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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.

Small Farms, Large Farms, and Forests

In a recent post I wrote how Vietnam’s stronger land tenure rights have contributed to reforestation in the countryside by giving smallholders a greater stake in maintaining their woodlands, which have economic value. But context is all: Secure property rights is not a cure-all for environmental degradation. 


A Case for Hope: Conservation Practices by US Farmers

This chart is from the USDA Economic Research Service.  It shows that US farmers consider the environmental effects of agricultural production, e.g., soil erosion and the loss of sediment, nutrients, and pesticides to water, and have adopted conservation practices to mitigate these effects.  Use of such practices has increased substantially over the past 20 years.