Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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

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What we need are farms that support farmers, consumers AND the environment

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The past several years have been rough for many U.S. farmers and ranchers. Net farm incomes this year could fall to 50 percent of 2013 levels in a fourth consecutive year of income declines that is leading some producers to seek alternatives. At the same time, rural and urban Americans share growing concerns related to agriculture: worries that water pollution will be increasingly costly and harmful, that water supplies are at risk from extreme swings in rainfall, and that global warming due to fossil fuel burning threatens our food system and will necessitate changes in how we farm.

What if all of these challenges could find a common solution? It might just be that they can. In a commentary published this week in the scientific journal Elementa, we contend that agroecology offers a promising approach to solving food system problems while mitigating, water and energy concerns — and propose a way to overcome the obstacles to fully embracing it.

U.S. agriculture has trended for several decades — as a result of policy, economics and other drivers — toward systems that are more simplified over both space and time. This has had adverse consequences for food, energy and water.

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Source:  Andrea Basche and Marcia DeLonge, Ensia, March 3, 2017

Editor’s note: This Voices contribution is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy and water,” a peer-reviewed article published March 2, 2017, as part of Elementa’s Food-Energy-Water Systems: Opportunities at the Nexus forum.

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WATCH: Raindrops Catapult Bacteria Into The Air, And It’s Beautiful


The white lines are the trajectories of tiny water droplets ejected when a raindrop hits the ground. Airflow in the room pushes the droplets off to the side.


When you step outside after a big rainstorm and take a deep whiff of that fresh, earthy smell, you’re mostly smelling a chemical called geosmin.

It’s a byproduct of bacteria and fungi. And something about rain lofts the chemical — and sometimes the organisms themselves — into the air, a process that not only helps release that earthy smell but may, in very rare conditions, spread diseases.

Somehow raindrops launch tiny living things off the ground.

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Source:  Rae Ellen Bichell, Shots:  Health News from NPR, March 7, 2017

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The business case for soil


Nobody likes dirty business, but the business world must get to grips with dirt. Soil provides food, fibres and fuels, and regulates water resources and climate. Yet most businesses are unaware that their bottom lines depend on soil; nor are they aware of the risks they face from its degradation. More must recognize that improving soil quality is a smart investment.

One-third of all soils and more than half of agricultural soils are moderately or highly degraded. Erosion, loss of organic carbon, compaction and salinization reduce soil’s fertility and ability to hold moisture1. Every year, we damage another 12 million hectares — an area the size of Bulgaria — through deforestation, overgrazing, intensive farming, urbanization and pollution2. Climate change and biodiversity loss exacerbate soil problems. Yet global needs for food and resources are rising as populations grow, lifestyles shift and the world transitions to a low-carbon economy.

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Source:  Jess Davies, Nature, March 15, 2017

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Want Good Soil? Feed the Microbes

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We talk a lot about microbes “eating” which paints a picture of chewing up bites. But consider the cow and her rumen for a minute. After she’s chewed and swallowed, her rumen microbes take over, and the chemical reactions they produce turns grass into sustenance for the cow’s body. The microbes are more successful when they’ve got the right mix of nutrients. For example, a little extra protein from a supplement makes it possible for a cow to survive on poor quality grass. The nitrogen in the protein lets the microbes turn what would otherwise have been unusable into good quality nutrition.

It’s the same for the soil microbes. Like all creatures on earth they need carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen to live. By leaving stubble on the ground, farmers gave them access to plenty of carbon. They can get oxygen and hydrogen from the air. But without nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorous, they can’t perform the chemical process to turn the stubble into soil carbon.

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Source:  Kathy Voth, On Pasture, March 20, 2017

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Red Dirt Rug by Rena Detrixhe

Oklahoma-based artist Rena Detrixhe creates installations from finely sifted dirt, ephemeral rugs that she stamps with ornate patterns. The dirt used for the works is collected by hand from her surrounding Oklahoma landscape, bringing an important context to the earth-based faux textiles.

“This rich red earth is the land of the dust bowl, the end of the Trail of Tears, land runs and pipelines, deep fault-lines and hydraulic fracturing,” said Detrixhe in her artist statement. “There is immense beauty and pride in this place and also profound sorrow. The refining and sifting of the soil and the imprinting of the pattern is a meditation on this past, a gesture of sensitivity, and the desire for understanding. It is a meticulous and solitary act.”

By using this fleeting form Detrixhe questions the permanent decisions that have been made to the region’s environment. One of her red dirt rugs is currently a part of the group exhibition Shifting Landscapes at Form & Concept in Santa Fe, New Mexico through May 20, 2017. You can view a time-lapse video of Detrixhe installing one of her rugs in the video below. (via Colossal Submissions)

Source:  Kate Sierzputowski, March 19, 2017.  This Is Colossal.


Cow Dung Goes High Design

THE DAIRY FARMER Gianantonio Locatelli climbed up the steel ladder and peered over the brim of a large corrugated vat, about the size of a very deep above-ground swimming pool. “It’s full!” he exclaimed, with warbling joy. “It’s beautiful!”

The vat was full of liquid cow dung. I handed my phone to Locatelli’s friend, the architect Luca Cipelletti, and climbed the ladder to the top, disembarking on a viewing dock. Beneath my feet the manure bubbled and gurgled, forming foamy peaks and crests. It was a topographical map, a primordial stew. A rich and beautiful shade of brown.

The day was sunny, with a gentle wind. T-shirt weather. From the top of the poop vat we had a view of the entire Castelbosco farm, one of eight farms run by Locatelli in the province of Piacenza, about an hour south of Milan. We could see the barns, home to some 1,500 dairy cows that produce milk for Grana Padano cheese. Their roofs and eaves were painted in cheerful geometric patterns by the British artist David Tremlett: yellows, fuchsias. We could also see the 13th-century medieval castle where Locatelli lives from May to November with his wife, Laura, a cheesemaker. We had breakfasted there a little while ago.

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Source:  Aug. 29, 2016

Red State America Acts on Climate Change–but Calls It Other Names

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation

President Donald Trump has the environmental community understandably concerned. He and members of his Cabinet have questioned the established science of climate change, and his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA many times and regularly sided with the fossil fuel industry.

Even if the Trump administration withdraws from all international climate negotiations and reduces the EPA to bare bones, the effects of climate change are happening and will continue to build.

In response to real threats and public demand, cities across the United States and around the world are taking action to address climate change. We might think this is happening only in large, coastal cities that are threatened by sea-level rise or hurricanes, like Amsterdam or New York.

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Source:  Rebecca J. Romsdahl, The Conversation on February 22, 2017