Jul 13, 2013

The Six Stages of Climate Change Denial - YouTube

Published on Jul 13, 2013

Full video available at: http://fora.tv/2012/12/04/Climate_Ske...

Michael Mann, geosciences professor and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, deconstructs the manner in which skeptics deny evidence that points rapid climate change. "Each argument becomes untenable because the science is pretty clear," says Mann.

The Six Stages of Climate Change Denial - YouTube

Market to Market (July 12, 2013) - YouTube

Published on Jul 12, 2013

House lawmakers approve the Farm Bill, but only by removing nutrition assistance. A train carrying nearly a million gallons of crude oil derails in Canada, killing 50 people. The Agriculture Department releases its latest estimates on supply and demand. Market analysis with Naomi Blohm.

Market to Market (July 12, 2013) - YouTube

Glut - YouTube

Published on Jul 13, 2013

For any traditional woodworker you might want a glut for your shop. Chad shows you what a glut is and how to make one.
Glut - YouTube

Jul 12, 2013

WASHOUT: Spring Storms Batter Poorly Protected Soil and Streams | Environmental Working Group

WASHOUT: Spring Storms Batter Poorly Protected Soil and Streams
After a year of record-setting drought, storm after storm pummeled the Midwest this spring.

By Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources
Brett Lorenzen, Mississippi River Project Coordinator
Soren Rundquist, Landscape and Remote Sensing Analyst

After a year of record-setting drought, storm after storm pummeled the Midwest this spring.

Media attention has understandably focused on flooding, especially given the devastating floods that have repeatedly struck the region in recent years.This year, it looks as if the Midwest will dodge the bullet – flooding has been damaging and heart-breaking for those affected, but nothing yet has resembled the scope and devastation of the 1993 and 2008 floods.

But the Corn Belt’s rich soil and streams, especially in Iowa, haven’t been as lucky. The storms that pushed streams and rivers out of their banks have battered largely unprotected cropland soils throughout the region, sending tons of mud and farm chemicals into road ditches and streams across the heartland.
Heavy Rains Roll Across Iowa

In what has become the wettest spring on record, a series of heavy rains rolled across Iowa between May 25 and May 29, delivering 1-to-2 inches of rain to most of the state, and localized amounts of as much as seven inches in several areas. Iowa State University’s unique and important Iowa Daily Erosion Project (IDEP) suggests just how heavily damaged Iowa’s soil and streams were over this five-day period.

In 50 townships covering 1.2 million acres, farmland suffered average erosion of more than 5 tons per acre over that five-day period. In 15 of those townships encompassing 346,000 acres, fields suffered average erosion of 7.5-to-13 tons per acre – far more than the annual rate of 5 tons/acre considered “tolerable” for most Iowa soils by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. In other words, those 1.2 million acres of farmland may have lost more precious topsoil in five days than what is tolerable over an entire year. And most soil scientists think that a truly sustainable rate of erosion is far lower.

On vulnerable and/or poorly protected farmland, the IDEP data paints an even more disturbing picture of catastrophic rates of erosion and runoff. In 115 townships, the hardest hit fields lost more than 20 tons of topsoil per acre in less than a week. In 16 townships, the most vulnerable and/or poorly protected fields may have lost a devastating 40 tons or more soil per acre that week.

Though this spring was particularly dangerous, storms ravage the Midwest’s fertile soil and streams every year. In April 2011, EWG’s Losing Ground report and website analyzed the Iowa State erosion data for the period between 2002 and 2010. It showed that some parts of Iowa suffer serious damage nearly every year, and almost all Iowa farmland had suffered damaging erosion at some point between 2002 and 2010. The IDEP data covers only the state of Iowa, but the same situation is occurring throughout the Corn Belt.
Estimates Understate the Severity of Erosion and Runoff

Soil erosion and polluted runoff are actually worse – likely far worse – than even the IDEP estimates, because the project cannot currently account for the erosion and runoff caused by ephemeral gullies. These gullies – called ephemeral because farmers refill them temporarily with tillage each spring – appear quickly when runoff water flows through the lowest parts of a field and cuts a channel through unprotected soil.

This gully erosion is the most visible and most damaging form of soil erosion because it creates a direct pipeline carrying mud and farm chemicals into ditches, streams and, in some cases, into underground drainage systems. The picture the IDEP data paint is devastating, but the reality on the ground is worse.
A Closer Look from Iowa’s Rural Roadways

To see how bad things looked on the ground and to evaluate how well conservation practices stood up to the heavy rains, EWG staff took a road trip on May 30-31, 2013. On May 30 they drove a random loop through five counties east of EWG’s Midwest office in Ames, Iowa. The next day they toured a couple of counties to the west.

On both days they found gullies scarring field after field. Roadside ditches were full of mud and polluted runoff – a very bad sign for Iowa’s already polluted streams. An aerial view would have revealed more gullies delivering pollution directly to streams and rivers out of sight of public roads.

Over the two days EWG staff took photos to record examples of the various types of erosion and conservation systems visible along Iowa’s rural roads. The location of each photo was recorded by a dot on an interactive map (below). Cropland considered highly erodible is shaded in blue. The tour revealed widespread serious erosion everywhere, not just on land considered highly erodible.

To see the photos taken at each location, click on the colored dots on the map below.

Most of the photos – including several hundred that were not included because they are too repetitive – depict an ugly picture of excessive erosion and runoff. The majority of fields observed during several hundred miles of driving were poorly protected and suffered badly under the pounding rains.
Interactive Map of Nine Counties in Central Iowa Shows Effects of Intense Spring Rains

Click on colored dots to see photos of each site. Click to see a larger version of the map.

