Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.


Manure and Bedding Composting for Energy and Fertilizer

University of New Hampshire researcher John Aber has been using a Northeast SARE Agroecosystems award to explore the waste streams and energy cycles on an organic dairy farm. The purpose of his research is to help dairy farmers take advantage of manure, bedding, and waste hay by turning it into energy and fertilizer for the farm or for sale. This 3 minute video describes how the on farm composting system works. The heat generated by the composting process is captured and used for farm hot-water demand, accounting for about 20% of the value of the system.

“Composting is a growth industry and this is a very cost effective way to compost and to capture energy created in the process,” says Aber.  Farms can use the compost as a fertilizer and soil amendment or bag it and sell it. For more information on this kind of composting system, you can contact John Aber or Matt Aber, research scientist at UNH’s Organic Dairy Research Farm.

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Source:  Kathy Voth, On Pasture, May 1, 2017


What Do Different Plants Tell Us About Our Soils and How to Improve Them?

Greg Brann, Natural Resources Conservation Service Grazing Specialist in Tennessee, recently sent some information out to his local farmers about “indicator plants” along with some tips for how to use that information to improve soil health and pasture quality.  It’s good information for everyone to consider.

What Are Indicator Plants?

Indicator Plants are plants that, by their presence or abundance, can help us assess the quality of the site and what’s occurring below the surface. The chart below describes what the plants you see are telling you about what’s happening below the surface.

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Source:  Greg Brann, On Pasture, May 1, 2017


Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

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A chemistry professor in Florida has just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time.

The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

“This work is a breakthrough,” said UCF Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo. “Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.”

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Source:  University of Central Florida, April 25, 2017

For more information, visit http://www.ucf.edu.


A Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Plastic Bags, Researchers Say

Researchers in Europe have found that the larvae of a common insect have an unusual ability to digest plastic, a discovery that could lead to biotechnical advances that help deplete the continual buildup of one of the world’s most stubborn pollutants.

Scientists discovered that the wax worm, a caterpillar used for fishing bait that takes its name from its habit of feeding on beeswax, is able to break down the chemical bonds in polyethylene, a synthetic polymer and widely produced plastic used in packaging, bags and other everyday materials.

Federica Bertocchini, a scientist with the Spanish National Research Council, stumbled upon the insects’ unusual ability several years ago. An amateur beekeeper, Ms. Bertocchini had plucked several worms out of her beehives and was keeping them in a plastic bag.

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Source:  Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times, April 27, 2017


Device pulls water from dry air, powered only by the sun

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Imagine a future in which every home has an appliance that pulls all the water the household needs out of the air, even in dry or desert climates, using only the power of the sun.

That future may be around the corner, with the demonstration this week of a harvester that uses only ambient sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20 percent humidity, a level common in arid areas.

The solar-powered harvester, reported in the journal Science, was constructed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using a special material – a metal-organic framework, or MOF – produced at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Source:  Phys.Org, April 13, 2017

 


Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill

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Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers. The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction; businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money; and consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers.

Read the report here.

Source:  Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper IP: 12-06-B, August 2012


U.K. startup uses recycled plastic to build stronger roads

We’ve seen the birth of futuristic solar roads and even a return to retro gravel roads, but now there’s a new player on the street: recycled plastic. British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process to replace much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with tiny pellets of plastic created from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60 percent stronger than traditional roadways, 10 times longer-lasting, and a heck of a lot better for the environment, claims McCartney’s company MacRebur.

McCartney first conceived of the idea after getting fed up with the potholes in the roads near his house and remembering how he’d seen people fill potholes in India by filling them with plastic trash and melting it into place. Typical roads are made of about 90 percent rock and sand with 10 percent bitumen. MacRebur’s product essentially bulks up the bitumen with recycled waste plastic, so the roads are stronger and less of the oil product is required to bind together rocks.

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Source:  Barbara Eldredge, Curbed, April 26, 2017