Posts Tagged With: Stewardship

Is it possible to feed the world sustainably?

According to John Reganold and Jonathan Wachter it is. The Washington State University researching duo authored “Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century” which was published in Nature Plants. Through extensive research, they found organic agriculture is playing a key role in innovative farming systems.

160203085855_1_540x360

Illustrated by Reganold and Wachter, this graph shows how organic farming systems can better balance the four areas of sustainability.

Rather than single out any sector of farming, they found the best approach to feed an ever-growing population was through a systems approach; a blend of all farming systems.

What was interesting though, is that they did find, under extreme drought conditions, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils, backing up what we’ve known to be true for years.

Want to learn how to weatherproof your soils? Comment below and we’ll be sure to follow up with you!

 

Categories: Fun in the Field | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Would Organic Work for Me?

Currently, organic corn is selling for about $12.50 a bushel, more than triple the cash price for regular corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that organic sales have more than tripled between 2002 and 2010, and continue to climb.

According to an analysis of U.S. trade data released April 15 by the Organic Trade Association and Pennsylvania State University, imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming. As a result, imports to the U.S. of Romanian corn rose to $11.6 million in 2014 from $545,000 the year before. Soybean imports from India more than doubled to $73.8 million.

Could this be why there continues to be more and more interest in transitioning to organic acres? To keep business within the United States?

Some of our customer's certified organic corn.

Some of our customer’s certified organic corn.

The current market trends point towards a niche market where demand far surpasses supply. Meaning the future is very bright for organic growers and those looking to transition, but there are a few things one should consider prior to taking the leap.

Organic is a labeling term for food or other agricultural products that have been produced according to the USDA organic regulations. These standards require the use of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices which support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The USDA recognizes four categories in organic production – crops, livestock, processed/multi-ingredient products, and wild crops. We focus mostly on crops – corn, soybeans, forages, edible beans, produce, etc.

Operations with more than $5,000 in annual organic sales must be certified. The USDA National Organic Program publishes the USDA organic regulations, with substantial input from the public and the National Organic Standards Board. These regulations must all be met prior to receiving the USDA organic seal that indicates a product is certified organic. If a product is not certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agent (ACA), a USDA organic seal can not be used.

Producers looking to become certified organic must change the way they approach farming. During the 3-year ‘transition period’, they must keep detailed records of all substances applied to the land, provide a detailed description of their farm including the organic products grown, and a written Organic System Plan describing the practices and substances they intend to use to a USDA-accredited certifying agent. An inspector will then conduct an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation to be sure the applicant complies with USDA organic regulations.

Organic farmers typically rely on practices such as crop rotation, green manure, cover crops, composting, intercropping, biological control, sanitation, and tillage to control weeds and pests. They must show that they protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity, and use only approved substances for fertility inputs, pest management, and processing aids. Synthetic substances are prohibited unless specifically allowed, and non-synthetic (natural) substances are allowed unless specifically prohibited. The use of genetic engineering is prohibited under the USDA organic regulations. Their philosophy is to feed the soil and it will in turn feed the plants which then feed us.

With the current agricultural trends, we’ve been seeing a lot of interest in organics, especially among those handing the reigns to the next generation. Agriculture is a forever evolving industry, and for some people organics is the next step.

Don’t let the 3-year transition period scare you. There are many great organizations out there ready to help you through the process such as the USDA National Organic Program. And us for questions regarding fertility programs. We want to help YOU, yes YOU, grow your operation for years to come. For more information or to view our inventory of products for organic farming, click here.

We hope the information provided will let you decide ‘will organic work for me?’

Categories: Continuing the Legacy | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s Celebrate the Earth

Our founder used to have a plaque with the verse Psalm 24:1 – The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. – hanging in his office. So in memory of him and in honor of Earth Day, we’d like to share our own version.

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Organic Grain Transition Seminar Scheduled 3/10

Organic Grain Transition Seminar 3/10/2015Looking to hand over the reigns to the next generation, but needing to change things up a bit? Looking for more income per acre? Do you want to hear about chemical-free farming?