The images are also available in a simple slide show format.

This grass waterway needs maintenance. Water now flows around the remaining grass as gullies traverse the field in both directions. Note that the corn was planted right through the waterway, which will further hasten its decline.

Conservation Works

There is one important silver lining to this otherwise dark cloud – where conservation practices were in place and properly maintained, they clearly worked. No-till, grassed waterways, terraces, contour grass strips and other buffer practices – especially in combination – were very effective in stemming the gully erosion and runoff that was prevalent on unprotected fields. Every no-till field with properly placed grass waterways showed only nominal signs of erosion. Well-protected fields suffered little damage even where poorly protected fields just down or across the road had suffered badly.

Landowners can’t control how much rain falls on their fields, but the pictures clearly show that they can do a great deal to protect those fields from erosion and to keep polluted runoff out of Iowa’s streams, even in the heaviest rains. Proper no-till management of contours and grass buffers are well-established conservation practices that would have effectively protected most of the fields EWG observed from the five days of intense rain. This damage documented in these photos simply did not need to occur.

Heavy rain is nature’s doing, but the resulting erosion and polluted runoff is entirely a man-made disaster.
Poor Conservation Has Consequences

The battering that Midwest soils and streams have taken this year hasn’t made national headlines, but it has not gone totally unnoticed.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on June 21 that, “Soil scientists say they’re seeing more erosion on farmland than they have in years. That could mean trouble for crops, particularly corn this season – and it could have long-term consequences for [Missouri's] farmland.”

According to AgWeb.com, University of Missouri adjunct associate professor of soil science Newell Kitchen recently noted that, “Even the untrained eye of citizens who don’t think about agriculture on a day-to-day basis can see the erosion on side slopes.” Kitchen went on to say that, “From the freeway between Kansas City and St. Louis, it doesn’t take much to see the scars of erosion that has taken place…”

An editorial in the Storm Lake Times [Storm Lake, Iowa] on May 31 said, “Watching the inlet to Storm Lake on Monday, it looked like Willy Wonka had just opened the chocolate milk spigot. Upstream the erosion was sickening.” The editorial writer also observed that, “Meantime, more than $1 million per year is spent trying to remove farmland from the lake. And it just keeps coming in, frustrating our efforts.”

Data showing that the amount of nitrate in Iowa streams was at record levels also made the news. The Des Moines Register reported that the “deluge is washing fertilizer off the farms and into rivers that provide drinking water to much of the state.” Bill Stowe, manager of the Des Moines Water Works, which serves about 500,000 people in central Iowa, noted that nitrate levels in the city’s source water were “the worst we’ve ever seen.” The Water Works draws water from both the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, which were reporting record high levels of nitrates. The threat to Des Moines’s drinking water is part of a much larger story about agriculture’s impact on drinking water in the Midwest.
All We Lack Is Leadership and Political Will

By 1975, Iowa had lost fully one-half of its topsoil to erosion due to bad tillage practices over the preceding 75 years, but from the 1970s to the 1990s farmers made great progress in reducing soil erosion and runoff. Conservation efforts during that period could not undo the damage, but they worked to keep things from getting worse. Still, there was no room for backsliding due to budget cuts or market changes.

Today, however, the gullies scarring Midwest fields are only the most visible evidence that conservation is not keeping up with a new wave of soil loss as high crop prices spur farmers to plant every square foot. It is great to see farmers making money – real money, in fact. But conservation efforts must intensify in lockstep with rising production or today’s profits will come at the expense of soils, streams and the region’s future.

The heavy rains that pummeled farmland this spring are predicted to grow in frequency and severity. It will take the application of multiple conservation practices working in combination on every farm to protect soil and water from this dangerous trend in the weather. Landowners do have the tools to take advantage of high prices while still keeping the soil on their fields and out of America’s streams and rivers. Widespread use of the simple, conventional conservation practices frequently visible during EWG’s roadside erosion tour would go a long way toward that goal – while also reducing nutrient, chemical and manure runoff.

Perry Beeman, a Des Moines Register reporter, recently published a story headlined, “State Has ‘Long Way to go’ on Flood Prevention, Mitigation.” In the story, published on June 23, he wrote, “Five years after the historic flood of 2008, Iowa has failed to take the most pressing actions to protect its residents from another devastating deluge… A long list of recommendations intended to lessen the fury and risk of more frequent flooding across the state remains largely ignored or unfinished.”

EWG’s drive around the Iowa showed that growers also have a long way to go to protect against the fury of the storms that threaten the state’s soil and streams each spring.
It is time to set the alarm bells ringing – again.

It is time to require that every landowner, no matter the size of the farm or the type of crop, employ at least basic conservation practices to stem gully erosion and minimize runoff. Full enforcement of the so-called “conservation compliance” provisions of the current farm bill is a good place to start. These provisions, first enacted in 1985, ask farmers to take simple steps to cut erosion and runoff from their most vulnerable cropland as a condition for receiving the farm subsidies that bolster their incomes. When it was fully enforced, this long-standing quid pro quo succeeded in cutting soil erosion by 40 percent on the most highly erodible cropland. It is past time to get serious again about the honoring this straightforward bargain. Many of the fields EWG surveyed are likely subject to the conservation quid pro quo, but enforcement appears to be spotty.

