Water recycling for agricultural use is about to get a major boost through a massive reuse project in California that marks some first-evers.
“Starting as early as December, [Modesto] will sell its highly treated wastewater to struggling nearby farmers. When it’s up and running, Modesto’s experiment should be California’s largest wastewater-to-agriculture reuse project, and it will mark the first time recycled water flows through a federal canal,” Grist recently reported.
“The project will take tertiary-treated sewage from the cities of Modesto, Turlock and Ceres and route it through new pipelines into the Delta Mendota Canal, owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. From there, it will be purchased by Del Puerto Water District to irrigate crops on some 200 family farms along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” News Deeply explained.
The project, known as the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, is the “single largest recycled water conveyance project in the country and the first water project for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the owner and operator of the Delta-Mendota Canal,” the Turlock Journalreported. The effort will bring waste-to-farm techniques to some of the nation’s most productive farmland….
Agriculture Committee members heard about the struggling farm economy, crop insurance, and rural development. One issue that wasn’t discussed, despite its profound impact on farmers, is climate change….
The 1990 Farm Bill included a title called the Global Climate Change Prevention Act. That title established a program at the USDA to coordinate climate-related issues within the giant agency….This work included coordinating both inter-agency work as well as representing the USDA at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had just been established in 1988. Specifically, the new climate change program was to study the impacts of climate change (including drought, extreme weather, new pests) on crop production and explore the potential for developing more climate-resilient crops….
…the climate change title was primarily focused on a research agenda, rather than a regulatory framework that directly threatened the agriculture or fossil fuel industries….
…Another factor is that the fossil fuel industry hadn’t kicked into over-drive their campaign to politicize and discredit climate science. That multi-decade effort, even after company scientists at Exxon/Mobil had warned the company about climate change going back to the 1970s, shifted the political discussion around climate. Working particularly closely with the Bush-Cheney administration, the industry spent millions to sow doubts about climate science and reinforce the perception that environmentalists had conjured up climate change to advance their agenda….
…Following the science, and what they are seeing in the field and supply chains, most major agribusiness and food companies are not waiting for Congress to act. Cargill, General Mills, Monsanto, and fertilizer giant Yara, among others, are openly touting how they are responding to climate change. Increasingly, farm groups like the National Farmers Union are pushing for reforms that support climate resilience.
…Congressional inaction on climate change, led by Republicans, unfortunately reflects what is now a fiercely partisan issue. A recent Pew poll confirmed that political partisanship is the single biggest factor determining people’s views on climate change.That partisanship on climate change is continuing in the 2018 Farm Bill. Even as their home states struggle to recover from yet another extreme weather event—a devastating wildfire that killed more than 10,000 cattle across three states…
‘Relationships’ in the soil become stronger during the process of nature restoration. Although all major groups of soil life are already present in former agricultural soils, they are not really ‘connected’ at first. These connections need time to (literally) grow, and fungi are the star performers here (via Eureka Alert).
….A large European research team discovered that when you try to restore nature on grasslands formerly used as agricultural fields, there is something missing. Lead author Elly Morriën from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology explains: “All the overarching, known groups of soil organisms are present from the start, but the links between them are missing. Because they don’t ‘socialise’, the community isn’t ready to support a diverse plant community yet.”…
…”Fungi turn out to play a very important role in nature restoration, appearing to drive the development of new networks in the soil.” In agricultural soils, the thready fungal hyphae are severely reduced by ploughing for example, and therefore the undamaged soil bacteria have an advantage and rule here. The researchers studied a series of former agricultural fields that had changed use 6 to 30 years previously. With time, there is a strong increase in the role of fungi….
U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if [the President’s] pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say. …[President’s] nominee for Agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring….
….Established climate science shows that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels are quickly warming the planet, leading to melting polar ice caps, rising seas and more frequent extreme weather. Sixteen of the world’s 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000 — a level of global warming leading to more frequent, more intense and more deadly heat waves and extreme drought….