Then you won’t want to miss the Organic Grain Transition Seminar we will be co-hosting with the Land Connection on March 10 in Champaign. We know that change can be scary and making the transition to organic acres can be a tough process, but we’re here to help. Some of Illinois’s largest organic grain farmers will be sharing their journey into organic cropland along with the pros and cons they’ve experienced in transitioning.

Whether it was dealing with pest problems in the field or storing organic harvests apart from conventionally grown grains, these experts will cover a variety of topics including soil fertility, cover crops, crop rotation, marketing options, organic transition, and record keeping.

In addition to a little bit from us about organic inputs and fertilizers as well as the Land Connection, Jack Erisman, Harold Wilken, and Gary McDonald will be speaking. Erisman, of Goldmine Farm in Pana, has been farming 2000+ organic acres for over 25 years; Wilken, of Janie’s Farm in Danforth, has been farming 1100 organic acres for 12 years; and McDonald is an organic conversion consultant.

Our goal is that by Tuesday evening, you will not only know how to select ideal alternative crops, but plan for soil fertility and pest management without synthetic inputs, getting the best price for your premium product.

The seminar will be held from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 at the Champaign County Farm Bureau, 801 N. Country Fair, Champaign. The cost is $125 which includes lunch. If this is something that interests you, call the Land Connection at (217) 840-2128 to reserve your spot.

Hope to see ya there!

Categories: AER Events | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

February: Soils Support Urban Life

Have you ever seen something like this?

enhanced-buzz-5030-1361950255-7

How about this?

Vertical Garden

Believe it or not, but vertical gardens are becoming more and more popular in large cities. There is a growing trend to revitalize vacant property in urban areas and convert it to green infrastructure or urban agricultural areas.

Urban agriculture plays a key role in two global challenges: urbanization and food security. It can provide important contributions to sustainable, resilient urban development and to the creation and maintenance of multifunctional urban landscapes.

It is for these reasons the International Year of Soils have dedicated the month of February to showing how soils support urban life. Urban soils are often intensely modified by human activity.

Did you know by 2050, the world’s population is expected to surpass 9 billion?

The benefits of urban farming are numerous. Locally grown food reduces the environmental impact in terms of fuel usage, saves on food costs, and strengthens community spirit.

In fact, the second vertical garden shown, designed by Patrick Blanc on the exterior wall of a former power station, features 15,000 plants and 250 different species. The first vertical garden shown, created by Stefano Boeri on a pair of apartment skyscrapers in Milan, features the first urban vertical forest to sustain the equivalent of 2.5 acres of forest extending towards the sky.

Even though these particular gardens are quite immaculate, it doesn’t have to be that fancy. Something as simple as filling recycled bottles with soils and herbs can provide an efficient herb garden.

Vertical Herb Garden

What are your thoughts on vertical gardens? How have you seen soil support urban life?

Join us this month as we discuss soils in urban life!

Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

2015: International Year of Soils

Every day for us is about the soil. If we can leave the soil in better condition than the day before, we are thrilled. This is why we’re so excited that the General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils.

The international soil community has long complained about the insufficient attention given to soils by policymakers and the public at large, despite current alarming threats to this essential natural resource.

Together, with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), among others, we will highlight the importance of healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, and healthy people.

We believe everything begins and ends in the soil. We are losing a plant or animal species to extinction every 60 minutes. We may lose, in the next fourteen years, twenty percent of all remaining species of plants and animals, according to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. The activities (such as over-cultivation) of man are somewhat responsible for the ecosystem changes causing this devastation.

Did you know over-cultivation was one of the leading factors of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s?

This is what we live for...We're so excited for International Year of Soils!!

This is what we live for…We’re so excited for International Year of Soils!!

The end result of over-cultivation, combined with drought and record-breaking temperatures, led to millions of acres of soil blowing away. The farmers felt that hit hard those years, but we believe bringing the soil back to its natural state could help prevent future environmental disasters such as this.

