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Getting farming right : Reflections on ecological sustainability


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Presentation by President of the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies Joshua Ginsberg for a forum on sustainable farming practices.

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Getting farming right : Reflections on ecological sustainability

  1. 1. Getting farming right reflections on ecological sustainability (nitrogen in the landscape) November 12, 2016 Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Joshua Ginsberg, President
  2. 2. Why do we care about Nitrogen? “In most estuaries, over-enrichment of N leads to eutrophication, presently the greatest pollution problem in coastal marine waters of the United States “ • Increased acidity of soils, water • Human health (ozone, particulates) • Forest health (ozone, acidity) • Ground (drinking) water contamination
  3. 3. (Driscoll et al. 2001) 1. Lightning Strikes 2. Fixation by microorganisms 3. Atmospheric deposition 4. Uptake 5. Watershed runoff 6. Denitrification by bacteria. Nitrogen Fluxes: Nitrogen Sources:
  4. 4. (Driscoll et al. 2001) 1. Imported food/feed 2. Vehicle emissions 3. Power plant emissions 4. Fertilizer imports 5. Fixation in croplands 6. Agricultural Emissions 7. Atmospheric deposition 8. Sewage 9. Agricultural Runoff 10. Urban runoff 11. Riverine discharge Nitrogen Fluxes: Nitrogen Sources:
  5. 5. Eutrophication in US Estuaries (Bricker et al. 1999) 2 /3 of Estuaries impaired • 40% high • 25% moderate • 35% low
  6. 6. Animal waste (manure) and human waste (sewage) are not considered as new inputs, as they represent recycling within a region
  7. 7. Nitrogen in, nitrogen out into coastal waters where the problems amplify Boyer et al. 2002 Biogeochemistry
  8. 8. Boyer et al. 2002 Biogeochemistry Food for people, feed for animals can exceed direct fertilizer use as source of N2
  9. 9. Juvenile mussels were rare or absent when ammonia was high Strayer & Malcom, Ecol. Appl., 2012
  10. 10. Ammonia predicted mussel recruitment
  11. 11. What can be done about Nitrogen?
  12. 12. Engineering nutrient “sinks” Riparian zones USDANaturalResourcesConservationService
  13. 13. Engineering nutrient “sinks” Artificial drainage Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
  14. 14. Engineering nutrient “sinks” Wetlands Mitsch WJ, Gosselink JG.. 2000. Wetlands, 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons
  15. 15. How do we pay for this? • Long term investment in our land • 2012 Farm Bill (to be reauthorized in 2019) – Food stamps ($750 billion) – Crop subsidies/crop insurance ($140 billion) – Environmental programs ($55 billion)
  16. 16. Environmental Programs … detail • Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) • Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) • Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Conservation of Private Grazing Land Program • Conservation Reserve Program (Farm Service Agency) • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) • Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) • Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) • Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) • Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) • Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) • Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program • Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) • Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
  17. 17. Can organic agriculture feed the world? Catherine Badgley and Ivette Perfecto Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 22: 80–85 • Maybe • Organic methods provide enough calories to support the whole human population eating as it does today • Nitrogen-fixing legumes (green manures) can replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer currently in use • Gap is small, a developed world problem (poor farmers use fewer fertilizers)
  18. 18. Questions? With thanks to: – Peter Groffman – Dave Strayer – Stuart Findlay – Lori Quillen