Sustainability
At a time when hog producers expected to profit from their labours, a rising supply of American pork and tariffs on U.S. pork exports saw Canadian hog prices drop as much as $55 per animal in June. The Canadian Pork Council estimates the sudden decline resulted in losses of $125 million for the Canadian hog industry between June and September.
Published in Swine
Smithfield Foods, Inc., is pleased to announce, through the nationwide expansion of Smithfield Renewables, innovative projects designed to help meet its goal to reduce the company's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2025, which it set in concert with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). This month marks the one-year anniversary of Smithfield Renewables.
Published in Companies
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the National Weather Service has designed a new tool for those applying manure in Minnesota called the Minnesota Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast.
Published in Manure Application
Beef and dairy farmers around the world are looking for ways to reduce methane emissions in their herds and cut greenhouse gas emissions – a global priority. To help meet this goal, researchers from Canada and Australia teamed-up for a three-year study to find the best feeding practices that reduce methane emissions while supporting profitable dairy and beef cattle production.
Published in Air quality
Four years ago, dairy farmer Jay Richardson and his wife, Kristi – owners of Son-Bow Farms in Northwest Wisconsin – sat down for a heart-to-heart to discuss the future of their business.
Published in Dairy
While April showers might bring May flowers, they also contribute to toxic algae blooms, dead zones and declining water quality in U.S. lakes, reservoirs and coastal waters, a new study shows.
Published in Other
Earthworms eat biological material in the soil to survive. Now, their abilities are being put to work by a company called BioFiltro. They are used in a controlled environment to clean liquid manure waste streams in a matter of hours where it would otherwise have taken weeks.
Published in Dairy
Arden Hills, MN – Land O'Lakes recently announced its plan to roll out the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that will help farmers advance their stewardship goals and return-on-investment in real time, acre-by-acre and help food companies measure sustainability progress.

The platform will be available this year as the core tool under the new Truterra brand. The full suite of the Truterra offering aims to advance the agricultural industry's ability to enable conservation at scale across a variety of crops, commodities and commitments.

"Truterra holds tremendous potential to harness stewardship to drive value by providing data-driven insights from farm-to-fork," said Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN. "Using the Truterra Insights Engine, farmers and food companies will have the ability to establish and report clear metrics, create customized stewardship strategies that meet farmers where they are in their sustainability journey, and use a common language for on-farm stewardship that holds meaning and value. It's a major step forward in supporting food system sustainability that starts on the farm."

One of the biggest challenges in understanding and enhancing the sustainability of our food system remains a lack of comprehensive tools that can quantify economic and environmental benefits for farmers to identify farm management options. The Truterra Insights Engine, along with other technology services and tools under the new Truterra suite of offerings, will help to fill this need by providing tangible conservation options and benefits customized to every business.

The Truterra Insights Engine leverages agronomic expertise and technical capabilities from a variety of contributors to enhance the value of stewardship across the supply chain. Such collaborations include USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and integration of the sustainability metrics of Field to Market's Fieldprint Platform. The Insights Engine even ties into major private-sector commitments such as Walmart's Project Gigaton.

For farmers and agricultural retailers, the Truterra Insights Engine will utilize soil, weather, economic, and farm management data to create customized reports showcasing the potential impacts of various stewardship practices – providing field-by-field insights, tracking against both economic performance and conservation practices. Together, the economic and environmental results will facilitate the long-term productivity and success of our farmers and food system.

A key differentiator for this platform from other data tools is its design to be of value for farmers first and foremost. It was created by a farmer-owned cooperative, to be used by farmers, agricultural retailers, and agricultural experts to improve on-farm economic and natural resource stewardship. The benefits of the platform span the food value chain, but it was built to start with the farmer and deliver value back to the farm.

Importantly, the Truterra Insights Engine will measure and track stewardship progress over time. In addition to helping farmers make the right choices for their business, these expanded metrics will help food companies achieve their sustainability goals – leading the industry toward a more sustainable food system.

To learn more about Truterra and see the Truterra Insights Engine in action, visit www.TruterraInsights.com.