Moreover, it is essential that this quid pro quo be reattached to the generous crop insurance subsidies that have become the most expensive way that taxpayers support farm income.

Iowa doesn’t have to wait for the federal government to act. Conservation districts should fully employ their existing authority under Iowa’s Soil Conservation District Law, and the governor and the legislature should work together to give the law more teeth.

The solution to this problem does not require decades of research and preparation. By using practices and techniques already employed profitably by many (but not enough) farmers around the country, farmers across Iowa could stem the tragic legacy of environmental abuse that starts with erosion and finally see some improvement in the state’s water quality.

All we lack is leadership and political will.
FULL ARTICLE WITH ALL PHOTOS: WASHOUT: Spring Storms Batter Poorly Protected Soil and Streams | Environmental Working Group

Eroding Soils Darkening Our Future | EPI

Lester R. Brown

In 1938 Walter Lowdermilk, a senior official in the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traveled abroad to look at lands that had been cultivated for thousands of years, seeking to learn how these older civilizations had coped with soil erosion. He found that some had managed their land well, maintaining its fertility over long stretches of history, and were thriving. Others had failed to do so and left only remnants of their illustrious pasts. 1

In a section of his report entitled “The Hundred Dead Cities,” he describes a site in northern Syria, near Aleppo, where ancient buildings are still standing in stark isolated relief, but they are on bare rock. During the seventh century, the thriving region had been invaded, initially by a Persian army and later by nomads out of the Arabian Desert. In the process, soil and water conservation practices used for centuries were abandoned. Lowdermilk noted, “Here erosion had done its worst. If the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed and the populations dispersed, the area might be repeopled again and the cities rebuilt. But now that the soils are gone, all is gone.” 2

The thin layer of topsoil that covers the earth’s land surface was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. Sometime within the last century, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation. Now, nearly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility. Soil that was formed on a geological time scale is being lost on a human time scale. 3

Scarcely six inches thick, this thin film of soil is the foundation of civilization. Geomorphologist David Montgomery, in Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, describes soil as “the skin of the earth—the frontier between geology and biology.” 4

The erosion of soil by wind and water is a worldwide challenge. For the rangelands that support 3.4 billion head of cattle, sheep, and goats, the threat comes from the overgrazing that destroys vegetation, leaving the land vulnerable to erosion. Rangelands, located mostly in semiarid regions of the world, are particularly vulnerable to wind erosion. 5

In farming, erosion results from plowing land that is steeply sloping or too dry to support agriculture. Steeply sloping land that is not protected by terraces, perennial crops, strip cropping, or in some other way loses soil during heavy rains. Thus the land hunger that drives farmers up mountainsides fuels erosion.

In the United States, wind erosion is common in the semiarid Great Plains, where the country’s wheat production is concentrated. In the U.S. Corn Belt, in contrast, where most of the country’s corn and soybeans are grown, the principal threat to soil is water erosion. This is particularly true in the states with rolling land and plentiful rainfall, such as Iowa and Missouri. 6

Water erosion of soil has indirect negative effects, which can be seen in the silting of reservoirs and in muddy, silt-laden rivers flowing into the sea. Pakistan’s two large reservoirs, Mangla and Tarbela, which store Indus River water for the country’s vast irrigation network, have lost a third of their storage capacity over the last 40 years as they fill with silt from deforested watersheds. 7

Evidence of wind erosion is highly visible in the form of dust storms. When vegetation is removed either by overgrazing or overplowing, the wind begins to blow soil particles away, sometimes creating dust storms. Because the particles are small, they can remain airborne over great distances. Once they are largely gone, leaving mostly larger particles, sandstorms begin. These are local phenomena, often resulting in dune formation and the abandonment of both farming and grazing. The emergence of sandstorms marks the final phase in the desertification process. 8

The vast twentieth-century expansion in world food production pushed agriculture onto highly vulnerable land in many countries. The overplowing of the U.S. Great Plains during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example, led to the 1930s Dust Bowl. This was a tragic era in U.S. history—one that forced hundreds of thousands of farm families to leave the Great Plains. Many migrated to California in search of a new life, a movement immortalized in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. 9

Three decades later, history repeated itself in the Soviet Union. The Virgin Lands Project, a huge effort between 1954 and 1960 to convert grassland into grainland, led to the plowing of an area for grain that exceeded the current grainland in Canada and Australia combined. Initially this resulted in an impressive expansion in Soviet grain production, but the success was short-lived, as a dust bowl quickly developed there too. 10

Kazakhstan, at the center of the Virgin Lands Project, saw its grainland area peak at 25 million hectares in the early 1980s. After dropping to 11 million hectares in 1999, the area expanded again, reaching 17 million hectares in 2009, but then began once more to decline. Even on this reduced area, the average grain yield today is scarcely 1 ton per hectare—a far cry from the 7 tons per hectare that farmers get in France, Western Europe’s leading wheat producer and exporter. The precipitous drop in Kazakhstan’s grain area illustrates the price that countries pay for overplowing and overgrazing. 11

Today two giant new dust bowls have formed. One is centered in the Asian heartland in northwestern China and western Mongolia. The other is in the African Sahel—the savannah-like ecosystem that stretches across Africa from Somalia and Ethiopia in the east to Senegal and Mauritania in the west. It separates the Sahara Desert from the tropical rainforests to the south. Both of these newer dust bowls are massive in scale, dwarfing anything the world has seen before. 12

