacrifice crop yield and boost the risk of herbicide-resistant insects and weeds. These are real concerns in a low-margin business.

Sustainable Intensive Farming: The Only Way to Go

More land for agriculture means less land for grasslands, wetlands, and forests. Looking at the Big Picture, "sparing" the wild things is better than "sharing" with them. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but that's the general rule.

Climate Change and Crop Yields: How to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

So, per the IPCC, there is medium confidence in a 0 to -2% median yield impact per decade this century for the major crops (wheat, rice, and corn). There is high confidence the effect on crop production will be consistently negative in the low altitudes, while "climate change may have positive or negative effects in northern latitudes".

Who You Calling Big Ag?!

Why are large farms increasing? Partly because families are better able to handle the logistical and financial challenges of running big operations, thanks to labor-saving innovations that favor scale economies.