Presentation on theme: "Convert to No-Till Farming; Save the James by: Carleton Rawles."— Presentation transcript:
Convert to No-Till Farming; Save the James by: Carleton Rawles
Pollution in the James River The James River Association gives health a grade of a C. Pollution received the lowest grade – a 47%. Of pollutants, sediment received the lowest score – a 25% – in terms our ability to alleviate the problem.
Sediment Pollution Stormwater runoff picks up sediment and carries it into streams and rivers. Water polluted with sediment becomes cloudy, making it difficult for animals to see food. Sediment in stream beds destroys the natural habitat. Murky water prevents vegetation from growing in the water. Nutrients transported by sediment can be the catalyst for deadly algae blooms. Accelerated erosion from human use of land, such as farming, accounts for 70% of the total sediment pollution in the United States.
Sediment Pollution in the James River Over the past 15 years, the long-term average sediment level for the James River has not improved at all. 2003 and 2010 were stark reminders that the James River is still very susceptible to high sediment pollution levels during years marked by heavy rainfall.
What Is No-Till Farming? No-till farming is a way of growing crops without disturbing the soil by means of “tilling”. Tilling is a term used to describe the digging, stirring, and overturning of soil. Tilling is used to aerate the soil which can facilitate the planting and growing of crops, to destroy weeds, and to shape the soil for irrigation.
How Does No-Till Farming Affect Sediment Pollution? No-till farming dramatically reduces the amount of sediment runoff coming from farmland. In areas susceptible to ephemeral gulley erosion, cumulative ephemeral gulley soil erosion rates were between 240% and 460% higher than soil erosion rates from no-tilled fields. With no-till farming, rainfall runoff from farms can be reduced from an average of 137.6 millimeters per month to 42.4 millimeters, and soil erosion can be reduced to as little as 5.6 metric tons of soil per hectare per year.
Additional Benefits of No-Till Farming Studies have found that no-till farming can be more profitable if performed correctly. – No-till farming reduces labor, fuel, irrigation, and machinery costs. – Reduces tractor hours. – The practice can increase crop yield due to higher water infiltration and storage capacity. – One study suggests that the net return per hectare is almost 50% greater than that of producers using conventional methods. No-till farming improves soil quality and protects the soil from structural breakdown. – A case study performed by William Sorrenson found that over the course of 10 years, a tilled farm’s yields decrease on average of 5%-15% (depending on the crop) while a farm employing no-till practices experiences yields that increase 5%-20% (again, depending on the crop). – “No other farming technique has been shown to have such a high impact on farmers’ incomes, reduce their production costs and risks, and at the same time be environmentally sustainable and generate very considerable net social gains to society.” – William Sorenson
No-Till Farming along the James River Valley In their 2011 “State of the James River” report, the James River Association notes that, although agricultural protection and restoration actions such as no-till farming are some of the most cost- effective pollution reductions available, recent cuts in state funding have slowed implementation of these important practices. Since 2009, over 10,740 acres of cropland have adopted no-till practices, but seeing as the state of Virginia is home to 8.1 million acres of farms, this is hardly an impressive improvement, a judgment which is reflected by the JRA’s grade given to Continuous No-till: 18%. The James River Association’s executive director Bill Street commented that more money needs to be set aside to reduce pollution that runs off farmland: “It is insufficient from both state and federal sources.”
Recommended Action I recommend that the State of Virginia funds a state-wide program that aims to both enlighten the farmers of Virginia of the social and personal incentives that come with converting to no-till farming, and provide them with the necessary means and instruction necessary to implement no-till practices.. – Creation of 50 farm demonstrations plots spread out along the James River Valley. – The program would provide these plots with the necessary machinery and equipment, seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and technical expertise that would be necessary to run the training program effectively. – The state would ensure lines of short-term credit for farmers who are financially incapable of making the conversion. – The objective of this program will be to entice farmers into converting to no-till farming with all of its incentives, and provide them with the extensive training necessary to make them feel just as comfortable with no-till farming as with their old, conventional practices. – I believe with enough success, this program could dramatically decrease the amount of sediment pollution that leaks from our farms to our beloved James River.
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