China may face the biggest challenge of all. After the economic reforms in 1978 that shifted the responsibility for farming from large state-organized production teams to individual farm families, China’s cattle, sheep, and goat numbers spiraled upward. A classic tragedy of the commons was unfolding. The United States, a country with comparable grazing capacity, has 94 million cattle, a somewhat larger herd than China’s 84 million. But when it comes to sheep and goats, the United States has a combined population of only 9 million, whereas China has 285 million. Concentrated in China’s western and northern provinces, these animals are stripping the land of its protective vegetation. The wind then does the rest, removing the soil and converting rangeland into desert. 13

Wang Tao, one of the world’s leading desert scholars, reports that from 1950 to 1975 an average of 600 square miles of land turned to desert each year. Between 1975 and 1987, this climbed to 810 square miles a year. From then until the century’s end, it jumped to 1,390 square miles of land going to desert annually. 14

A U.S. Embassy report entitled “Desert Mergers and Acquisitions” describes satellite images showing two of China’s largest deserts, the Badain Jaran and Tengger, expanding and merging to form a single, larger desert overlapping Inner Mongolia and Gansu Provinces. To the west in Xinjiang Province, two even larger deserts—the Taklimakan and Kumtag—are also heading for a merger. Highways running through the shrinking region between them are regularly inundated by sand dunes. 15

In some places, people become aware of soil erosion when they suffer through dust storms. On March 20, 2010, for example, a suffocating dust storm enveloped Beijing. The city’s weather bureau took the unusual step of describing the air quality as hazardous, urging people to stay inside or to cover their faces if they were outdoors. Visibility was low, forcing motorists to drive with their lights on in daytime. 16

Beijing was not the only area affected. This particular dust storm engulfed scores of cities in five provinces, directly affecting over 250 million people. Nor was it an isolated incident. Every spring, residents of eastern Chinese cities, including Beijing and Tianjin, hunker down as the dust storms begin. Along with having difficulty breathing and dealing with dust that stings the eyes, people must constantly struggle to keep dust out of their homes and to clear doorways and sidewalks of dust and sand. Farmers and herders whose livelihoods are blowing away are paying an even higher price.17

These huge dust storms originating in northwestern and north central China and western Mongolia form in the late winter and early spring. On average more than 10 major dust storms leave this region and move across the country’s heavily populated northeast each year. These dust storms affect not only China but neighboring countries as well. The March 2010 dust storm arrived in South Korea soon after leaving Beijing. It was described by the Korean Meteorological Administration as the worst dust storm on record. 18

Highly detailed media accounts of these storms are not always readily available, but Howard French described in theNew York Times a Chinese dust storm that had reached South Korea on April 12, 2002. The country, he said, was engulfed by so much dust from China that people in Seoul were literally gasping for breath. Schools were closed, airline flights were cancelled, and clinics were overrun with patients who were having trouble breathing. Retail sales fell. Koreans have come to dread the arrival of what they call “the fifth season”—the dust storms of late winter and early spring. 19

The situation continues to deteriorate. Korea’s Ministry of Environment reports that the country suffered dust storms on average for 39 days in the 1980s, 77 days in the 1990s, and 118 days from 2000 to 2011. These data suggest that the degradation of land is accelerating. Unfortunately, there is nothing in prospect to arrest and reverse this trend. 20

While people living in China and South Korea are all too familiar with dust storms, the rest of the world typically only learns about this fast-growing ecological catastrophe when the massive soil-laden storms leave that region. On April 18, 2001, for instance, the western United States—from the Arizona border north to Canada—was blanketed with dust. It came from a huge dust storm that originated in northwestern China and Mongolia on April 5th. 21

Another consequence of dust storms is the economic disruption that they cause in cities, whether it is Beijing or any of dozens of other cities in northeastern China or South Korea. Dust storms can disrupt business, reduce retail sales, close schools, and even temporarily close governments in some cases. Each of these disruptions brings its own cost. Sometimes the effects are remote from the site of the dust, as when dust particles from African storms damage coral reefs in the Caribbean, adversely affect fishing and tourism. 22

Africa is suffering heavy losses of soil from wind erosion. Andrew Goudie, Emeritus Professor in Geography at Oxford University, reports that dust storms originating over the Sahara—once rare—are now commonplace. He estimates they have increased tenfold during the last half-century. Among the countries most affected by topsoil loss via dust storms are Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, and Burkina Faso. In Mauritania, in Africa’s far west, the number of dust storms jumped from 2 a year in the early 1960s to 80 in 2004. 23

The Bodélé Depression, a vast low-lying region in northeastern Chad, is the source of an estimated 1.3 billion tons of dust a year, up tenfold from 1947, when measurements began. Dust storms leaving Africa typically travel west across the Atlantic, depositing dust in the Caribbean. The 2–3 billion tons of fine soil particles that leave Africa each year in dust storms are slowly draining the continent of its fertility and hence its biological productivity. 24

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is losing 868,000 acres of rangeland and cropland to desertification each year. The government considers the loss of productive land to desert to be far and away its leading environmental problem. No other environmental change threatens to undermine its economic future so directly. Conditions will only get worse if Nigeria continues on its current population trajectory toward 390 million people by 2050. 25

While Nigeria’s human population has increased from 47 million in 1961 to 167 million in 2012, nearly a fourfold expansion, its population of livestock has grown from roughly 8 million to 109 million head. With the forage needs of Nigeria’s 17 million head of cattle and 92 million sheep and goats exceeding the sustainable yield of the country’s grasslands, the country is slowly turning to desert. (See Figure 5–1.) 26

