Sustainable Ag News
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The Northeast US is home to close to twenty land link programs that connect farmland owners — farmers, non-farming land owners, or public/institutional land owners — with farmers and aspiring farmers in search of suitable farmland. Nearly 1,000 farmland owners and farmland seekers participate in these programs each year, according to Leslie Pillen, who studied the activities and outcomes of these programs as a graduate student in Penn State's Rural Sociology program. A selection of her research results is now available on the NE-SARE website in a publication titled "Land Link Programs in the Northeast US: A Program Assessment and Lessons Learned."
Extension Educator Tianna Dupont recently traveled to New Mexico as a fellow in the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Extension Educator Fellows Program. In this essay, Dupont reflects on what she learned about how climate and culture shape the meaning of "sustainable agriculture" in New Mexico.
Several sustainable agriculture research projects at Penn State give students the chance to engage in hands-on research and to gain a better understanding of how agricultural ecosystems work. Jena Trolio and Veronica Pasi are two recent Penn State undergraduates who took advantage of such opportunities, and their resulting research posters took first and second place in the Physical Sciences category of the 2014 Undergraduate Research Exposition.
A new set of fact sheets is available to provide information to oilseed producers who are considering entering the edible oil market. The fact sheets examine many aspects of small-scale edible oil processing, including seed cleaning and storage, processing methods, filtering methods, regulations, and commercially available oil presses.
A team of Penn State researchers studying the agronomic, environmental, and economic benefits and trade-offs of using cover crop mixtures instead of monocultures in organic farming systems recently presented a webinar in which they described their project and shared some preliminary results. The webinar, sponsored by eOrganic and attended by more than 300 people nationwide, is now available online for public viewing.
Christian Peters, a crop and soil scientist at Tufts University, presented a talk on May 2 titled "Capacity of the Northeast to meet human dietary needs and the implications for sustainable food and bioenergy systems." The event was part of the 2014 Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series organized by the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
The increasing demand for wild forest products such as leeks and mushrooms present new opportunities for farmers, but maintaining a sustainable production base will require careful stewardship. At PASA’s 23rd Farming for the Future Conference held in February, Eric Burkhart, an instructor at Penn State, and the Plant Science Program director for Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, discussed sustainable management of wild leeks and mushrooms.
How can organic field crop growers manage perennial weeds successfully? What if perennial weeds seem to be increasing in growth and vigor, even with a good crop rotation? Such were the questions that Tim Bock, Wills Daal Farm, Kutztown, PA, a certified organic farmer, faced when trying to grow hay and small grains, with an ever increasing competition from mugwort. Tim shared his successful story at the Penn State Extension Organic Field Crop Study Circle in February, 2014 in East Earl, PA.
Three organic field crop farmers presented a panel discussion at the 2014 PASA Conference to share their experiences using diverse cover crop mixtures. The three farmers, Wade Esbenshade, Bucky Ziegler and Dan DeTurk, have been collaborating with Penn State Extension to conduct on-farm research measuring the ecosystem functions provided by cover crops in organic systems.
Despite their typically small size and sparse distribution, farms that sell their products locally may boost economic growth in their communities in some regions of the U.S., according to a team of economists.
In March, a team of researchers, staff and students from the Reduced-Tillage Organic Systems Experiment had the opportunity to attend the 9th Annual Organic Grain Production Meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. The keynote speaker was North Dakota rancher Gabe Brown, whose presentation was titled “Holistic Regeneration of Our Lands: A Producers Perspective.”
Researchers at Penn State, Iowa State, and University of Kentucky are testing different methods to control cucumber beetles in organically managed cucurbit fields.
Natural enemies are beneficial insects that prey upon pests in agricultural landscapes. Entomology graduate student Ian Grettenberger created a video series to highlight the stunning and graphic encounters that take place when these predators meet their prey.
Customers are demanding local food, and they want it all winter long. Some growers are finding effective ways to meet this demand. Jeff Frank from Liberty Gardens, Coopersburg PA explained his winter production system to a group of eighty growers at Penn State Extension’s Organic Vegetable Intensive.
On-farm internships and land-link programs are two important models for increasing the number of farmers in the sustainable-agriculture movement, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Starting a seed is the same no matter where that seed will be planted. For urban growers, there can be several considerations to take into account during the development of a production area. In early July 2013, over twenty faculty, staff, and members of Penn State's Sustainable Agriculture Working Group traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to learn about the challenges faced by urban growers and how several innovative farms are responding to them.
Check out the wide variety of sustainable agriculture events organized by Penn State Extension.
No one wants to spend more money on fertilizer than they have to. But we all know that without enough fertility the bottom line suffers. Too much fertilization and we risk contributing to the pollution of our waterways. Most organic growers do an excellent job of using their experience to accurately predict appropriate fertility applications based on their long term soil test trends and how well their crops perform. A study initiated last year aims to help further refine organic fertility recommendations.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a work that influenced the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and how people everywhere think about pesticides and other chemicals in the environment.,
Growing winter cover crops can be a challenge for organic vegetable growers who have to terminate the cover crops in time to seed their early spring cash crops. Since soils in spring are often too wet to allow for the use of heavy machinery, organic growers are faced with a dilemma of how to kill their cover crop. This “kill-till dilemma” is the impetus behind a SARE-funded study conducted by Ray Weil, a professor of environmental science and technology at University of Maryland, and Natalie Lounsbury, a graduate student in his lab. This study was the focus of the first webinar in Penn State Extension's 'Cover Crop Innovations Webinar Series,' which will be running through the end of March 2013.