Sustainable Ag News
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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.
On January 18th, North Carolina State University’s Julie Grossman kicked off the 2013 Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series with a talk titled “Putting Legumes to Work.” Grossman shared the results of her research program that explores how management of leguminous crop residues and of rhizobia symbiont populations can enhance the outcomes of legume cover crop use.
One of the major topics of debate in today’s agriculture and food system is the use of crops for food versus fuel. Susquehanna Mills in Montoursville, PA is pioneering a middle-road in this debate, using canola to create a full-circle food and fuel crop.
Agriculture as we know it consists of acres upon acres of plentiful fields and perfectly aligned cash crops. But what if we reintroduced something a little more native to the land and soil of North America? By allowing trees and crops to grow together we combine agriculture and forestry to work as a team to provide new benefits. Penn State Extension, in partnership with the US Forest Service, Chesapeake Bay Program, PA Bureau of Forestry, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, and Village Acres and Blue Rooster Farms, hosted two full-day workshops on Agroforestry practices in May.
Sustainable agriculture has grown beyond a fringe movement to a concept that is embraced by an increasingly diverse group of stakeholders. Although there are many positive aspects to this growth, the sustainable agriculture message has become somewhat diluted, in part through appropriation of the term by a broad array of special interest groups. The goal of the “Building Capacity and the Voice for a Stronger Sustainable Agriculture Movement” workshop at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s 21st Annual Farming for the Future Conference was to examine the current situation and craft an inclusive message to promote agriculture that is environmentally sound, profitable, and supports communities.
Sustainable cropping systems research and extension has gained momentum at Penn State with the ‘Triad’ projects collaborating to host the 2nd Annual Sustainable Cropping Systems Triad Symposium and the Strategies for Soil Health and Nutrient Conservation Research Tour in recent months.