In fact, Nigeria presents a textbook case of how mounting human and livestock population pressures reduce vegetative cover. Most notably, growth in the goat population relative to sheep and cattle is a telltale indicator of grassland ecosystem deterioration. As grasslands deteriorate from overgrazing, grass is typically replaced by desert shrubs. In such a degraded environment as Nigeria’s, sheep and cattle do not fare well, but goats—being particularly hardy ruminants—forage on the shrubs. 27

Between 1970 and 2010, the world cattle population increased by 32 percent, the sheep population was unchanged, but the goat population more than doubled. This dramatic shift in the composition of the livestock herd, with goats now in such a dominant role, promises continuing grassland deterioration and accelerating soil erosion. 28

Growth in the goat population has been dramatic in some other developing countries as well, particularly in Africa and Asia, which combined account for 90 percent of the world’s goats. While Pakistan’s cattle population more than doubled between 1961 and 2010, and the sheep population nearly tripled, the goat population grew almost sevenfold. In Bangladesh, cattle and sheep populations have grown only modestly since 1980, while the population of goats has quadrupled. In 1985, Mali had roughly equal populations of cattle, sheep, and goats, but while its cattle and sheep populations have remained relatively stable since then, its goat population has more than tripled. 29

Meanwhile, on the northern fringe of the Sahara, countries such as Algeria and Morocco are attempting to halt the desertification that is threatening their fertile croplands. Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika says that Algeria is losing 100,000 acres of its most fertile lands to desertification each year. For a country that has only 7.7 million acres of grainland, this is not a trivial loss. Among other measures, Algeria is planting its southernmost cropland in perennials, such as fruit orchards, olive orchards, and vineyards—crops that can help keep the soil in place. 30

India is also in a war with expanding deserts. With scarcely 2 percent of the world’s land area, India is struggling to support 18 percent of the world’s people and 15 percent of its cattle. According to a team of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization, 25 percent of India’s land surface is slowly turning into desert. It thus comes as no surprise that many of India’s cattle are emaciated. 31

In Afghanistan, a U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) team reports that in the Sistan region in the country’s southwest “up to 100 villages have been submerged by windblown dust and sand.” The Registan Desert is migrating westward, encroaching on agricultural areas. In the country’s northwest, sand dunes are moving onto agricultural land in the upper Amu Darya basin, their path cleared by the loss of stabilizing vegetation due to firewood gathering and overgrazing. The UNEP team observed sand dunes as high as a five-story building blocking roads, forcing residents to establish new routes. 32

An Afghan Ministry of Agriculture and Food report sounds the alarm: “Soil fertility is declining,...water tables have dramatically fallen, de-vegetation is extensive and soil erosion by water and wind is widespread.” After three decades of armed conflict and the related deprivation and devastation, Afghanistan’s forests are nearly gone. Seven southern provinces are losing cropland to encroaching sand dunes. And like many failing states, even if Afghanistan had appropriate environmental policies, it lacks the law enforcement capacity to implement them. 33

Iraq, suffering from nearly a decade of war and recent drought and chronic overgrazing and overplowing, is now losing irrigation water to its upstream riparian neighbor—Turkey. The reduced river flow—combined with the deterioration of irrigation infrastructure, the depletion of aquifers, the shrinking irrigated area, and the drying up of marshlands—is drying out Iraq. The Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization, may be turning into a dust bowl. 34

Dust storms are forming with increasing frequency in western Syria and northern Iraq. In July 2009 a dust storm raged for several days in what was described as the worst such storm in Iraq’s history. As it traveled eastward into Iran, the authorities in Tehran closed government offices, private offices, schools, and factories. Although this new dust bowl is small compared with those centered in northwest China and across central Africa, it is nonetheless an unsettling new development in this region. 35

Iran—with 76 million people—illustrates the pressures facing the Middle East. With 9 million cattle and 80 million sheep and goats—the source of wool for its fabled rug-making industry—Iran’s rangelands are deteriorating from overstocking. Mohammad Jarian, who heads Iran’s Anti-Desertification Organization, reported in 2002 that sandstorms had buried 124 villages in the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan, forcing their abandonment. Drifting sands had covered grazing areas, starving livestock and depriving villagers of their livelihoods. 36

As countries lose their topsoil, they eventually lose the capacity to feed themselves. Among those facing this problem are Lesotho, Mongolia, North Korea, and Haiti. Lesotho, one of Africa’s smallest countries, with only 2 million people, is paying a heavy price for its soil losses. A U.N. team visited in 2002 to assess its food prospects. Their finding was straightforward: “Agriculture in Lesotho faces a catastrophic future; crop production is declining and could cease altogether over large tracts of the country if steps are not taken to reverse soil erosion, degradation, and the decline in soil fertility.” 37

Michael Grunwald reported in the Washington Post that nearly half of the children under five in Lesotho are stunted physically. “Many,” he wrote, “are too weak to walk to school.” Over the last decade, Lesotho’s grain harvest dropped by half as its soil fertility fell. Its collapsing agriculture has left the country heavily dependent on food imports. 38

A similar situation exists in Mongolia, where over the last 20 years more than half of the wheatland has been abandoned and wheat yields have started to fall, shrinking its harvest. Mongolia now imports nearly 20 percent of its wheat. At the same time, North Korea, largely deforested and suffering from flood-induced soil erosion and land degradation, has watched its yearly grain harvest fall from a peak of almost 6 million tons during the 1980s to scarcely 3 million tons per year today. 39

In the western hemisphere, Haiti—one of the early failing states—was largely self-sufficient in grain 40 years ago. Since then it has lost nearly all its forests and much of its topsoil, forcing it to import over half of its grain. It is now heavily dependent on U.N. World Food Programme lifelines. 40

The accelerating loss of topsoil is slowly but surely reducing the earth’s inherent biological productivity. The shrinking area of productive land and the earth’s steadily expanding human population are on a collision course. Soil erosion and land degradation issues are local, but their effect on food security is global.


