[Ok-sus] New USDA study shows a conventional path towards radically reducing chemicals used in agriculture

Bob Waldrop music at epiphanyokc.com
Sun Oct 21 14:10:19 CDT 2012


Here is a great article by Mark Bittman at the NY Times, about a new
scientific study showing the benefits of radically reducing chemicals and
GMO'd crops in agriculture in favor of traditional rotation farming.  This
is probably important enough for me to encourage people to forward it to
others and pass it around, especially in farm country.

 

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/a-simple-fix-for-food/

 

Bob Waldrop

 

A snip. . . 

 

IT'S becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably,
with far fewer chemicals. And I'm not talking about imposing some utopian
vision of small organic farms on the world. Conventional agriculture can
shed much of its chemical use - if it wants to.

This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important
agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the
media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study's
sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden
Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots:
one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and
then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another,
they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a
four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the
raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of
both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides
by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold
and didn't reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside - and no downside at all - associated with
the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember
that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their
knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons.
And it's a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection
Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticidesare used each year
<http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/securty.htm>  in the United
States.

No one expects Iowa corn and soybean farmers to turn this thing around
tomorrow, but one might at least hope that the U.S.D.A.would trumpet the
outcome. The agency declined to comment when I asked about it. One can guess
that perhaps no one at the higher levels even knows about it, or that
they're afraid to tell Monsantoabout agency-supported research that
demonstrates a decreased need for chemicals. (A conspiracy theorist might
note that the journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences both turned down the study. It was finally published in PLOS One
<http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0047149>
; I first read about it on the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site
<http://blog.ucsusa.org/crop-rotation-generates-profits-without-pollution-or
-what-agribusiness-doesnt-want-you-to-know/> .)

Read the rest at the link above.

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