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Archive | October, 2014

Cover Crops Mean Big Business

Business opportunities in cover cropsThere’s a new opening for rural America to create jobs and make farming more future-friendly, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. The Growing Business of Cover Crops details new business opportunities arising from a resurgence in the ancient practice of cover crops. Over the last decade, many farmers started using cover crops, creating a niche market for rural entrepreneurs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports a 38 percent increase in cover crop acres from 2012 to 2013, with the average farmer willing to pay $40 per acre on cover crops. For the average-sized farm (420 acres) that means $16,800 per farm spent on cover crops each year. The Growing Business of Cover Crops highlights the small business opportunities created by the upsurge in the use of cover crops, including crop advisers, seed production and sales, planting and even livestock grazing, with salaries reaching $62,000 per year. To read the report, visit www.nwf.org.

This report appears in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

True Grit in Battle Against Weeds

battle-against-weedsU.S. Department of Agriculture agronomist Frank Forcella has devised a tractor-mounted system that uses compressed air to shred small annual weeds like common lambsquarters with high-speed particles of grit made from dried corn cobs. Ongoing field trials may confirm the system’s potential to help organic growers tackle infestations of weeds that have sprouted around the bases of corn, soybean and other row crops.

Dubbed “Propelled Abrasive Grit Management” (PAGMan), the weed control system Forcella is testing disperses 0.5-millimeter-sized grit particles in a cone-shaped pattern at the rate of about 300 pounds per acre using 100 pounds per square inch of compressed air.

This summer marked a second round of field trials of PAGMan on multiple rows of silage corn grown on 10-acre plots of certified organic land in Minnesota. Field trial results from 2013 showed season-long weed control levels of 80 to 90 percent in corn using two treatments of the abrasive grit-one at the first leaf stage, and the second at the three- or five-leaf stage of corn growth. Corn yields also compared favorably to those in hand-weeded plots used for comparison.

The crop plants escape harm because they are taller than the weeds during treatment and their apical stems (growing points) are protected beneath the soil by thick plant parts. Results from small-plot studies have been published in Weed Technology and other journals.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Organic Fire Blight Control

early blight leafOregon State University researchers have proven the effectiveness of two organic alternatives for controlling fire blight. Scientists found that spraying a yeast-based product and new water-soluble copper products at the beginning of the growing season provided protection from the bacterial disease. Spread by bees and rain, fire blight remains dormant in trees over winter and infects flowers in spring.

Once infected, growers can only stop the disease by cutting out infections, which can prove fatal in some cases. In OSU trials, researchers tested the commercially available Blossom Protect, a yeast that clings to apple blossoms and pears and prevents colonization by fire blight bacteria. In apples, it was 90 percent effective in controlling fire blight when sprayed after lime sulfur to reduce crop load.

Copper is another option in fighting fire blight, and it has been used for for almost a century. Heavy applications however can be toxic to trees and can create rough blemishes on fruit, known as russeting. New water-soluble copper products, such as Cueva and Previsto, contain low concentrations of the metal, which minimizes its negative effects while still combating fire blight. The research team also prepared a webinar on non-antibiotic treatment of fire blight, available here. This information was first shared in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Organic Fire Blight Control

apple-tree-fire-blightOregon State University researchers have proven the effectiveness of two organic alternatives for controlling fire blight. Scientists found that spraying a yeast-based product and new water-soluble copper products at the beginning of the growing season provided protection from the bacterial disease. Spread by bees and rain, fire blight remains dormant in trees over winter and infects flowers in spring. Once infected, growers can only stop the disease by cutting out infections, which can prove fatal. In OSU trials, researchers tested the commercially available Blossom Protect, a yeast that clings to apple blossoms and pears and prevents colonization by fire blight bacteria. In apples, it was 90 percent effective when sprayed after lime sulfur to reduce crop load. Copper has been used for fire blight for almost a century, but heavy applications can be toxic to trees or create rough blemishes on fruit, known as russeting. New water-soluble copper products, such as Cueva and Previsto, contain low concentrations of the metal, which lessens its negative effects while still combating fire blight. The research team prepared a webinar on non-antibiotic treatment of fire blight, bit.ly/FireBlightWebinar.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Meet an Eco-Farmer: Diamond P Farm

Diamond P Eco-Farmer

Nancy and Scott, Diamond P Farm

Why did you begin farming?

I went looking for local food in our county at farmers’ markets and there was none, so I started a CSA on our farm with 10 members and over six years that morphed into a rent-a-row program where I now teach families in the community to grow their own food sustainably. They rent one row out of our garden area and grow their own crops. The chickens, beef and dairy came about because of the interest from our community and ourselves to have more than just vegetables that were ‘clean.’

What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?

Learning to grow in Florida, which is noted for lots of grass, bugs and sand.

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Interview: Poisoning Paradise for Profit — International Organic Authority, Author & Farmer André Leu Shatters the Myths of Safe Pesticides

André Leu Interview

André Leu

André Leu interviewed by: Chris Walters


Over the years a queasy complacency has replaced the alarm once triggered by the subject of pesticides. While millions of people strive to avoid using them or eating food containing residues, many millions more accept their continued use in the belief that agricultural chemicals are understood, regulated and used with discretion. André Leu’s new book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, demolishes these notions with a steady stream of hard facts derived from solid science. He puts a hand grenade into the layer cake of wishful thinking, and there isn’t much left after it goes off. As he explains, Leu was moved to write the book by repeated exposure to a series of mistaken ideas about pesticides, massaged into the public mind by public relations professionals working for industrial ag concerns. He hears these dangerous misapprehensions parroted far and wide as he travels the world in his capacity as president of IFOAM, the international organic umbrella group. Hailing from Queensland, Australia, Leu raises tropical fruit in a bucolic spot where the tropical rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. His activism on behalf of sustainable farming brought him increasing prominence over several decades, leading to his current post. He is a longtime friend of Acres U.S.A.

ACRES U.S.A. Every so often an apologist for mainstream agriculture takes the line that Rachel Carson and her supporters overstated the problem, since their apocalyptic fears of pesticide effects were not borne out in the decades following publication of Silent Spring. DDT was banned, better chemistry came on the market, integrated pest management techniques evolved, and so on. The world didn’t end. What do the facts really tell us?

ANDRÉ LEU. The reality is that after generations of increasing life expectancy, we’re at the point now in the developed world where we are looking at the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than ourselves, so we can see that something clearly isn’t right. If you look at the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel report, it clearly says that 80 percent of cancers are caused by what we call outside environmental influences, of which chemicals are one of the most considerable causes. That is also backed up by the International Agency for Research on Cancer which says breast cancer, for instance, is at an epidemic level when we measure the number of women getting it and the number of women dying. In the developed world we have much better medical intervention, so we’re getting higher survival rates. In the rest of the world, where they don’t have our level of medical care, there’s incredible mortality. The United Nations’ World Health Organization maintains an environmental program looking at endocrine disrupters, particularly diseases of the sexual tissues. Those cancers are on the rise — birth defects, lower reproductive rates. Across the board we can see negative health outcomes as a result of chemicals. This is borne out by good, peer-reviewed science. It’s not dogma, it’s published, peer-reviewed science, meta-studies by the WHO and findings of the President’s Cancer Panel in the United States. We’re talking about some of the world’s best experts getting together, reviewing all the data and presenting their findings. They cannot be discredited and ignored. Continue Reading →