Published in Companies
Ames, IA – An Iowa State University professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering has been named the new director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

Matt Helmers, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and extension agricultural engineer, began his duties on Sept. 1. Helmers succeeds Hongwei Xin, assistant dean of research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, who served as interim director since 2017.

Helmers joined Iowa State in 2003. He serves as the agricultural and biosystems engineering department’s associate chair for research and extension and holds the title of Dean’s Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Dr. Helmers is well-known among Iowa farmers and water quality researchers as an exceptional scientist and a trusted source of information about nutrient management,” said Joe Colletti, interim endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His leadership of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center is a significant new chapter in addressing the goals set forth in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Helmers was part of the scientific team that worked on the strategy’s Nonpoint Source Science Assessment, serving as its nitrogen team chair. He served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board Agricultural Science Committee from 2016 to 2018.

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center has committed $8.7 million to 76 research projects since it was created in 2013 by the Iowa Board of Regents in response to legislation passed by the Iowa Legislature. The center funds research by scientists at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to address nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient losses to surface waters. They pursue science-based approaches to areas that include evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and providing recommendations on implementing the practices and developing new practices.

Helmers is involved in research and extension and outreach activities in the areas of water management and water quality. One focus area is subsurface drainage and the impacts of agricultural management on nutrient export from subsurface drained lands. Another focus is surface runoff from agricultural areas, including the strategic placement and design of buffer systems focusing on how buffer systems can be used to minimize environmental impacts.

He is faculty adviser to the Iowa Learning Farms, a partnership of farmers, non-farmers, urban residents, educators, agencies and conservationists to promote a renewed commitment to a Culture of Conservation. This year he was presented the Outstanding Achievement in Extension Award by the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and received its Dean Lee R. Kolmer Award for Excellence in Applied Research in 2017.

Helmers earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Iowa State in 1995; a master’s degree in civil engineering in 1997 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and a doctorate in agricultural and biological systems engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003.
Published in Research
Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently learned that a project to allow farmers to submit manure management plans online won an award in the 2018 national Government Experience Awards.

The project was recognized in the Government-to-Business Experience category, one of six categories acknowledging how all levels of government are working to improve citizens’ interactions with their government.

Historically, about 7,000 Iowa farmers had to fill out paper forms, drive miles to get them signed and leave a copy of the manure management plan at the county courthouse, and then submit the signed forms to DNR.

“Our goal was to cut the time and effort it takes for farmers to submit annual plans, while maintaining the information we need,” said Bill Ehm, head of DNR’s environmental division. “Now, instead of days, they can use their smart phone to file the plan and pay fees online in minutes. That’s a tremendous savings for all involved.

“The online process makes everyone’s lives easier: the producers, and DNR and county staff,” he added. “It should also be helpful for records.”

The awards are presented by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policy and best practices in state and local government. California, Maryland, Texas and Utah also won in the State Government-to-Business focus area.

Learn more about the eMMP, including how to submit one and the stakeholders involved in the project at www.iowadnr.gov/emmp.
Published in State
JSE-listed Montauk Energy has struck a deal with a dairy farm in California where it will for the first time transform cow manure into natural gas.

The company mainly extracts and converts methane gas from waste landfills across the US where it benefits from subsidies through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a federal programme.

Montauk said it entered into a joint venture agreement with the dairy farm in July and would own and operate a manure digester and build, own and operate a renewable natural gas (RNG) facility for 20 years. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Biogas

Years ago, it was tradition for farmers to grow a variety of crops on their farm. There was limited food distribution to large grocery stores, and most of the food was grown locally. So, a farmer could be cropping cotton and sweet potatoes in one area of their farm. On another area, graze beef cattle, dairy, or chickens on forage crops like annual clovers, perennial tall fescue, wheat pasture, and native rangeland.

Pastures and hayland were rotated with crops so that the same enterprise was not on the same field year after year. Diversity of enterprises on each farm helped create stability in the production system.

With the advent of large farming equipment and commercial fertilizers following World War II, it became more efficient from a labor standpoint to grow the same types of crop year after year.

After investing in equipment to handle a particular crop like corn, farmers often became more specialized. This led to monoculture cropping, which can have positive effects on yields and efficiency. But, monoculture has some drawbacks, including environmental and social concerns.

The need for greater nutrient inputs with monoculture can lead to poor water quality underground or from run-off. Confined operations have the issue of disposing of large volumes of manure.

Interest in re-integrating farms to take advantage of the synergies between crops and livestock has increased in the past few decades. Our lab has embarked on researching such integrated systems as a way to improve agricultural sustainability.

Crop-pasture rotations are part of an integrated system. Farmers can match the energy and nutrient flows of different enterprises (i.e. types of livestock and types of crops) to meet the desired outcomes.

Ruminant livestock consume forages, often on pasture by themselves during much of the year. Animal manures are deposited directly on the land where they graze. Alternatively, they can be confined in areas during parts of the year with conserved forages, e.g. hay or silage.

Manures can also be collected from confinement areas and applied to cropland. This recycles and effectively utilizes nutrients throughout the entire system and can substantially reduce chemical fertilizer needs for cropping.

Forage grasses used for grazing often have extensive, fibrous root systems. These roots hold soil particles together. All plants take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into simple sugars during photosynthesis.

Compared with annual crops, forage grasses form a thick mat over the soil, and can enrich the amount of carbon in soil more than annual crops. Forage legumes are capable of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere and add nitrogen to the soil as well.

The large gain in soil organic carbon under perennial pastures is a key benefit of integrated crop-livestock systems.

Pasturing is also an important adaptation strategy to overcome drought. Pastures can partially control flooding by improving water infiltration and soil health. Forage and grazing lands have historically provided a sustainable and resilient land cover. Grazing lands are rooted by a variety of grasses and forbs that serve to provide essential ecosystem services:

  • Water cycling
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Gas exchange with the atmosphere
  • Erosion control and landscape stabilizing
  • Climate moderation
  • Food and feed production, and,
  • Aesthetic experience

Integrated agricultural systems have the potential to adapt to weather extremes. This can make them more climate-resilient than monoculture systems. For example, integrated crop-livestock systems rely on forages as part of a diversity of crop choices. These forages provide a large benefit for positive balance of carbon stored in soil. Crops grown in rotation with forages can be more profitable, since yields are often enhanced and costly fertilizer inputs can be lower. The presence of forages can reduce nutrient runoff and reduce nitrous oxide emissions.1

The diversity of farming operations in integrated crop-livestock systems reduces the overall risk of failure. By having several different crops on a farm, the risk of any one component failing is reduced.

This diversity also offers resilience of the farming system against extreme weather events and potential climate change. Greater integration of crops and livestock using modern technologies could broadly transform agriculture to enhance productivity.

Integrated crop-livestock systems can also reduce environmental damage, protect and enhance biological diversity, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Integrated systems likely provide healthier potentially more diverse foods and increase economic and cultural opportunities in many different regions of the world.

Diverse agricultural systems that include livestock, perennial grasses and legumes, and a wide variety of annual forages offer enhanced agro-ecosystem resilience in the face of uncertain climate and market conditions.

Indeed, there are many good reasons why a diversity of crops and livestock should be produced on the same farm and even the same field within a farm.

Published in Beef
Greenhouse gas is a significant player in climate change and Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists have developed a tool that helps mitigate agriculture's contribution.

Dr. Roland Kroebel is an AAFC ecosystem modeller in Lethbridge, Alberta. Though he insists the credit is not his, Kroebel has played a key role in developing the Holos software model from the beginning to its current 3rd version. Holos helps producers green their agriculture operations by monitoring, and adjusting farming practices to lessen greenhouse gases.

"The idea of the model is to allow producers to play around with their management strategies and to see how that could lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," Kroebel says.

Kroebel says Holos is "an exploratory tool" and that "it's meant as a gaming approach where a producer can try out different management practices that don't necessarily have to be realistic."

The goal of the model is to gain understanding of the way the system reacts to management practices and is considered more of an educational tool than a decision maker.

The Holos 3.0 came out in 2017. The updated version includes a partial economics component allowing farmers to monitor costs of different management practices.

Kroebel says that the model is still in a basic level of complexity and his team will continue working on improvements as they receive feedback from other research groups and stakeholders.

One upgrade they're looking to make is to better match the economics of the model with the greenhouse gas emissions.

