Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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

1 million species face extinction — soil could be a solution


An intergovernmental science-policy group of the United Nations found — and the United States agreed — that 1 million species are threatened with extinction, and that one factor in that decline was the decline of carbon in soil. Specifically, 5.6 gigatons of annual CO2 emissions are sequestered in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. That’s equivalent to 60 percent of global fossil fuel emission.

The finding released in a report May 6 also found that it is not too late to stop this decline, but action is needed immediately at the local, country, and global level. For soil, it proposed “sustainable agricultural practices that enhance soil quality, thereby improving productivity and other ecosystem functions and services such as carbon sequestration and water quality regulation.”

Bill Gates highlighted the importance of soil in a recent blog post arguing, “We should discuss soil as much as we talk about coal.” He notes that agriculture’s contribution to climate change (24 percent) is about the same as the generation of electricity (25 percent). What also might surprise you is that “there’s more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere and all plants combined.” Gates identifies several additional technical options he is backing, including developing crops, like wheat, with longer and denser roots so they can store more carbon.

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Source:  Deborah D. Stine, The Hill, May 6, 2019

Deborah D. Stine is president of Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Analysis & Education, LLC based in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Agriculture faces a scientific innovation drought


Cattle ranches and their cowboys used to be economic anchors for our nation’s growth across North America. And they remain a way of life for much of the High Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. But today, even with cattle and beef supplies increasing over the past five years, the rising price of even the most inexpensive beef products — such as hamburger meat — leaves consumers searching for more economical sources of protein.

Since 2000, the price of hamburger meat has increased at a rate more than twice that of consumer inflation. And the havoc brought by recent weather calamities in the Midwestern U.S. exacerbates current business challenges and could raise prices by as much as 50 cents a pound more.

The cattle industry is also facing the challenge of diseases like Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), which most consumers never heard of. A combination of viral and bacterial infections that is made worse with the stress of modern production methods, BRD costs the industry almost $700 million every year. USDA estimates that BRD infects more than one out of every five beef cattle in feedlots, the intensive operations that hold cattle before being transported to the slaughterhouse.

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Source: Alan Leshner, The Hill, May 2, 2019

Alan Leshner is the CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and serves on the board of the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation.