Tag Archives: sustainable agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture: Revisited

There still exists confusion between Sustainable Agriculture and agriculture products that are grown “organically.”  Let us once again define Sustainable Agriculture since it is such an integral and vital part of agriculture in the 21st century.

Sustainable agriculture.  Sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole

Sustainable agriculture does not mean a return to either the low yields or poor farmers that characterized the 19th century.  Rather, sustainability builds on current agricultural achievements, adopting a sophisticated approach that can maintain high yields and farm profits without undermining the resources on which agriculture depends.

In general, sustainable agriculture is the integration of soil and crop management technologies to produce quality food and fiber while maintaining or improving soil productivity and environmental quality.

EGVM (Grapevine Moth) Spreads in California

Wines and Vines.  10 August 2010 — San Joaquin County is the latest winegrape-growing county in California to detect European grapevine moth (EGVM), a virulent pest that threatens the state’s vineyards. In addition, steps are being taken in Yolo County to contain the pest as well.

Two of the Lobesia botrana moths were trapped by San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner staff on Aug. 2 and 4 in a vineyard east of Lodi and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) have confirmed the sighting.

The moth is an invasive pest new to California that can cause substantial damage to vineyards and is under intensive eradication in other parts of the state. Napa and Sonoma County growers, wineries and haulers are already under quarantine regulations that require special efforts to keep the pests from spreading beyond their present limited areas, and growers are spraying and using mating disruption to reduce the impact.

Quarantine likely in Lodi
Finding two moths in the same area in Lodi will likely trigger a similar agricultural quarantine to prevent spread of the EGVM. Typically, the EGVM quarantine area encompasses a 5-mile radius around the site where the moths are found, usually in sticky traps baited with moth hormones.

In this case, the boundary will be in a circle, with the circumference drawn approximately from Peltier Road to the north, Jack Tone Road on the east, Morada Lane to the south and Davis Road in the west.

Growers will be allowed to move their grapes, but not until they enter into a compliance agreement with the agricultural commissioner’s office prior to harvest, said San Joaquin County ag commissioner Scott Hudson.  read more

Straw Residue Prevents on Site Farm Nitrogen Loss?

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2010) — Scientists are exploring ways to reduce non-point pollution from agriculture. A new study finds that using straw residue in conjunction with legume cover crops reduces leaching of nitrogen into waterways, but may lower economic return.

Agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen non-point pollution to waterways in the United States, flowing into streams and rivers via erosion from farmlands, or through leaching of nitrate into groundwater. Once in aquatic systems, excess nitrogen leads to aquatic ecosystem degradation, including oxygen depravation that leads to fish kills and dead zones. If nitrates leach into drinking water supplies, they are a human health concern and have been linked to blue-baby syndrome, various cancers, and birth defects.

Legume cover crops, such as hairy vetch, have been considered as an alternative or supplement to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that may improve the sustainability of agricultural systems. Such cover crops can contribute substantial amounts of nitrogen to subsequent crops, as well protect soils from erosion and promote overall soil quality. Legumes tend to release nitrogen more slowly than synthetic fertilizers, possibly being more synchronous with crop demand. That does not mean that nitrogen from legumes cannot be lost from the system.

One way to possibly minimize these losses may be to add more carbon to nitrogen-rich residues, such as those of cereal grain crops, during cover crop phase of the cropping systems.  read more

Defining ‘Sustainable Agriculture’

The New York Times.  27 July 2010.  [by Jared Flesher].  Conventional farmers, organic farmers, giant agribusiness companies, environmentalists — all have varying views on what “sustainable agriculture” really means.  Perhaps not for long.

The Leonardo Academy, an environmental think tank in Madison, Wis., is busy refereeing a debate over a new “National Sustainable Agriculture Standard,” under the guidelines of the American National Standards Institute.

One outcome of this effort could be a new “sustainable agriculture” label stamped on food — similar to the way some food is now marketed as organic. It could also create a system that rewards farmers for doing things like reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer they use.

