Agriculture

California Drought: Why Farmers Must Adapt
September 12, 2014 08:40 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit

The entire state of California is in a drought. A big part of the state, including the fertile Central Valley, is experiencing the worst category of drought, exceptional. California supplies much of the fruits, vegetables and nuts the nation eats. In inland areas such as the Central Valley, as well as the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, agriculture truly rules.

Illegal land clearing for commercial agriculture responsible for half of tropical deforestation
September 11, 2014 09:07 AM - Forest Trends

A comprehensive new analysis released today says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. The study also finds that the majority of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. In addition to devastating impacts on forest-dependent people and biodiversity, the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture is estimated to produce 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon each year—equivalent to 25% of the EU's annual fossil fuel-based emissions.

How can we make lawns more environmentally friendly?
September 6, 2014 08:12 AM - Rutgers University

Many homeowners strive to have the picture-perfect green lawn. But how can that be achieved in an environment where water in parts of the country is becoming scarce and the use of pesticides and fertilizer is being discouraged? Researchers from two Big Ten universities hope that they will be able to find an answer. Scientists from Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota, both members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation — an academic consortium of Big Ten universities — will be working together over the next five years to develop an environmentally friendly grass that is more resistant to disease and drought and a better economical choice for homeowners.

Ozone pollution in India kills crops that could feed starving population
September 4, 2014 03:23 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

In one year, India's ozone pollution damaged millions of tons of the country's major crops, causing losses of more than a billion dollars and destroying enough food to feed tens of millions of people living below the poverty line. These are findings of a new study that looked at the agricultural effects in 2005 of high concentrations of ground-level ozone, a plant-damaging pollutant formed by emissions from vehicles, cooking stoves and other sources. Able to acquire accurate crop production data for 2005, the study's authors chose it as a year representative of the effects of ozone damage over the first decade of the 21st century.

California FINALLY gets serious about protecting its groundwater
September 3, 2014 07:43 AM - Union of Concerned Scientists

As California suffers through the third year of a record-breaking drought, state lawmakers agreed today to require more sweeping oversight of the state’s groundwater resources. California legislators approved Senate Bill 1168 and Assembly Bill 1739, which together call for stricter management of groundwater supplies by local agencies while giving the state the ability to step in when necessary. Up until now, California was the only state in the nation that did not comprehensively monitor or regulate groundwater.

How Farm Pests Can Threaten Food Security
September 2, 2014 12:49 PM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

Agricultural pests - viruses, bacteria, fungi, blights, mildews, rusts, beetles, nematodes, flies, mites, spiders and caterpillars - are spreading thanks to trade, travel and global warming, writes Tim Radford. The world faces a dire future of increased crop losses and growing insecurity. Coming soon to a farm near you: just about every possible type of pest that could take advantage of the ripening harvest in the nearby fields.

Reducing Water Scarcity
August 29, 2014 02:53 PM - McGill University

Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year warned residents of Arizona and Nevada that they could face cuts in Colorado River water deliveries in 2016. Irrigation techniques, industrial and residential habits combined with climate change lie at the root of the problem. But despite what appears to be an insurmountable problem, according to researchers from McGill and Utrecht University it is possible to turn the situation around and significantly reduce water scarcity in just over 35 years.

When Forests Aren't Really Forests: The High Cost of Chile's Tree Plantaions
August 19, 2014 01:46 PM - Julian Moll-Rocek, MONGABAY.COM

At first glance, the statistics tell a hopeful story: Chile’s forests are expanding. According to Global Forest Watch, overall forest cover changes show approximately 300,000 hectares were gained between 2000 and 2013 in Chile’s central and southern regions. Specifically, 1.4 million hectares of forest cover were gained, while about 1.1 million hectares were lost. On the ground, however, a different scene plays out: monocultures have replaced diverse natural forests while Mapuche native protesters burn pine plantations, blockade roads and destroy logging equipment. At the crux of these two starkly contrasting narratives is the definition of a single word: “forest.”

New Satellite To Help Farmers Facing Drought
August 19, 2014 09:08 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Satellites are put into orbit for a variety of tasks. From sending television signals to our homes to enabling GPS devices, to helping us see weather on a global scale, satellites collect information and provide us with modern conveniences. One new use for a proposed satellite scheduled to launch this winter is soil moisture monitoring at a local level.

Toxic Algae Scare Prompts Backlash Against Farms
August 18, 2014 09:25 AM - S.E. Smith, Care2

What do a no-drink order in Toledo and a backlash against factory farming have in common? A lot, as it turns out. Residents of Ohio's fourth-largest city were advised for multiple days earlier this month to refrain from drinking their tap water because it had been contaminated by toxic algae. As residents struggled to deal with their contaminated water supply, the culprit behind the problem became readily apparent: factory farms. The Ohio Agriculture Advisory Council (OAAC) is proposing a regulatory crackdown that could forever change industrial farming practices in this Midwestern state.

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