1. Walter C. Lowdermilk, Conquest of the Land Through 7,000 Years, USDA Bulletin No. 99 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1939).

2. Lowdermilk, op. cit. note 1, p. 10.

3. One third is author’s estimate.

4. David R. Montgomery, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations (London: University of California Press, Ltd., 2007), p. 23.

5. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), FAOSTAT, electronic database, at faostat.fao.org, updated 23 February 2012.

6. USDA, Summary Report: 2007 Natural Resources Inventory (Washington, DC: 2009).

7. Asmat Raza, Pakistan Grain and Feed Annual Report 2011 (Islamabad, Pakistan: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 2011), p. 3.

8. Yang Youlin, Victor Squires, and Lu Qi, eds., Global Alarm: Dust and Sandstorms from the World’s Drylands (Bangkok: Secretariat of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, 2002), pp. 15–45.

9. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (New York: The Viking Press, 1939).

10. FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture 1995 (Rome: 1995), p. 175.

11. Ibid.; USDA, Production, Supply, and Distribution, electronic database, at www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/, updated 12 June 2012.

12. Laurie J. Schmidt, “From the Dust Bowl to the Sahel,” NASA Earth Observatory, 18 May 2001; Reggie Royston, “China’s Dust Storms Raise Fears of Impending Catastrophe,” National Geographic News, 1 June 2001.

13. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), “Agricultural Policy Reform in China,” policy brief (Paris: 2005); FAO, op. cit. note 5; FAO, “Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles,” atwww.fao.org/countryprofiles/index.asp?lang=en&iso3=CHN&subj=4, updated 2006.

14. Wang Tao et al., “A Study on Spatial-temporal Changes of Sandy Desertified Land During Last 5 Decades in North China,” Acta Geographica Sinica, vol. 59 (2004), pp. 203–12.

15. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, “Desert Mergers and Acquisitions,” Beijing Environment, Science, and Technology Update(Beijing: 19 July 2002), p. 2.

16. Cara Anna, “Huge Sandstorm Covers Beijing, Turns Sky Orange,” Associated Press, 20 March 2010; Christopher Bodeen, “China’s Sandstorms Blast Beijing with Dust, Sand,” Associated Press, 22 March 2010.

17. Ibid.

18. Lee Eun-joo and Kang Chan-su, “Yellow Dust Season to be Longer, More Severe,” Korea JoongAng Daily, 2 April 2012; Song Sang-ho, “Nation Hit by Worst-Ever Yellow Dust Storm,” Korea Herald, 21 March 2010.

19. Howard W. French, “China’s Growing Deserts Are Suffocating Korea,” New York Times, 14 April 2002.

20. Lee and Kang, op. cit. note 18.

21. Ann Schrader, “Latest Import from China: Haze,” Denver Post, 18 April 2001.

22. Economic impacts from Ning Ai, “Integrated Impact of Yellow-dust Storms: A Regional Case Study in China,”Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning, September 2003; dust in Caribbean from Paul Brown, “4x4s Replace the Desert Camel and Whip Up a Worldwide Dust Storm,” (London) Guardian, 20 August 2004.

23. Brown, op. cit. note 22.

24. Ibid.

25. U.N. Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision, electronic database, atesa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm, updated 3 May 2011; Government of Nigeria, Combating Desertification and Mitigating the Effects of Drought in Nigeria, National Report on the Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (Nigeria: November 1999).

26. U.N. Population Division, op. cit. note 25; Figure 5–1 from FAO, op. cit. note 5.

27.FAO, “Nigeria Overview,” FAOSTAT, electronic database, at faostat.fao.org, updated 21 July 2011.

28. FAO, op. cit. note 5.

29. Ibid.

30. African Development Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, African Economic Outlook 2007 (Tunis and Paris: 2007), p. 386; Bouteflika in Kaci Racelma, “Algeria Worries over Desertification,” Africa News, 3 January 2007; USDA, op. cit. note 11; “Algeria to Convert Large Cereal Land to Tree Planting,” Reuters, 8 December 2000.

31. Land from U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), FAOSTAT, electronic database, at faostat.fao.org, updated 21 July 2011; livestock from FAO, op. cit. note 5; U.N. Population Division, op. cit. note 25; A. S. Ajai et al., “Desertification/Land Degradation Status Mapping of India,” Current Science, vol. 97, no. 10 (25 November 2009), pp. 1,478–83.

32. U.N. Environment Programme, Afghanistan: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Geneva: 2003), p. 52.

33. “Afghanistan: Environmental Crisis Looms as Conflict Goes On,” Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) News, 30 July 2007.

34. Liz Sly, “Iraq in Throes of Environmental Catastrophe, Experts Say,” Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2009.

35. NASA, “Dust Storm Over Iraq,” Earth Observatory, 7 July 2009; NASA, “Dust Storm Over Iran,” Earth Observatory, 23 July 2009.

36. U.N. Population Division, op. cit. note 25; FAO, op. cit. note 5; Iranian News Agency, “Official Warns of Impending Desertification Catastrophe in Southeast Iran,” BBC International Reports, 29 September 2002.