"To give you an example, different ways of disposing of animal manure have different costs and emit different types and amounts of gas; but those costs don't factor into the value of an animal. So the costs don't discriminate in that way, but emissions do."

Kroebel says they're also in frequent contact with the national greenhouse gas inventory (responsible for compiling and reporting data on Canadian greenhouse gas emissions across sectors) to ensure their algorithms are aligned.

"What we're trying to do there is create transparent results so that individual producers can understand how their farm system is part of the larger national and global context."

On top of the producers who use Holos for their farms, Kroebel says that they are increasingly receiving requests from universities looking to bring the software into classrooms.

"It's a great way to demonstrate how decisions on the farm trickle through the system and have multiple effects at various stages."

Published in Other
With water quality in the Chesapeake Bay suffering from excess nutrients and fish populations in rivers such as the Susquehanna experiencing gender skewing and other reproductive abnormalities, understanding how to minimize runoff of both nutrients and endocrine-disrupting compounds from farm fields after manure applications is a critical objective for agriculture.
Published in Other
Farmers who haul manure and custom manure applicators in Michigan may soon be able to qualify for significant reductions in their pollution insurance premiums by participating in a voluntary manure hauler certification program built around a successful model developed in neighboring Wisconsin.
Published in Associations
Smithfield Foods and Anuvia Plant Nutrients recently announce a new partnership to create sustainable fertilizer from solids collected from the manure treatment systems at Smithfield’s hog farms.
Published in Swine
It is often the case that great partnerships are started through the involvement of a mutual friend. That was certainly the situation with the El Paso Zoo and New Green Organics, both located in Vinton, Texas. The pair has formed a relationship that has given birth to something called Zoo Doo.
Published in Compost
Urban encroachment on traditional farmland is becoming a big problem. Farmers contend they should be allowed to conduct business as usual because they were first in the neighborhood while nearby homeowners complain that farm odors are wafting into their family barbecues and must stop.
Published in Compost
A ban on Lancaster County farmers spreading manure during winter months is one of the measures the federal government is urging in a new forceful letter to Pennsylvania over lagging results in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it expects the state to forbid such manure applications on bare fields in winter when runoff is most likely.

"That would be a hardship on many of the farms" if it becomes reality, said Christopher Thompson, manager of the Lancaster County Conservation District. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in News
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will conduct a project transforming manure and cedar mulch from waste to worth. The project is funded by a $132,663 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Leading the research will be Amy Millmier Schmidt, assistant professor in biological systems engineering and animal science, and Rick Koelsch, professor in biological systems engineering and animal science. The project is designed to provide natural resource benefits to Nebraska through increased utilization of livestock manure and cedar mulch among crop farmers.

"When manure is applied to cropland at agronomic rates using recommended best management practices, it provides agronomic, soil health, and environmental benefits," said Schmidt.

As the management of eastern red cedar trees has become a critical issue in many parts of the state, Schmidt and others have been studying practices that utilize the biomass created during forest management activities in ways that add value to this product.

"Combining wood chips with manure prior to land application could provide a market for the woody biomass generated during tree management activities and help offset the cost that landowners bear for tree removal," she said.

The team's on-farm research to date has demonstrated that manure-mulch mixtures improve soil characteristics without negatively impacting crop productivity. This new award will allow an expanded project team to demonstrate the practice more widely throughout the state, complete an economic analysis of the practice, and engage high school students in educational experiences related to soil health, conservation and cedar tree management. It will also introduce the students to on-farm research for evaluating a proposed practice change.

"On-farm research is at the core of extension and research programs at land-grant universities like Nebraska," said Koelsch. "Giving high school students hands-on experience evaluating a practice to understand how it impacts farm profitability is a unique way to improve science literacy, critical thinking skills, and interest in agricultural careers."

Outreach activities will focus on improving understanding among crop farmers of the benefits these amendments provide and motivating implementation of this new practice. The long-term goal of the project is to improve soil health properties for Nebraska soils, reduce nutrient losses to Nebraska water resources, and reduce eastern red cedar tree encroachment on Nebraska's pasture and grassland resources.

The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state.
Published in News
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