In late May, members of the 58-member standards committee met in St. Charles, Ill., to make the first decisions about the scope of the voluntary standards they hope to create. The committee includes a variety of stakeholders like the National Corn Growers Association, General Mills, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and American Farmland Trust.

One early point of contention has been genetically modified crops.

A preliminary “draft standard” from 2007 used organic agriculture as a starting point for sustainability, and it prohibited crops that had been genetically modified.

But groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the United States Department of Agriculture balked at the draft, which was ultimately scrapped. The new goal is to find a standard that makes room for “any technology that increases agricultural sustainability,” according to a statement from the Leonardo Academy earlier this month.

“Organic is basically four percent of the domestic market,” said Russell Williams, director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau, in an interview. “So if you’re going to talk about ’sustainable organic agriculture,’ that’s fine. But if you’re going for ’sustainable agriculture,’ then the standard needs to be much more broad.”

Many organic advocates don’t agree — though they believe developing sustainability standards for use by all farmers could be valuable to their cause.  read more

Farmers Focus on Sustainable Agri. Methods

 ST. LOUIS, MO, July 22, 2010 /Agriculture PR News/ — Without fertile land, clean water and ample natural resources, farmers and ranchers cannot do their jobs of producing sustainable foods to feed our growing world. As the United Soybean Board points out on the group’s new Web pages, today’s agriculturalists embrace these modern production methods and technologies like never before to help contribute to sustainable agriculture and food security for our growing planet.

Conservation tillage serves as an integral part of critical sustainable agricultural methods important to our food security, as it serves as a way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing topsoil. By minimizing tillage, farmers can decrease erosion and increase the amount of water and carbon that stays trapped in the soil and available to their crops. This means less carbon in the air and a reduced need to tap into water supplies. It also helps stop soil and other runoff and conserves energy by requiring fewer trips across fields.

Online tracking programs, such as virtual calculators, offer another key tool for ensuring sustainability in the food industry. These tools optimize farmers’ efficiency by allowing them to see almost immediately how their choices impact natural resources, production levels and ultimately the sustainability performance of their farms. read more

Upcoming Calif. Organic Production Seminar

American Vegetable Grower.  22 July 2010.  Organic Production in The Central Valley is the title of an all day seminar being sponsored by The California Certified Crop Adviser Program (CCA) and the Organic Fertilizer Association of California (OFAC) on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at International-Agri Center’s Social Hall in Tulare. The seminar will focus on organic production issues and the role of crop advisers in providing advice and products to growers producing certified organic crops. It will feature expert speakers on various organic production topics and panel of organic growers discussing the role of crop advisers in their operations

The program is aimed at crop consultants, organic input suppliers/retailers, and organic growers. CEU hours will be offered for PCAs and CCAs. Subjects to be covered include: Organic and Weed Control, Food Safety for Organic Farmers, Organic Sources of Fertilizer, Soil and Cover Crop Management, Micronutrient Use in Disease Control, and other topics. A special feature will be a grower panel with Tom Willey – T & D Willey Farms, Vernon Peterson – The Peterson Family and Gerry Davis – Crystal Organics/Grimmway discussing the challenges of fertility and pest control in certified organic production. “We are pleased to continue our successful seminar series in Tulare and present practical organic production information for both farmers and consultants”, said Doug Graham, Chairman of OFAC and a CCA.

Registration information is available at www.organicfertilizerassociation.org or by contacting Steve Beckley at 916-539-4107.

California Winegrape Pest Assessment Reduced

American/Western Fruit Grower.  20 July 2010.  California’s Department of Food and Agriculture has lowered the wine grape assessment to $0.75 per $1,000 dollars crushed value for the 2010 wine grape harvest.

During its June 29th meeting, the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (PD/GWSS) Board recommended that CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura reduce the assessment from the $1.00 assessed the two previous harvests.

