I am using a modeling approach to answer questions about the ability of cover crops to mitigate climate risks, as described in a recent video produced in collaboration with the Sustainable Corn Project communication team.
The conservation community of researchers, farmers and practitioners champion the use of cover crops in the Midwest for numerous environmental benefits: reducing water pollution, nutrient recycling, weed suppression, erosion prevention, providing livestock feed, you name it. We also hear anecdotes about cover crops protecting the soil in periods of heavy rain, but what about cover crops in the context of climate change? This question is a priority for researchers on the Sustainable Corn project. Climate scientists have documented increases in precipitation intensity over the last several decades in the Midwest, and they anticipate even more in the future. So, can cover crops help mitigate those climate risks? Continue reading →
Climate and weather greatly impact a farmer’s day-to-day operations as well as their livelihood. To gain perspective on farmers’ production practices and how they are changing, Michigan State University Extension educators and specialist invited farmers from across Michigan to participate in one of three discussions on sustainable corn production held at locations in the north central, central and south central part of the state during mid-March. Climate and nitrogen were two of the topics discussed.
Concerns over heavy spring rains prompts Michigan corn growers to split N-applications throughout growing season.
We found that producers have already decreased the amount of nitrogen applied per bushel of yield. Cost of nitrogen, concern of environmental impacts, improved technology and better information were all given as reasons for the change. The source of nitrogen used is also changing. Most producers indicated that they will or have already moved away from using anhydrous mostly due to availability. Continue reading →
Water is an extremely valuable input in agriculture, whether delivered through rain, snow or irrigation. This fact was made very apparent during the kickoff presentation at the recent Iowa Water Conference. In his presentation Water Issues in the Developing World, Dick Schultz (Iowa State University) detailed the different sources of water in our world. While it seems that there is “water, water, everywhere”, only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, the balance resides in the oceans.
Of that fresh water, 69% is in glaciers, 30% is groundwater, 0.3% lakes, 0.06% soil moisture, 0.04% in the atmosphere, 0.06% in rivers and 0.003% in the biosphere. He went on to point out that 50% of the fresh water is in 6 areas: Canada, Russia, Tibet, Columbia, Brazil and Indonesia.
Water has been a hot topic in the US news with stories of the California drought, an extremely snowy winter in the east and nutrient reduction strategies in the Midwest. A quick look at the Drought Monitor shows that drought conditions extend from California to Illinois. Continue reading →