Rodale Institute has been running a side-by-side comparison of organic
and chemical agriculture since 1981.
After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of
transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the
conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long
term potential of the two systems.
And now comes evidence from the very heart of Big Ag: rural Iowa, where
Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture runs
the Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment (LTAR), which began in
1998, which has just released its latest results.
At the LTAR fields in Adair County, the (LTAR) runs four fields: one
managed with the Midwest-standard two-year corn-soy rotation featuring
the full range of agrochemicals; and the other ones organically managed
with three different crop-rotation systems. The chart below records the
yield averages of all the systems, comparing them to the average yields
achieved by actual conventional growers in Adair County:
Norman Borlaug, instigator of the “green revolution”
of no-till and pesticides, when asked in 2000
whether organic agriculture could feed the world, said:
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Researchers at Iowa State University warn that herbicide-resistant weeds
are proliferating and may jeopardize U.S. food supply.
In an article published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,
weed scientist Michael Owen said the proliferation of superweed “has
been fairly dramatic in the last two to three years.”
Weeds are developing resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in
Roundup, which has been used extensively since 1996.
U.S. soybean, cotton and corn production could suffer from further
proliferation, according to
“Today, 98 percent of U.S. soybeans, 88 percent or so of U.S. cotton
and more than 70 percent of U.S. corn come from cultivars resistant
to glyphosate,” Owen reports. Reliance on these crops — and an
accompanying weed-control strategy that employs glyphosate to the
exclusion of other herbicides — “created the ‘perfect storm’ for
weeds to evolve resistance,” Owen and Jerry Green of Pioneer Hi-Bred
International in Newark, Del., argue in their new analysis.
Dr. Stanley Culpepper of UGA Tifton says 52 counties have the mutant pigweed.
He says they’re looking at cover crops and deep turning.
(You may know that as plowing.)
He hastily adds that they’re looking at other herbicides.
But he wraps up by saying we have to look at other methods
than herbicides: tillage and cover crops.
He frames it as diversity and integration.
What it really means is spraying poisons eventually
breeds weeds that refuse to be poisoned.
People, of course,
are not so lucky.
“To human cells glyphosate is already toxic in a very low dose.
A farmer uses a much higher dose on the field.
Roundup is even more toxic than glysophate,
for that is only one of the ingredients in Roundup.”
Roundup says none of this applies to humans and Roundup is safe.
Cover crops may be more effective at reducing soil erosion and runoff after maize harvest than rough tillage, according to scientists from the Université Catholique de Louvain, in collaboration with the Independent Center for the Promotion of Forage (CIPF).
The three-year study, supervised by Charles Bielders and conducted by Eric Laloy, measured erosion and runoff losses from silt loam and sandy loam soils in continuous silage maize cropping. The research revealed that cover crops reduced erosion by more than 94% compared to bare soil during the intercropping period. Cover crops and reduced tillage appeared equally effective in reducing runoff and soil loss between cropping cycles, despite the fact that the cover crop development was very poor.
The results were reported in the May/June 2010 edition of the Journal of Environmental Quality, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.
This study was done in Belgium, but Tifton A soil we have around here is a sandy loamy soil.
And as we know from research done in Georgia,
around here we also need to manage the mutant pigweed, and for that
a combination of plowing and winter cover crops works best.
Steckle said we’ve now reached the point where we have to begin thinking in terms of controlling “resistant weeds” instead of “resistant marestail” or “resistant Palmer pigweed” because they are both beginning to show up in the same field.
“We have to manage them both,” he said. “There’s a new product from BASF called Sharpen that I’ve been looking at for five years and I’ve been very impressed with the marestail control. I still like dicamba, Roundup and Gramoxone.
“But if you have Palmer pigweed, too, then you’re going to have to overlap with residuals ― Cotoran, Caparol, Prowl ― to have any chance to do a good job of controlling them.”