…If the USDA dismisses the threat of climate change, “then there is reason for grave concern,” said Michael P. Hoffman, executive director of the Cornell University Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which focuses on sustainable agriculture. “Those who grow our food in the U.S. are facing more extreme weather, more flooding and drought, more high temperature stress — in general more risk due to more variability, more uncertainty,” Hoffmann said. “It will be a travesty if USDA cuts back on its support of climate change research and education.”…
…The USDA manages 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands, including the rainforests of Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Those forests act as large “carbon sinks” because they store more carbon from the atmosphere in tree trunks, roots and soil than any other type of forest in the country. Altogether, America’s national forests offset and store about 14 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service….
…Firefighting made up 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget in 1995, but as climate change led to longer and more severe fire seasons, the share of the agency’s budget dedicated to fighting fires ballooned to 50 percent by 2015 — roughly $1.2 billion. Fire seasons now average 78 days longer each year than in 1970, according to the Forest Service….
GLEN ELDER, Kan. — Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter.
….To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land.In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.” “If politicians want to exhaust themselves debating the climate, that’s their choice,” Mr. Palen said, walking through fields of freshly planted winter wheat. “I have a farm to run….
…Here in north-central Kansas, America’s breadbasket and conservative heartland, the economic realities of agriculture make climate change a critical business issue. While climate change is part of daily conversation, it gets disguised as something else – erosion, dwindling aquifers, and other practical issues....
Healthy Soils Program funded after multiple years of advocacy by CalCAN and our partners. $7.5 million will be spent in 2017 to reward farmers and ranchers for increasing carbon stores in their soils and reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall. As the program is designed and implemented, CalCAN will continue to provide input aimed at maximizing its effectiveness, reach and accessibility to a diversity of growers.
19,000 acres saved + 47 billion vehicle miles eliminated, thanks to a $37 million investment by the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC). CalCAN will provide input on an expected 2017 request for proposals and argue for funding sufficient to meet the demand.
Ecosystem collapse from extreme drought can be significantly hastened by pressures placed on drought-weakened vegetation by grazers and fungal pathogens, a new study finds. The study’s experimental evidence shows that the natural enemies of plants play a major role in lowering resilience to drought and preventing recovery afterward. The finding may be applicable to a wide range of ecosystems now threatened by climate-intensified drought, including marshes, mangroves, forests and grasslands….
Qiang He, Brian R. Silliman, Zezheng Liu, Baoshan Cui. Natural enemies govern ecosystem resilience in the face of extreme droughts. Ecology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12721
By allowing countries to decide how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the landmark Paris climate agreement opened the door to new solutions. And over the past year, many countries, particularly in the developing world, decided that an especially effective way to reach those targets is through their farms. Nearly 80 percent of the countries said they would use agricultural practices to curb climate change, and more than 90 percent said they would use those practices in addition to changes in forestry and land use linked to farming…
…the UNFCCC launched a program that pays developing countries to preserve their carbon-absorbing forests, including standards for measuring, reporting and verifying the emissions cuts. Similar standards haven’t been developed yet for agriculture.
…Farm industry leaders and academics formed the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance in 2015 to prompt changes in agricultural practices that have climate benefits. ….”People are turned off by the climate change conversation,” Shea said. “Once you get into a conversation about improving productivity, you can get into a conversation about co-benefits.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector in developed countries average about 12 percent, compared to 35 percent in developing countries…. advocates are pushing agricultural interests and regulators in the U.S. to do their part, pointing to research that says reaching the goals of the Paris agreement will be impossible without agriculture’s contribution….
Americans’ fondness for milk, yogurt, cheese and juicy burgers requires a huge livestock industry, with nearly 90 million head of cattle in the U.S. in any one year. All those cows mean significant methane emissions.
With estimates from the United Nations that methane accounts for 44 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and new determination – including legislation in California – to reduce methane emissions from farms, we need to figure out how to quantify and then reduce those emissions….