2014 Envirothon CompetitionSustainable Local Agriculture /Locally Grown *modified by Jim Serfass, 4-H FEA Environmental Sciences, University of Maryland Extension – Carroll County Originally created by Becky Yost Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator & Master Gardener Coordinator University of Maryland Extension-Allegany County The University of Maryland Extension programs are open to any person and will not discriminate against anyone because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, national origin, marital status, genetic information, political affiliation, and gender identity or expression.
Key Topics • Understanding the 3 Pillars of sustainable agriculture • Understanding ecosystem functions and services: good soil health is the foundation of a healthy ecosystem • How sustainable farming practices enhance and protect soil health, water, and biodiversity • The importance of local and regional foods systems to sustainable agriculture
Learning Objectives • Define sustainable agriculture. Understand the importance of moving toward these farming systems to conserve natural resources, mitigate climate change, reduce erosion and protect water quality and quantity and promote pollination. • Basic knowledge of soil science including its physical, chemical and biological processes and its vital role in sustainable farming. • Comprehension of farming practices that build soil organic matter such as composting, crop rotations, cover crops, conservation tillage, and management intensive grazing systems. • Understand irrigation best management practices that reduce water use such as conservation tillage, cover crops, plant selection, precision agriculture, water re-use, and sub-surface drip irrigation. • Knowledge of the role pollinators play in farming and ways to attract them. .
Learning Objectives • Understand integrated pest management and biological pest control techniques used to prevent insect pest, disease, and weed problems. • Define organic agriculture as an example of a sustainable agriculture system. Give specifics on why it is sustainable and how it might not be. Describe the growth in organic production since the late 1990’s. • Describe ways farmers can reduce their reliance on fossils fuels by increasing farm efficiency and using alternative fuels. • Describe the economic, social, and environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture to local communities. • Learn the ways farmers market their food locally and regionally. Understand the meaning of CSAs, food hubs, farmers markets and farm to school.
What is Sustainable Agriculture? • sus·tain·able • adjective \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ : able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed • able to last or continue for a long time • According to ATTRA: produces abundant food without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting the environment • NOTE: Organic is sustainable, but sustainable is not always organic
Let’s Talk about Breakfast! • Oatmeal – Batavia, IL 699 miles • Orange Juice – Pleasanton, CA – 2,782 miles • Banana – Colombia – 2,385 miles Total: 5,866 miles! Hawaii: 4,781 miles
Why Sustainable Agriculture? Pillar 1: Profitability • Generates profits over the long-term • Maximizes farmer/rancher control over crops and prices • Supports a family at a standard of living that includes health care, education, and vacations • Minimizes reliance on government subsidies
Pillar 2: Environmental Stewardship • Builds and maintains soil, prevents soil erosion, protects and renews soil fertility • Balances nutrient inputs and outputs • Maintains clean water, and maximizes water conservation • Minimizes dependence on non-renewable resource fuels and purchased production inputs • Minimizes use of toxic substances • Uses integrated pest management practices • Maximizes crop rotation • Encourages diversity of plants and animals within the landscape • Minimizes air pollution
Why Sustainable Agriculture? Pillar 3:Quality of life (for farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and their communities) • Allows time for family, hobbies, and/or community participation • Provides safe, nutritious food, fiber, and/or biomass energy • Treats farm workers well • Treats animals humanely • Contributes to the scenic beauty of community • Contributes to farming/ranching being seen as respected professions • Encourages involvement of the next generation
Economic Principles of Sustainable Agriculture • Diversify: produce a wide variety of cash crops and/or livestock • Adjust to the market to match trends • Ensure efficiency: calculate costs of production per crop using labor hours • “3-Legged stool” approach: use multiple markets • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) • Source of Capital • Farmers’ Markets • Restaurant Sales • * Farm to school programs
Compost What is composting? Using the natural process of decay to change organic wastes into a valuable humus-like material called compost Grass clippings Food scraps Leaves
Composting - Speeding up the natural decay process • A compost pile or bin • allows you to control • Air (oxygen) • Water • Food, and • Temperature By managing these factors you can speed up the otherwise slow natural decay process
Benefits of compostPromotes soil health • Supplies organic matter to soil • Attracts earthworms • Stimulates beneficial soil microorganisms • Increases soil water holding capacity • Increases soil nutrient retention
Benefits of compostPlant nutrients Compost is not a fertilizer, but does contain plant nutrients • Nitrogen and phosphorus are mostly in organic forms • Released slowly to plants • Not readily leached from the topsoil • Compost contains over 40 trace nutrients that are essential for plant growth
Sustainable Farming PracticesCrop Rotation • Establishing a rotation of crops between fields over a given period of time. • Rotations help to improve or maintain: • soil fertility • reduce erosion • reduce the build-up of pests • spread the workload • reduce risk of weather damage • reduce reliance on agricultural chemicals • and increase net profits. • Rotations offer an opportunity to increase production, either through direct yield increases or through reductions in some of the inputs required for the present or next crop. *See Examples*
Sustainable Farming PracticesCover Crops • Cover crops are an alternative way to manage soil fertility in agricultural systems; they can be a living mulch or incorporated into the soil as a green manure. Sometimes one crop can cover multiple needs. • Cover crops are sown to: • Control weeds through competition for available space, light, water, and nutrients • Prevent soil erosion caused by heavy rainfall or winds • Protect crops (such as watermelon) from sand blasting damage • Retain and harvest residual nutrients that would be leached in the off-season • Recycle and restore nutrients in a crop system • Reduce select harmful nematode populations • Create additional income (such as hay production) • Provide mulch cover for row middles and/or mulched beds • Provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds
Sustainable Farming PracticesConservation Tillage • Conservation tillage conserves soil by reducing soil erosion. • Negative effects of soil erosion: - Removes productive topsoil - Reduces crop yields & land value - Increases sediment in waterways - Carries nutrients and pesticides into the water
Methods of Conservation Tillage • No-till leaves the soil undisturbed from harvest to planting. Planting is done in a narrow (usually 6 inches or less) seedbed or slot created by coulters, row cleaners, disk openers, in-row chisels, or roto-tillers. A press-wheel follows to provide firm soil-seed contact. • No-till planting can be done successfully in chemically-killed sod, in crop residues from the previous year, or when double-cropping after a small grain. Herbicides are the primary method of weed control, although cultivation may be used for emergency weed control. • Soil conservation results from the high percentage of surface covered by crop residues. • Ridge-till involves planting into a seedbed prepared on ridges with sweeps, disk openers, coulters, or row cleaners. The ridges are rebuilt during cultivation. Except for nutrient injection, the soil is left undisturbed from harvest to planting. • Ridge-till works best on nearly level, poorly drained soils. The ridges speed up drainage and soil warm-up. Cultivation controls weeds along with some herbicides. • Ridge-till systems leave residues on the surface between ridges. Soil conservation depends on the amount of residue and the row direction. Planting on the contour and increased surface coverage greatly reduce soil loss.
Sustainable Farming PracticesImportance of Grazing Management • Minimize soil erosion, runoff and loss of essential nutrients • Sustainability and increased profits • Healthier for the ecosystem • Retention of topsoil • Filter for water sources • Requires less feed additives • Helps to maintain lands that would otherwise grow up into brush/weeds with no use • Provides a place for recreation
Management Techniques Used In Maryland PRESCRIBED GRAZING- Managing the controlled harvest of vegetation with grazing animals. Rotational grazing- moving livestock to a new area before grazing plant re-growth Stocking Rate- 1 cow/calf pair per 2 acres PURPOSES 1. Maintain or improve the health and vigor of plant communities and meet the basic needs of livestock; 2. Reduce soil erosion, and maintain or improve soil condition; 3. Maintain or improve water quality and quantity; 4. Improve quantity and quality of forage for livestock health and productivity; 5. Maintain or improve the quantity and quality of food and/or cover for wildlife habitat; 6 Promote economic stability through grazing land sustainability.
Irrigation BMPs • Irrigation best management practices that reduce water use: • conservation tillage • cover crops • plant selection • Varieties that are drought tolerant • precision agriculture • Use of technology to irrigate what needs water • water re-use • cisterns, rain barrels • sub-surface drip irrigation.
Importance of Pollinators • Pollinators are responsible for pollinating 90% of agriculture products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, flowers etc… • Common Pollinators • Bees • Butterflies • Bats • Small Birds • Many Insects • Ways to attract them • Grass ways and natural buffers • Wildflower plantings • Crop rotation • Bee Boxes
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) • IPM is a combination of practices. IPM can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. IPM takes advantage of all pest management options including, the use of pesticides. Organicfood production also applies IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals. • Set Action Thresholds- a point at which pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests become an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions. • Monitor and Identify Pests- Not all pests require control. Many are beneficial. IPM programs monitor pests and identify them accurately, so that control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used. • Prevention- IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In an agricultural crop, this may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock. • Control- Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then determine the proper control method. Less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.
Organic Farming Acreage • Number of certified organic acres in 1992?: 935,450 • In 2011? • 5,383,119! Why was there such an increase?
Organic Agriculture • Since the 1990’s organic agriculture has increased for many reasons • Consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced • Many consumers do not like conventional farming methods and organic is an alternative • Premium market price for the farmer
Organic Agriculture Pros • Direct Farmer to consumer relationship – information transfer • Products are produced in a natural way without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers etc… • Small farmers have an avenue to make full time living off of their farms as a result of the premium price • Very sustainable operations
Organic Agriculture Cons • Is a more challenging industry to work in • Limited and regulated on what products you can use on your farm • Sometimes products that are allowed to be used are not always the most effective product • Often times requires more manual labor • In the case of extreme circumstances losses could be potentially higher than conventional producer • Initial cost of certification is high • Farm is under inspection to maintain organic certification
Alternative Fuel Options for Farmers • Solar Panels • Windmills • Methane Digesters • Work animals Ex: Horses, Oxen • The overall adoption of sustainable practices can minimize fuel used in an operation
Local Food Production • Learn the ways farmers market their food locally and regionally. Understand the meaning of CSAs, food hubs, farmers markets and farm to school. • Food Hubs- Businesses or locations that help to distribute local products to consumers in the region and coordinate demands with supply • Farm to school- National Initiative to supply local foods to public and private school systems.
Resources • Penn State Extension Service • University of Maryland Extension • Montana State University • University of Florida Extension • Purdue Extension • EPA • ATTRA • USDA