“By setting the rate at 75 cents per $1,000 of value for this year, the board feels it can continue with the important work that we’re doing on Pierce’s disease while acknowledging that this is a difficult time for growers all over the state,” said PD/GWSS Board Chairman Greg Coleman. “We are in a position to stay on track with our research goals and also provide a degree of relief to our growers, and the board felt it was important to do that under the current economic circumstances.”

The annual assessment is used primarily to fund research directed toward a solution for Pierce’s disease, a bacterium vectored by the glassy-winged sharpshooter that kills grape vines.

The PD/GWSS Board was established in 2001 to support scientific research to find a solution for Pierce’s disease. An annual assessment paid by winegrape growers supports its research efforts. The board also advises the CDFA on a variety of other issues pertaining to Pierce’s disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

New Pest Found In Washington State

American/Western Fruit Grower. 19 July 2010.  A destructive species of Asian fruit fly that can ruin ripening soft fruit has been found in a Pasco orchard and another in Mattawa, according to a Washington State University entomologist. A group of male and female spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), a type of vinegar fly, was found recently in a trap set in a semi-abandoned apricot tree orchard in Pasco, Doug Walsh, who is with WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Pasco, told the Tri-City Herald.
Apricot Cluster

A single male SWD also was found near the sewage treatment plant in Prosser, and an infestation has been confirmed in a cherry orchard in the Mattawa area, Walsh told the Kennewick newspaper. One also was captured in Douglas County.

Walsh sent an e-mail to cherry growers and planned to write another targeting Concord grape growers to confirm the presence of a pest feared because it can deposit eggs in and feed on ripening fruit, causing it to rot.

But growers of primarily soft fruits and agricultural officials have feared its expected arrival in Eastern Washington from California and other regions because of its potential effect on the state’s thriving fruit industry. “It’s a concern,” Walsh told the newspaper. “But it’s important to note that while it’s here, it’s not everywhere.”  read more

Calif. Organic Grower Fined For Violating Standards

American Vegetable Grower. 12 July 2010.  The California Department of Food and Agriculture has imposed penalties on a Santa Rosa grower as a result of violations pertaining to the National Organic Program.

Valley End Farm sold produce mislabeled as organic to consumers and did not maintain adequate records to substantiate the sale and production of organic products, according to a press release issued Friday by the CDFA. Findings by the organic certifier for the operation, California Certified Organic Farmers Certification Services, LLC (CCOF), triggered the investigation and enforcement actions by CDFA.

“California’s organic oversight system is the leader in protecting consumers from fraud,” said Rick Jensen, CDFA’s Inspection and Compliance Branch Chief. “The State Organic Program, third party certifiers, and California’s farmers and ranchers ensure that organic products meet the legal requirements under USDA’s National Organic Program.”

The enforcement action was based on the following violations:

– Valley End Farm sold non-organic produce labeled as organic to community supported agriculture members
– Valley End Farm labeled non-organic produce as “transitional organic”
– Valley End Farm did not provide adequate records to substantiate sale and production of organic products

According to Valley End Farm’s website, it grows a wide variety of vegetables on 70 acres of land, and been supplying Sonoma County with organic produce since 1996. Besides offering a CSA program, which the website states “is a wonderful way to support your farmers,” Valley End Farm distributes to various retailers.  read more

Study Questions Claims of ‘extra virgin’ Olive Oil

SAN FRANCISCO – Many of the olive oils lining supermarket shelves in the United States are not the top-grade extra-virgin oils their labels proclaim, according to a report from the University of California, Davis.

Oil Olives, Lodi, California

Researchers analyzed popular brands and found 69 percent of imported oils and 10 percent of domestic oils sampled did not meet the international standards that define the pure, cold-pressed, olive oils that deserve the extra virgin title.

“Consumers, retailers and regulators should really start asking questions,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of UC Davis’ Olive Oil Center, which conducted the study in partnership with the Australian Oils Research Laboratory, in South Wales.

Funding for the study came in part from California olive oil producers and the California Olive Oil Council, a trade group that works to promote locally produced oils.  read more