As NRCS Chief Jason Weller once wrote, “Healthy soils are the foundation of agriculture. In the face of mounting challenges such as a growing global population and extreme weather events, soil health is critical to our future. Healthy soil is essential as global demands rise for food, fuel, and fiber. Healthy soils also have a great capacity to hold nutrients and water, which can help agricultural operations during drought and mitigate flooding downstream during heavy rainfall. They keep water and nutrients in the soil where they should be and increase organic matter, aggregate stability, structure, infiltration, and available water-holding capacity of the soil.”

We’d be honored if you’d join us this year as we dig deeper into the soils that sustain us all. Each month we will be exploring various soil types in different countries and just how important healthy soil is, not only to us as human beings, but to nature as well.

Each month will come with a different theme:

January – Soils Sustain Life
February – Soils Support Urban Life
March – Soils Support Agriculture
April – Soils Clean and Capture Water
May – Soils Support Buildings/Infrastructure
June – Soils Support Recreation
July – Soils Are Living
August – Soils Support Health
September – Soils Protect the Natural Environment
October – Soils and Products We Use
November – Soils and Climate
December – Soils, Culture, and People

If this is something that interests you, be sure to check out soils.org/IYS for more information or to find monthly outreach activities.

Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Top 10 Solutions to a Better 2015

Happy New Year from all of us here at AgriEnergy Resources! We can’t believe another year has come and gone, but boy, do we have some exciting things planned for 2015.

As previously mentioned in a past post, our winter seminar, “How to Thrive in Today’s Ag Economy – 10 Practical, Profitable Solutions,” is quickly approaching on Thursday, January 29 at the Chateau Hotel & Conference Center in Bloomington, Illinois.

And as promised here is a sneak peak into our exciting roster of topics and presenters:

  • Today’s Economy – Land of Opportunity: Dean Craine
  • Discover Cover Crops: John Dassow, Jerry Glaser, Mark Doudlah
  • Grow Under-Cover Crops – Biologicals: John Mayernak
  • Band & Split Apply Nutrients: Dennis Werner
  • Diversify with Livestock: Jeremy House
  • Grow Grass & Forages: Reggie Destree
  • Transition to Organic Farming: Mark Doudlah
  • Plant Non-GMO Seed: Dave Rehn
  • Make Plant Protection a Priority: Mark Egan
  • Consider Alternative Crops: Jim Sattelberg, Bay Shore Farms
  • Manage Nitrogen: Dean Craine
  • A Few More Opportunities to Consider: Ray Roettger 

We hope to offer practical solutions you can sink your teeth into and ideas you can use right away. Ideas you can take to your banker, landlord, spouse. Solutions like cover crops, under-cover crops (biologicals), alternative crops, non-GMO crops, and organic crops.

This all-day event will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. concluding at 4:30 p.m. with a Q/A time. Lunch will be provided for those with advanced registration.

Winter Seminar 1/29/2015

Please RSVP by calling 815-872-1190 or emailing info@agrienergy.net by January 21, 2015. Hope to see you all there!

Oh and stay tuned as we will be introducing each speaker throughout the month of January 🙂

Categories: AER Events | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding soil quality: Part 3

So far we’ve learned that healthy soil leads to healthy animals and healthy people.

But how is that related to various forms of native vegetation?

Well, the former chairman of the soils department at the University of Missouri, Dr. Albrecht, studied just that and correlated that information with the conductivity of the soil for radio reception as mapped by the National Broadcasting Company.

His basic thesis was that higher rainfall patterns in the eastern and southeastern United States have leeched out the native soil fertility elements. Therefore, even though there is ample water in the eastern states, there are not enough of the necessary fertility salts for either good radio reception or for production of protein rich crops. He explained that the low protein crops such as virgin pine trees grow naturally in these areas. In the arid west the fertility salts are ample in the soil, but the moisture is deficient for ideal electrodynamic behavior which gives both good radio reception and higher protein and mineral content for crops.

