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Reversing Climate Change through Regenerative Agriculture

By Andre Leu, International Director of Regeneration International

This year’s Acres U.S.A. Conference features numerous speakers, who can show how we can reverse the disruptive effects climate change by adopting best practice regenerative production systems. These systems will also make our farms and ranches more productive and resilient to the current erratic climate disruption that we are all facing.

Andre Leu international director of Regeneration International

Andre Leu is the international director of Regeneration International

The increasing erratic and disruptive weather events caused by climate change are the greatest immediate threat to viable farming and food security. We are already being adversely affected by the longer and more frequent droughts, and irregular, out-of-season and destructive rainfall events.

The world is already around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the industrial revolution. The energy needed to heat the atmosphere by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more frequent and stronger storms wreaking havoc in our communities.

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America’s Native Bamboo

Mention the word “bamboo” and visions of China, panda bears and exotic jungles readily come to mind for most of us living in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, the majority of the 1,450 species of true bamboo found throughout the world originate in Southern and Southeastern Asian countries, with a few scattered species found in Africa and the beech forests of Chile in South America.

River or giant cane is the largest and most noticeable of the three native types of bamboo.

Some bamboo species grow more densely than any forest you can imagine and produce giant canes as big around as a small tree, while others are as diminutive as a clump of native big bluestem prairie grass to which all bamboo is related. In fact, bamboo belongs to the true grass family Poaceae which contains some 10,000 recognized species and represents the fifth-largest plant family on Earth.

The United States is home to three very distinct native species of bamboo, which are collectively known as cane.

Native Bamboo: Cane History & Ecology

When the first Europeans set out to explore the New World they encountered massive canebrakes so dense they were nearly impenetrable. These natural obstacles were so massive that explorers had to navigate around them, sometimes for miles. While cane was present in much of the southern and southeastern half of the United States, the largest canebrakes in North America were found along the edges and floodplains of major rivers such as the Mississippi and its tributaries. Continue Reading →

Branching Out: Farmers Embrace Alternative Orcharding

The time is ripe to take a new look at orcharding design and function. Around the country, from Michigan’s cherry trees to New York State’s apple and peach crops, orchards have been hit with crop losses after late frosts during the past few seasons. Disease pressures, such as those impacting the Florida citrus industry, are another major concern. In circumstances such as these, growers who aren’t diversi­fied may have lost their primary in­come for the year.

Seaberry (sea-buckthorn) is one of many crops grown at Hilltop Community Farm.

The sustainability of a system de­pendent upon one cash crop, along with the lack of diversity inherent in such systems, combined with increas­ing concerns about the amount of chemicals used in conventional fruit and nut production, has led a new wave of orchardists to explore alterna­tive methods of growing fruit.

Forward-thinking growers are uti­lizing a variety of means to reinvent the way an orchard grows. They are cultivating rare, unusual or native fruits, growing in a scale-appropriate manner and addressing orchard di­versity through polyculture and mim­icking natural ecosystems. Continue Reading →

Christopher Walken to Play Canadian Farmer Opposing Monsanto in Upcoming Film

Academy Award winner Christopher Walken and Golden Globe nominee Christina Ricci have begun principal photography on Percy, a Scythia Films production directed by Clark Johnson (The WireThe SentinelS.W.A.T.).
Christopher Walken plays a farmer entering a legal battle against Monsanto in the new film, Percy.

Christopher Walken will play a farmer who enters into a legal battle against Monsanto in the new film, Percy.

Based on actual events from the lawsuit starting in 1998, Percy tells the classic David-and-Goliath story of small-town Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser (Walken) and his unlikely crusade against a major conglomerate. When the company’s genetically modified (GMO) canola is discovered in the 70-year-old farmer’s crop, he challenges the multinational corporation’s legal right to patent life in the highest court. As he speaks out against the company’s business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle. Suddenly, he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against what they see as corporate greed.

Walken and Ricci, who plays anti-GMO activist Rebecca Salcau, are joined by the film’s impressive ensemble, including Roberta Maxwell (Brokeback MountainThe Postman) as Percy’s wife; Adam Beach (HostilesSuicide Squad) as Percy’s neighbor, Alton Kelly; Luke Kirby (Mambo Italiano) as Percy’s son; Martin Donovan (Ant-ManInsomnia) as the conglomerate’s lead lawyer, Rick Aarons; and Peter Stebbings (Immortals) as Rebecca’s NGO boss.

Production of the original screenplay written by Hilary Pryor and Garfield L. Miller commenced recently in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with additional production scheduled in Mumbai, India, and the surrounding area. Percy is produced by Scythia Films’ Daniel Bekerman (The Witch, Backstabbing for Beginners, Rememory), Ian Dimerman (Goon, How it Ends), Brendon Sawatzky (How it Ends), Pryor and Miller.

Tractor Time Episode 20: David Montgomery & Anne Biklé, Authors, Scientists, Conservationists

Good day and welcome to Tractor Time, a podcast brought to you by Acres U.S.A. Today’s podcast features two guests. Both live together in Seattle, and are writers, advocates and change agents and, it should be noted, both are quite brilliant as well – Biologist Anne Biklé and Geologist David Montgomery.

We have interviewed both separately, and will run their interviews back-to-back.

David Montgomery and Anne Bikle

David Montgomery and Anne Bikle

Our second interview you will hear on this episode, Anne Biklé, is a biologist with an interest in environmentalism and, most recently, soil life. She’s an active speaker and author of The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, which is available in our bookstore at acresusa.com. 

We are going in depth on new science into life in the soil, and discuss the significance of all the new information to farmers and growers.

But to set the stage, we will get to our first guest, David Montgomery, Anne’s co-author on The Hidden Half of Nature, and a writer, geologist, professor, and researcher who will set the stage for Anne’s deep-dive into the soil. It’s also worth noting that David is a recognized genius – or at least, someone who has been recognized as the closest thing to it. David Montgomery is a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, and a member of the Quaternary Research Center.

In 2008, In 2008 Montgomery received a MacArthur Fellowship, generally known as the “genius grant,” for his work as a researcher and writer.

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Sunn Hemp: Soil-Building Superhero with Forage Potential

Sunn hemp, a tropical plant primarily grown as a cover crop or green manure, has increased dramatically in popularity over the last decade. Originally from India, it’s easy to understand what makes it so popular among vegetable and row crop farmers in the United States.

Grazing must be timed appropriately or sunn hemp will grow beyond the reach of foraging livestock.

Sunn hemp possesses many soil-building traits, including high rates of biomass production — over 20 percent greater than crimson clover and hairy vetch in research trials. It is not only resistant to plant root nematodes but actively suppresses them. In as little as 60 to 90 days it can produce 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre and can suppress weeds up to 90 percent.

Sunn Hemp is adapted to a wide variety of soil and environmental conditions, thriving through hot, dry summers and continuing to grow until the first frost. But sunn hemp isn’t just a soil builder — it also offers benefits as a forage producer. Recent on-farm grazing trials have yielded an abundance of information on using this crop for grazing. Continue Reading →