» Agriculture

Global Change Research Highlights: Climate, Irrigation, and Fertilization - Understanding U.S. Crop Yields

Results: Using corn and soybeans as their testing ground, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised methods to peer into the mechanisms that modulate crop yield variability. They used statistical models to examine how climate variability impacts yields of these popular bioenergy crops at the county level. Among climate factors, the team showed that temperature is predominant in corn-growing counties, both by volume and percentage of production. Precipitation has a similar impact. The amount of energy from the sun, or radiation, has a much smaller effect USA-wide on both soybeans and corn. To understand the impact of management practices, the research team designed and conducted numerical modeling to reveal how irrigation and fertilization affect crop yield variability. Averaged over the USA, fertilization has a larger impact than irrigation. The work demonstrated that dynamically determining fertilization timing and rates in their models can greatly improve the predictive capability for yields of both crops. Read More

SEED: The Untold Story

Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. Worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, these subtle flecks of life are the source of all existence. Like tiny time capsules, they contain the songs, sustenance, memories, and medicines of entire cultures. They feed us, clothe us, and provide the raw materials for our everyday lives. In a very real sense, they are life itself. Yet in our modern world, these precious gifts of nature are in grave danger. In less than a century of industrial agriculture, our once abundant seed diversity—painstakingly created by ancient farmers and gardeners over countless millennia—has been drastically winnowed down to a handful of mass-produced varieties. Under the spell of industrial “progress” and a lust for profit, our quaint family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a monstrous scale. Recent news headlines suggest that Irish history may already be repeating in our globalized food system. Articles in the New York Times and other mainstream sources report the impending collapse of the world’s supplies of bananas, oranges, coffee and coconuts—all due to a shortsighted over-reliance on a single, fragile variety. Without seed diversity, crop diseases rise and empires fall. More than a cautionary tale of “man against nature,” the remarkable story of seeds is an epic “good-versus-evil” saga playing out in our modern lives. For eons, cultures around the world have believed seeds to be our birthright: a covenant with the earth shared by all and passed down across generations. But today, our seeds are increasingly private property held in corporate hands. A cadre of ten agrichemical companies (including Syngenta, Bayer, and Monsanto) now controls more than two-thirds of the global seed market, reaping unprecedented profits. Genetically modified crops (GMOs) engineered in their sterile laboratories dominate farmers’ fields and dinner tables in the United States and countries around the world. Farmers from Minnesota to Madhya Pradesh, India toil in economic thrall to the “Gene Giants,” paying hefty licensing fees to plant their patented crops. If they attempt to save their own seed at the end of a season, following a tradition practiced by humans for over 12,000 years, they face ruthless prosecution. (Suffering under this indentured servitude, over 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide in the last 20 years.) People everywhere are waking up to the vital importance of seeds for our future. In recent months, March Against Monsanto protests have rallied millions in more than 400 cities and 50 countries to the cause of seed freedom. Ballot initiatives to label genetically modified foods have been proposed in U.S. cities from California to Connecticut—a direct threat to the profits of the Gene Giants and their Big Food cronies. Seed libraries, community gardens, and a new generation of passionate young farmers are cropping up to shift the balance toward a more sustainable and sovereign seed paradigm. A David and Goliath battle is underway, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Read More

Microplastics in agricultural soils: A reason to worry?

Microplastics are increasingly seen as an environmental problem of global proportions. While the focus to date has been on microplastics in the ocean and their effects on marine life, microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked. Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding potential consequences of microplastics in agricultural landscapes from application of sewage sludge. Read More

Climate-Ready Soil: How Cover Crops Can Make Farms More Resilient to Extreme Weather Risks

NRDC examined the carbon capture and water-holding benefits of soil stewardship methods to increase soil organic matter in the 10 highest-value-producing agricultural states in the United States. This analysis estimates that using cover crops on just half of the acres devoted to the nation’s two most ubiquitous crops—corn and soybeans—in those top 10 states could help capture more than 19 million metric tons of carbon each year and help soils retain an additional trillion gallons of water. Read More

Core Historical Literature of Agriculture

The Core Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA) is a core electronic collection of agricultural texts published between the early nineteenth century and the middle to late twentieth century. Full-text materials cover agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal science, crops and their protection, food science, forestry, human nutrition, rural sociology, and soil science. Scholars have selected the titles in this collection for their historical importance. Their evaluations and 4,500 core titles are detailed in the seven volume series The Literature of the Agricultural Sciences, Wallace C. Olsen, series editor. Read More

Conquest of the Land Through Seven Thousand Years

A 24-page booklet reviewing the development of agriculture. Read More

Agriculture teaching resources

Landscaping, farming and plant science teaching resources suitable for BTEC, NVQ and other vocational agriculture courses. From instructional PowerPoints to worksheets, videos to case studies, there’s plenty to help prepare students for the world of work. Read More

Department of Agriculture and Food Teaching Resources

DAFWA supports the growth of Western Australia’s agrifood sector in four key areas: markets, productivity, profitability and people. For schools, links to a range of agriculture, environment, food and fibre education resources including classroom activities, information and tools have been compiled for use by teachers. Read More

AgroWorld (National Agriculture in the Classroom)

National Agriculture in the Classroom bimonthly secondary educator e-Zine that shares websites and articles that contextualizes learning. Read More

USDA Water Quality Information Center (WQIC)

Water Quality Information Center (WQIC) provides electronic access to information on water quality and agriculture. The center collects, organizes, and communicates the scientific findings, educational methodologies, and public policy issues related to water quality and agriculture. Read More

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu