Sustainable Ag News
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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.
Fifteen years into their farming career, Mike and Terra Brownback were torn. If they continued their farrow-to-finish hog operation, they’d be financially secure and could keep their family of five on the farm. But if they followed their dream, their original motivation to become farmers, they would get out of the hog business and start growing produce.
It seems that we are experiencing more unusually warm periods during mid- and late-winter, so trees may be more susceptible than in the past to moderately low winter temperatures. Lessons from years in which there was a sudden drop in temperature indicate that trees most injured were those that lacked adequate vigor, those that were too vigorous, and those that had been pruned before the cold event.
On January 4, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft Produce Safety Rule as required under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011. This proposed regulation would establish mandatory practices that farmers must take to prevent microbial contamination of fresh produce. Below are highlights of requirements FDA would issue in the final regulation.
Meadow and pine vole populations can erupt periodically unless food sources and habitat cover are reduced and their numbers are kept in check. Control of vegetation around tree trunks and regular mowing limit cover and food sources and expose voles to natural predators. Population reduction strategies are applied after harvest before damage begins and before snowfall. To successfully manage deer damage, it is important to monitor behavior and apply controls before feeding or antler rubbing habits are established.
Zaprionus indianus Gupta (Diptera: Drosophilidae), commonly known in Brazil as the African Fig Fly (AFF), is an invasive species recently found in Pennsylvania for the first time. First discovered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in early October in Grape and Tomato Pest Survey traps, it was found immediately after by Dr David Biddinger at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. Adult flies were found in apple cider vinegar traps used for the seasonal monitoring of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), another recently introduced invasive pest of small fruit crops in Pennsylvania that Dr. Biddinger first detected in Pennsylvania and Maryland in July of 2012.