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An Introduction to the Concepts of Sustainable Agriculture IPM 401/601 October 5, 2004 Geoff Zehnder, Coordinator IPM and Sustainable Agriculture Programs.

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Presentation on theme: "An Introduction to the Concepts of Sustainable Agriculture IPM 401/601 October 5, 2004 Geoff Zehnder, Coordinator IPM and Sustainable Agriculture Programs."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Introduction to the Concepts of Sustainable Agriculture IPM 401/601 October 5, 2004 Geoff Zehnder, Coordinator IPM and Sustainable Agriculture Programs B28 Long Hall

2 Farming in the U.S. The Last 50 years New technologies Mechanization Increased use of farm chemicals Specialization and govt. policies that favor max. production Fewer farmers with reduced labor demands produce the majority of food and fiber

3 Are “Mega-farms” Sustainable? Since WWII, US agriculture science and policy have favored large-scale, centralized farming The sustainability of this system is now being questioned

4 Benefits and Costs of Large, Corporate Farms Benefits –Increased production, cheap food prices –Many risks in farming reduced Costs –Topsoil depletion and loss of biodiversity –Groundwater contamination –Falling crop prices and increased prod. costs –Decline of family farms and rural communities

5 Growing Movement for a More Sustainable Agriculture Create direct connections between farmers and consumers Create regional food self-sufficiency Reduce economic concentration in production, processing and marketing Encourage resource conservation More small to medium size diversified farms growing food for local and regional consumption

6 Industrial vs. Biological Models of Agriculture Industrial ModelBiological Model Farm as factory Energy intensive Farm as ecosystem Information intensive Linear processCyclical process Enterprise separationEnterprise integration Single enterpriseMany enterprises Monoculture Diversity of plants/animals Low value productsHigher value products Single use equipmentMultiple use equipment Passive marketingActive marketing

7 So What is Sustainable Agriculture? It means growing crops and livestock in ways that meet the following objectives simultaneously: –Economic profit –Social benefits to the farm family and community –Environmental conservation Transition is a long-term goal; normally requires a series of small steps. Requires all participants in the systems (farmers, retailers, consumers, policymakers, etc)

8 Environmental Sustainability Farming to mimic natural eco-systems Farm as a nature- based system, not a factory Natural cycles: waste becomes input

9 Managing Natural Processes on the Farm Energy flow; capturing solar energy –Maximize leaf area for photosynthesis; efficient cycling of stored solar energy through food chain Water cycles; preventing runoff, erosion –Organic matter; increase soil water holding capacity Mineral cycles –Conservation of nutrients from soil-crops-animals-soil Ecosystem dynamics –Effective ecosystem: high level of plant/animal diversity If managed properly will conserve resources and reduce costs

10 Economic Sustainability (If I grow it will they buy it?) Selecting profitable enterprises –Diversification spreads risk, maximizes profit –Specialty crops, organic, value added Comprehensive financial planning Market research and plan

11 Social Sustainability Decisions on-farm effect community Find ways to connect with community Buying supplies locally Marketing locally Respect for neighbors, farm workers Farmland conservation and preservation

12 Applying the Principles of Sustainable Agriculture Some Examples of Sustainable Agriculture Practices

13 Keep Soil Covered Year-round Cover Crops between Market Crops Plant material –moderates temperature –increases water penetration and storage –enhances soil aeration –maintains soil structure, prevents erosion by softening the impact of falling raindrops

14 Minimize Tillage Moldboard plowing –Brings subsoil to surface –Buries crop residue too deeply –Soil compaction –Soil exposed to erosion

15 Crop Rotation Market and Cover Crops Long-term crop rotation plan –Diversity in the field and at the market –Break pest cycles, weed management –Improve soil quality, add nutrients Thomas Jefferson crop rotation plan for Monticello

16 Cover Crops and Green Manures Green manure crops –Soil incorporation of a field or forage crop while green –Add organic matter –Fix nitrogen –Suppress weeds, pests –“Catch” crops Mustard green manure crop between wheat and potatoes; Idaho

17 Fertilizer, Manure & Compost Some conventional fertilizers can reduce soil quality (e.g., anhydrous ammonia and potassium chloride) –Reduce populations of soil microbes necessary for good soil structure

18 Other Forms of Fertilizers Improve Soil Quality Manure: Composted and aged manure preferred (usually ideal C/N ratio) Other environmentally friendly fertilizers available (soybean meal, bone meal, feather meal, etc)

19 Pest Management Moving Along the IPM Continuum Pesticide Management Phase –Sampling, economic thresholds, spraying when needed Cultural Management Phase –Knowledge of pest life cycles used to implement cultural practices like delayed planting and harvest, crop rotations, etc. Bio-intensive IPM Phase –Knowledge of pest and beneficial life cycles used to implement cultural practices and to design favorable habitats for natural enemies. Broad-spectrum pesticides avoided

20 Weed Management Long-term plan based on a knowledge of weed ecology –Crop rotations to suppress, smother weeds –Allelopathic cover crops –Timed cultivation to reduce weed stands and prevent seed set –Mulch in high value crops

21 Insect Management Prevention and avoidance –Diversified habitat reduces pests, enhances natural enemies –Farmscaping –“Soft” insecticides if necessary Bio-Intensive IPM

22 Disease Management Mixed cropping Plant, row spacing Vigorous plants more resistant to disease –Healthy, microbially- active soil suppresses root diseases –Compost: disease- suppressive soil – Compost extract

23 Happy Cow Dairy A Successful Transition Losing money with conventional dairy management Transitioned to a rotational grazing system (12 Aprils) Added creamery Now more profitable, environmentally sound Tom Trantham, Dairy Farmer Pelzer, SC

24 Trantham Dairy Conventional Practices (Pre-1990) Confinement dairy operation –Herd kept in barn or feedlot –Feed, hormone inputs to maximize milk production (65% of income) –High production, but not enough to cover costs

25 Trantham Dairy Rotational (paddock) Grazing System 70 acres for grazing 75 small paddocks Cows graze 24 hours then moved Moveable electric tape fencing Paddocks regenerate Supplemental feed based on available forage, # cows and weight, milk production goals

26 Trantham Dairy Forage Varieties 12 Aprils Concept Plant a succession of different forages throughout the year Varieties based on performance, longevity, preference, nutritional value Objective: Cows able to graze almost 12 months/year

27 Trantham Dairy Specialized Equipment No-till seeder –Drills seed into existing crop residue –Can plant seed for second crop while first crop is being grazed

28 Trantham Dairy Waste, Irrigation, Fertility Management Manure scraped into picket-dam Waste water goes into lagoon Solids spread onto paddocks with spreader Waste water used to irrigate, fertilize paddocks

29 Benefits for Trantham Dairy 42% input cost reduction (62 cents/cow/day) Healthier cows, lower vet bills Improved soil quality, reduced use of pesticides, fertilizers Value-added benefits (better tasting milk, health benefits, creamery, farm market)

30 Questions?

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