37. FAO and U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to Lesotho (Rome: May 2002); U.N. Population Division, op. cit. note 25.

38. Michael Grunwald, “Bizarre Weather Ravages Africans’ Crops,” Washington Post, 7 January 2003; USDA, op. cit. note 11; WFP, “Lesotho,” at www.wfp.org/countries, viewed 10 May 2012.

39. USDA, op. cit. note 11.

40. Ibid.; FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 (Rome: 2006), p. 193; WFP, “Haiti,” at www.wfp.org/countries, viewed 10 May 2012.

Eroding Soils Darkening Our Future | EPI

David Brooks Slams House Republicans On Farm Bill - YouTube

PBS Newshour - July 12, 2013
David Brooks Slams House Republicans On Farm Bill - YouTube

Lisa Schulte Moore’s agro-ecology pitch takes the ESA2013 Science Cafe Prize | EcoTone

Posted on July 1, 2013 by Liza Lester 

Lisa Schulte Moore won the inaugural ESA2013 Science Cafe Prize with her vision for change in modern agriculture based on ecological knowledge and experimentation. Schulte Moore, a professor of landscape ecology at Iowa State University, will speak at the Aster Cafe on the riverfront in Minneapolis, Minnesota during ESA’s annual meeting in August. Read her winning entry below!

Soil erosion….or not. Even small amounts of perennials can have a dramatic impact on the environmental benefits provided by row-cropped agricultural lands. This image depicts the ability of native prairie to keep soil in farm fields, where it can produce crops, as opposed to allowing it to move into streams, where it becomes a serious pollutant. The STRIPS Project has shown that farm fields with just 10% of their area converted to native prairie produce diverse environmental benefits in amounts greatly disproportionate to their extent compared to fields entirely in row-crop production. This image was taken after a 4 inch rain. Caption, Lisa Schulte Moore. Photo, Dave Williams.

Want to stem biodiversity loss, enhance fresh water supplies, curtail climate change AND improve people’s lives? Then change modern agriculture. Worldwide, agriculture is responsible for more habitat conversion, water pollution, and global warming potential than any other sector of the economy. Furthermore, the current system of food production fails to provide adequate nourishment for one-seventh of the planet’s human inhabitants. Where do we begin this monumental task? Iowa, USA.

Iowa’s status as the leading producer of corn, soy, pork, and eggs and first-in-the-nation caucuses means the state has disproportionate influence on US farm bills — legislation that delivers food aid to the needy, incentivizes farming practices, and provides the bulk of conservation funding nationwide. While focused within the nation’s borders, farm bill legislation has a global ripple effect by tipping the economic playing field. Thus, I posit, if you make a better Iowa, you make a better world. How do we do that? With perennials and partnerships.

Lisa Schulte Moore’s agro-ecology pitch takes the ESA2013 Science Cafe Prize | EcoTone

Diet soda won’t save you from obesity or diabetes | Grist

By John Upton
Niall Kennedy

Bad news for everybody who drinks diet sodas instead of the sugary varieties to help stay healthy.

In an opinion piece [PDF] in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Purdue University professor Susan Swithers writes that drinks containing such chemicals as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin have been found to contribute to excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Her piece summarizes studies on the health effects of artificial sweeteners:

Recent data from humans and rodent models have provided little support for ASB [artificially sweetened beverages] in promoting weight loss or preventing negative health outcomes such as [type 2 diabetes], metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular events. Instead, a number of studies suggest people who regularly consume ASB are at increased risk compared with those that do not.

How is this possible? Swithers describes a number of theories, some of them relating to the effects of such sweeteners on metabolism. “Sweet tastes are known to evoke numerous physiological responses,” she writes. “By weakening the validity of sweet taste as a signal for caloric post-ingestive outcomes, consumption of artificial sweeteners could impair energy and body weight regulation.”

NPR’s Alison Aubrey put Swithers’ piece into some context:

Not everyone is convinced that diet soda is so bad.

For instance, a study I reported on last year by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that overweight teens did well when they switched from sugar-laden drinks to zero-calorie options such as diet soda.

But it’s also hard to ignore the gathering body of evidence that points to potentially bad outcomes associated with a diet soda habit.

One example: the findings of the San Antonio Heart Study, which pointed to a strong link between diet soda consumption and weight gain over time.

“On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years” said Sharon Fowler, in a release announcing the findings several years back.

Another bit of evidence: A multi-ethnic study, which included some 5,000 men and women, found that diet soda consumption was linked to a significantly increased risk of both type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

If you’re choosing between a diet soda and a regular soda, then it’s probably healthier to go for the former. But these studies are a reminder that such a choice won’t keep you healthy.

It’s also worth remembering that some scientists have found that artificial sweeteners can be toxic. Some countries even require health warnings on drinks containing such products, such as this one on a can of Diet Coke sold in India

US Staple Crop System Failing from GM and Monoculture

by I-SIS July 11, 2013
Resilience, yields, pesticide use, and genetic diversity, all worse than Non-GM Europe
by Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

A new study shows that the US Midwest staple crop system — predominantly genetically modified (GM) — is falling behind other economically and technologically equivalent regions. Western Europe, matched for latitude, season and crop type as well as economic and technological development, outperforms the US (and Canada) with regards to yields, pesticide use, genetic diversity and crop resilience, as well as farm worker wellbeing.

