Cows graze on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD.
“Who better to share the benefits of intensive rotational grazing than farmers who are actually doing it on their lands?” asked Beth L. McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Water Quality Scientist.
Intensive grazing systems, a type of rotational grazing that uses higher per acre stocking rates in smaller grazing or pasture units, can provide multiple benefits for farmers and the environment. These systems can help maintain and enhance farm profitability while reducing labor and input costs. Compared to more traditional confinement operations, intensive grazing can result in improved soil health, an increase in sequestered carbon and decreased emissions of other greenhouse gases. Read more »
Workers on East New York Farms survey crop beds and garden layout.
The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring the Northeast’s Anita Adalja, Herman “Trey” Hill and Jennifer “Jiff” Martin.
USDA’s Northeast Regional Climate Hub works to bring land managers in the Northeast the science and other tools that can help them adapt to changing weather/climate conditions. Many farmers, ranchers and land managers are already leading efforts to develop and demonstrate the value of sustainable agricultural practices that benefit soil, air, and water quality while helping to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions. Educators and advisors have also been crucial in bringing science-based, sustainable, and climate-informed agricultural practices to the agricultural community. Read more »
Along Beaver Creek in central Iowa, ARS soil scientist Mark D. Tomer and technician Sarah Porter review a map showing results from a new toolset that analyzes conservation data from this watershed. Photo by Jim Ascough.
A free computer-based toolset developed by USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists was launched this month. The toolset can help conservation planners, landowners and researchers better manage watershed runoff, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, while also supporting agricultural production.
Excess nutrients from watershed runoff—from sources that include farming—affect the ecological quality of aquatic environments. A watershed is an area of land from which all of the water that runs off its surface flows to the same location, typically a stream or river, but lakes and ponds also have watersheds. There are thousands of watersheds of varying sizes that cover the continental United States. Read more »
With a buffer zone in place, water quality has improved.
At the English farm in York County, Pennsylvania, you’ll find a comfortable streamside setting that includes a babbling brook, clear water, singing birds, and a thriving young stand of trees — all nestled in a productive cropland setting. However, this wasn’t always the case. Don English, the son of the owner of the farm, recalls, “Until we planted these four acres into a buffer by enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), this creek ran brown with sediment after every rain. Within a year the water cleared up and now we’re seeing the aquatic life return.” This creek runs into the Deer Creek, which in turn runs into the Chesapeake Bay. The buffer is a part of a larger USDA effort to improve water quality and help restore the Bay. Read more »
Dairy farmers Matt and Debbie Hoff with their daughters Courtney, Brook and Alicia. Photo credit: Genevieve Lister.
Producing high quality, nutritious milk may be a top priority for Coldsprings Farm, but it is not the farm’s only accomplishment. Nestled between the rolling acres and lush green meadows of New Windsor, Maryland, lies a showcase of a dairy farm where owners Matt and Debbie Hoff are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to reduce runoff of nutrients and sediment, leading to cleaner water downstream.
This is especially important, as Coldsprings Farm sits amid the Monocacy watershed, which eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Read more »
USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observes an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These blooms, a particular problem during hot summer months, can be caused by high concentrations of fertilizer nutrients from agricultural drainage waters.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
When it rains it pours. Whether we get a passing shower or a day-long downpour, the runoff ends up in rivers, streams and waterways. That runoff may include nutrients from fertilizers, and one of those nutrients is phosphorus.
Phosphorus runoff is causing blooms of harmful algae that deplete waterways of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones” that damage ecosystems vital for aquatic life. It’s a problem in many of the waterways we all depend on for recreation and drinking water, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Just last year, Maryland’s outgoing governor proposed land use regulations designed specifically to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Chesapeake watershed. Read more »