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Steps to a sustainable agriculture overview

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What is sustainable agriculture? These 8 steps illustrate the basic concepts and show Kerr Center projects which incorporate them.

Published in: Environment
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Steps to a sustainable agriculture overview

  1. 1. So, how do you “do” sustainable agriculture?
  2. 2. In the 1990s Kerr Center identified 8 components of sustainable ag • Healthy Soil • Water Quality & Conservation • Responsible Waste Management • Adapted Crops
  3. 3. • Biodiversity • Ecological Pest Management • Energy Conservation • Profitability
  4. 4. • Steps Outlined in-depth in this 2001 classic primer on sustainable agriculture • Authors: • Kerr Center President and CEO Jim Horne • Communications Director Maura McDermott
  5. 5. Soil: Conserve and Create
  6. 6. Good Soil: The foundation of a sustainable agriculture Microorganisms in one spoonful of soil outnumber the people on earth Sustainable Ag Soil
  7. 7. Erosion: still a threat Erosion threatens the productive capacity of nearly one of every three cropland acres. ---Natural Resources Conservation Service
  8. 8. One solution: Keep the soil covered
  9. 9. Cover crops or green manures basis of Kerr Center’s organic program
  10. 10. Cover crops like vetch also add nitrogen, a key nutrient, to the soil.
  11. 11. George Kuepper, Horticulture Manager, mowing cover crop
  12. 12. The mowed material can be tilled in, or left on the surface as mulch.
  13. 13. Create Healthy Soil with Compost
  14. 14. Compost tea...
  15. 15. Water: 2. Conserve and Protect Its Quality
  16. 16. Protecting Water Quality Riparian buffers on Kerr Ranch Buffers can trap 70-80% of sediment and contaminants in run off.
  17. 17. Drip irrigation in Kerr Center hort plots conserves water
  18. 18. Organic Wastes: Manage so They Don’t Pollute
  19. 19. Industrial Sustainable Agriculture Agriculture • CAFOs concentrate large amounts of animal wastes in one place, overloading the ability of the area to utilize it • Smaller numbers of animals are raised on integrated farms • Animal wastes provide nutrients for growing crops without polluting watersheds;
  20. 20. Animals on the move: Kerr projects over the years Free range chickens Rotational grazing
  21. 21. Adapted to the Environment: Grow Locally-Adapted Breeds and Varieties
  22. 22. Industrial Sustainable Agriculture Agriculture • With large amounts of inputs, farmers can raise non-adapted crops • Farmers raise animals and plants adapted to the existing environment
  23. 23. 2010 -2012: heirloom sweet potato variety trials at the Kerr Center...
  24. 24. Sweet potatoes are heat and drought tolerant
  25. 25. And well adapted to Oklahoma
  26. 26. Looking for the best tomato: Trials of heirloom varieties
  27. 27. Heirloom Squash variety trial
  28. 28. Okra trial
  29. 29. Reports with results from all variety trials are available free online.
  30. 30. A Good Mix for Oklahoma Angus X Senepol Cattle Senepol are heat-adapted, and resistant to parasites. Angus have good carcass qualities. Adaptability—Sustainable Ag
  31. 31. Pineywoods cattle: hardy heritage breed: raised at Kerr Center for 15 years
  32. 32. 5. Encourage Biodiversity
  33. 33. Biodiversity • Over 100 breeds of livestock and poultry are endangered in U.S. • With important genetic traits: adaptability, hardiness, disease resistance • Only 20 per cent of the maize varieties reported in Mexico in 1930 are now being grown
  34. 34. Kerr heirloom variety trial
  35. 35. Biodiversity Threatened • Monoculture-- planting fence row to fence row-- destroys habitat for native plants and wildlife
  36. 36. Saving space for wildlife on the Kerr Ranch • Wildflower Meadows & Plots Provide Habitat for Diverse Pollinators
  37. 37. A native pollinator (sweat bee)
  38. 38. Wildlife on the ranch
  39. 39. Birds eat millions of insects and billions of weed seeds
  40. 40. Pests: Manage Them with Minimal Environmental Impact
  41. 41. Industrial Ag--Chemicals Environmental Consequences of Overuse of Pesticides • Resistance: 500 insect pests, 270 weed species, 150 diseases resulting in chemical treadmill • Non-target pests often killed, too often beneficial predators
  42. 42. Industrial Ag--Chemicals Health Consequences • Pesticide poisoning (worldwide) • 10-20,000 deaths per year • At least 3 million acute cases • American farm workers the highest rate of chemical-related illness of any group
  43. 43. Industrial Ag--Chemicals Pesticide Use • Rate of usage in agriculture more than doubled since 1964—3/4 of usage in U.S. • Share of farm budget for pesticides rose 35 percent in same period
  44. 44. .
  45. 45. Beneficial insects help control insect pests in hort plots.
  46. 46. Without herbicides, controlling bermudagrass is a challenge...
  47. 47. ...but sorghum-sudangrass, a summer cover crop, outcompetes it
  48. 48. Energy: Conserve Nonrenewable Resources
  49. 49. We conserve fuel by using small-scale equipment
  50. 50. Solar-powered fencing
  51. 51. Profitability: Increase Profitability and Reduce Risk
  52. 52. Consumers are driving change
  53. 53. Kerr Center supports • Farmers’ markets • Farm-to-school • Community gardens • CSA farms • Food cooperatives
  54. 54. Opportunities: Direct and local sales • Higher per acre returns– horticulture crops • Direct sales: farmers get 100% food dollar • Attractive to young, women, minority and beginning farmers
  55. 55. Farmers’ Markets • Increase Access to Healthy Foods, Affordable • 70 Farmers’ Markets in Oklahoma (35 in 2007)
  56. 56. Farm-to-School • Makes healthy foods available to low-income kids • Research says farm-to-school programs significantly improve eating habits • 2007: 40 school districts in OK • 2014: over 100 school districts
  57. 57. We Can Grow It in Oklahoma • From A-Z, Asparagus to Zucchini
  58. 58. Tremendous Progress and Many Challenges
  59. 59. When you’re right, don’t run. Hoe your row out. Robert S. Kerr

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