Understanding Soil Quality

Rainfall and temperature determine the degree of soil development. A moderate rainfall pattern results in development of a soil that is good for production. Higher rainfall area soils are weathered to a greater extent and therefore not as adequate for protein production. The higher rainfall areas are capable of growing more vegetative bulk which also means more decay. With decay, more carbonic acid is formed and the resulting acidity replaces the soil’s natural calcium and magnesium.

Moderate rainfall patterns in the west, and higher rainfall but more moderate temperature in the northwest, form soil clays with a greater capacity to hold or absorb nutrients. Soils formed in the eastern states under higher rainfall patterns and the increasing temperature going from the north to the south means a different clay is formed. These clays have fewer nutrient holding capacity. This explains why coniferous forests grow here, because there is little protein potential in these areas.

It is clear that Dr. Albrecht was correct, and as farmers seek to increase yields it is possible to get a combination of carbohydrates and proteins, or only carbohydrates. Dr. Albrecht tied his explanation to climate, natural soil development, and native habits of buffalo and other animals. Many scientists have now concluded that farmers, through poor soil management, have depleted the nutrients from even the most productive soil areas. In other words, commercial farming as we have known it for the past several decades has greatly accelerated nature’s natural processes.

Next week, we’ll discuss what Andre Voisin, of the Academy of Agriculture of France, noticed when understanding soil quality.

Until next time, happy trails!

Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Understanding soil quality: Part 2

Last week we discussed how quality soil effected both the physical and mental health of the Hunzakuts who resided near the Himalayan peaks in Pakistan.

This week we continue discussing quality soil, but this time how it effects sheep. It all began over 300 years ago in a town in Leominster when Izaak Walton observed differences in health, in wool quality, in the sheen of body color, and in the quality of muscle meat.

He noted, “It is certain that fields in Leominster are observed to make sheep that graze upon them more fat than the next, and also bear finer wool; that is to say, in that year in which they feed in a particular pasture, they shall yield finer wool than they did that year before they came to feed upon it, and coarser again if they shall return to their former pasture; and again return to a finer wool being fed on the finer wool ground. Which I tell you, that you may better believe that I am certain, if I catch a trout in one meadow he shall be white and faint, and very likely be lousy; and as certainly as if I catch a trout in the next meadow, he shall be strong, red, lusty, and much better meat. Trust me, I have caught many a trout in a particular meadow, that the very shape and enameled color of him was made such as hath joyed me to look on him; and I have then with much pleasure concluded with Solomon, ‘Everything is beautiful in its season.’”

In short he noticed a difference in the presence or absence of insect infestations of sheep and of fish related to the fertility of soil.

Join us next week as we discuss nutrition as it relates to various forms of native vegetation.

Until next time, happy trails!

Categories: Soil Wednesday | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Where is the future of agriculture heading?

Have you ever taken a moment to contemplate this? With so many other demands making it hard enough just to get through the day, this often times gets overlooked.

But not for Dave Larson. And even though he is no longer with us, his wisdom will remain with us forever in the form of one a many speeches, essays, and research. In fact he gives a very enlightening twist to the future of agriculture that I find quite interesting.

It really makes you stop in your tracks and think.

From the pen of Dave nearly 26 years ago:

“We are losing a plant or animal species to extinction every 60 minutes. We may lose, in the next fourteen years, twenty percent of all remaining species of plants and animals, according to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. The activities of one species, MAN, are totally responsible for the ecosystem changes causing this devastation.

Further, our water, air and soil are being degraded and depleted. Soil erosion caused by mineral extraction, deforestation, and modern agribusiness practices will, within the next three decades, create the loss of one-third of the planet’s topsoil.

I used to hear statements like these and I totally disbelieved their truth, I visualized a long haired “hippie,” completely out of touch with reality, predicting either doom or gloom several thousand years into the future or the demise of a small snail somewhere in the Chicago River.

My understanding has changed! In fact, my position is now 180 degrees from where it was earlier. Four years of experimenting with my irrigation system, attempting to build a non-limiting environment for growing corn, helped me understand the error of my thinking. The changes in the ecosystems in my own soil astounded me!

During that time, I applied extremely high amounts of anhydrous ammonia (400#N/year), muriate of potash (960#/year), and triazine herbicides (at 1 1/2 times the normal rate) in an attempt to raise 300 bushel-per-acre corn with no cultivation.

I speeded up a process which I believe was taking place on every “conventional operated” farm in the world today. I destroyed virtually all the biological life in the soil. One could not even find an earthworm in my fields. I caused the soil aerobic zone to diminish to 1 1/2 inches. The soil became more difficult to work. Yes, I speeded up a process that normally takes 25-100 years into 3-4 years!

“Man against nature…That’s what life’s all about!” declared General Thomas Sands, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I must admit that I had developed a militaristic attitude of being at war with nature as well. I realize in retrospect that I was a product of the thinking of Bacon and Newton and others who set forth a view of nature as raw material existing for the sole purpose of being exploited. I was further influenced by political and economical theorists like John Lock and Adam Smith who suggested that nature only had value when it was turned into something useful. It had become easy for me to justify the use of the earth in any way at all, as long as individual freedom, knowledge, and prosperity were the results.

I now agree completely with Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson when he states the Christian faith in the Western World has become captive to the assumptions of modern culture which sever God from the Creation and subject the Creation to humanity’s arrogant and unrestrained power. Rev. Michaelson goes on to state that the materialism which has developed has constricted the arena for truth to be known and for certainty to be established. He says, “Now reality can only be proved rather than accepted by faith.” In other words, the true nature of the world can only be known through scientific method. This severs God’s relationship to the Creation in understanding of the modern mind. In short, nature is commonly understood today as an object unto itself, apart from it’s relationship to God.

In the first chapter of Genesis, verses 26-28, the account is related to God’s creation of man in his own image. God blessed man and gave him dominion over the earth. The biblical term dominion does not mean domination of nature by man. The biblical concept of dominions is connected to two other key ideas: covenant and stewardship.

Future of Agriculture

The concept of covenant deals with God’s covenant with man. This covenant began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28-29) and was renewed with Noah, Abraham, and Moses. The covenant specifically states that God will remain faithful to us and will provide everything we need to live. For our part of the covenant, we are expected to be faithful to God and to live in a loving relationship with Him and with our fellow creatures. In this, God expects us to take care of the land.

The biblical idea of stewardship has become identified with the concept of wise management. I now understand it to mean much more than just wise management. To me it is the process of learning from nature and learning to work in harmony with all of the natural ecosystems, including the ecosystems found in the soil. I understand my specific responsibility for stewardship in terms of renewable farming.

When I evaluate a specific practice in our farming operation, that practice must be profitable and it must be practical if it is to be implemented. I also know that practice must contribute to the integrity, the beauty, and the harmony of the bionic community. If it does not, it is wrong for me to implement.

Wendell Berry has written, “The family farm is failing because it belongs to an order of values and a kind of life that is failing.” According to Berry, the failure of the rural way of life is at root a failure to grasp the complexity of life on earth and the simple truth that our existence depends on how well we take care of the soil.

Dr. Calvin DeWitt, Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, says, “Christian stewardship is a care keeping of the earth that works to preserve and restore the integrity of the created order, doing the will of the Creator, and seeking for the Creator’s kingdom of integrity and peace — a kingdom devoid of human arrogance, ignorance, and greed. Christian stewardship is so living on earth that Heaven will not be a shock to us.”

As I consider alternatives for the future of agriculture, it is my prayer that I will be given renewed ears and renewed eyes for the presence of God in all of life, and that my farming practices will all be more and more in harmony with the Creator.”

So, I’m leaving you with this — Dave’s future is here. Where do you see agriculture in the next 26 years?

Until next time, happy trails!

 

Categories: Continuing the Legacy | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.