The study, headed by Jack Heinemann at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, is a damning indictment of the large-scale, monoculture model in the US, the world’s largest producer of maize since the records began in 1961, and is increasingly relied upon to provide more and more of the world’s calorie intake [1]. This serves as a warning to the UK environmental minister Owen Paterson, who proposes to introduce GM crops into the UK [2].
READ FULL STORY: US Staple Crop System Failing from GM and Monoculture

Jul 11, 2013

Canada & The United States: Bizarre Borders Part 2 - YouTube

Published on Jun 5, 2013
Website: http://www.CGPGrey.com/


Canada and the United States share the longest, straightest, possibly boringest border in the world. But, look closer, and there's plenty of bizarreness to be found.

While these sister nations get along fairly well, they both want to make it really clear whose side of the continent is whose. And they've done this by carving a 20-foot wide space along the border. All five and a half thousand miles of it.

With the exception of the rare New England town that predates national borders or the odd airport that needed extending, this space is the no-touching-zone between the countries and they're super serious about keeping it clear. It matters not if the no-touching-zone runs through hundreds of miles of virtually uninhabited Alaskan / Yukon wilderness. Those border trees, will not stand.

Which might make you think this must be the longest, straightest deforested place in the world, but it isn't. Deforested: yes, but straight? Not at all.

Sure it looks straight and on a map, and the treaties establishing the line say it's straight... but in the real world the official border is 900 lines that zig-zags from the horizontal by as much as several hundred feet.

How did this happen? Well, imagine you're back in North America in the 1800s -- The 49th parallel (one of those horizontal lines you see on a globe) has just been set as the national boundary and it's your job to make it real. You're handed a compass and a ball of string and told to carefully mark off the next 2/3rds of a continent. Don't mind that uncharted wilderness in the way: just keep the line straight.


Good luck.

With that.

The men who surveyed the land did the best they could and built over 900 monuments. They're in about as straight as you could expect a pre-GPS civilization to make, but it's not the kind of spherical / planar intersection that would bring a mathematician joy.

Nonetheless these monuments define the border and the no-touching-zone plays connect-the-dots with them.

Oh, and while there are about 900 markers along this section of the border, there are about 8,000 in total that define the shape of the nations.

Despite this massive project Canada and the United States still have disputed territory. There is a series of islands in the Atlantic that the United States claims are part of Maine and Canada claims are part of New Brunswick. Canada, assuming the islands are hers built a lighthouse on one of them, and the United States, assuming the islands are hers pretends the lighthouse doesn't exist.

It's not a huge problem as the argument is mostly over tourists who want to see puffins and fishermen who want to catch lobsters, but let's hope the disagreement gets resolved before someone finds oil under that lighthouse.

Even the non-disputed territory has a few notably weird spots: such as this tick of the border upward into Canada. Zoom in and it gets stranger as the border isn't over solid land but runs through a lake to cut off a bit of Canada before diving back down to the US.

This spot is home to about 100 Americans and is a perfect example of how border irregularities are born:

Back in 1783 when the victorious Americans were negotiating with the British who controlled what would one day be Canada, they needed a map, and this map was the best available at the time. While the East Coast looks pretty good, the wester it goes the sparser it gets.

Under negotiation was the edge of what would one day be Minnesota and Manitoba. But unfortunately, that area was hidden underneath an inset on the map, so the Americans and British were bordering blind. Seriously.

They guessed that the border should start from the northwestern part of this lake and go in a horizontal line until it crossed the Mississippi… somewhere.

But somewhere, turned out to be nowhere as the mighty Mississippi stops short of that line, which left the border vague until 35 years later when a second round of negotiations established the aforementioned 49th parallel.

But there was still a problem as the lake mentioned earlier was both higher, and less circular than first though, putting its northwesterly point here so the existing border had to jump up to meet it and then drop straight down to the 49th, awkwardly cutting off a bit of Canada, before heading west across the remainder of the continent.

Turns out you just can't draw a straight(-ish) line for hundreds of miles without causing a few more problems.

One of which was luckily spotted in advance: Vancouver Island, which the 49th would have sliced through, but both sides agreed that would be dumb so the border swoops around the island.

However, next door to Vancouver Island is Point Roberts which went unnoticed as so today the border blithey cuts across. It's a nice little town, home to over 1,000 Americans, but has only a primary school so its older kids have to cross international borders four times a day to go to school in their own state.

In a pleasing symetry, the East cost has the exact opposite situation with a Canadian Island whose only land route is a bridge to the United States.

And these two aren't the only places where each country contains a bit of the other: there are several more, easily spotted in sattelite photos by the no-touching zone.

Regardless of if the land in question is just an uninhabited strip, in the middle of a lake, in the middle of nowhere, the border between these sister nations must remain clearly marked.

Canada & The United States: Bizarre Borders Part 2 - YouTube

"Gasland Part II": The Fracking Empire Strikes Back | Mother Jones

Director Josh Fox explains his expanded investigation into the natural gas industry and responds to President Obama’s climate speech.
By Brett Brownell
Mon Jul. 8, 2013


Movie sequels are typically reserved for superhero franchises (and occasionally Michael Bay). Not scrappy social-issue documentaries. But director Josh Fox's 2010 documentary Gasland, which was nominated for an Academy Award, helped spark such an enormous national interest into the negative impacts of natural gas drilling that he decided to make a sequel.

"When we put the first movie out we were astounded," Fox recently told Mother Jones. "We…never figured that 'fracking' would become a household word."

Gasland ended with coverage of a June 4, 2009, hearing by the House Energy and Minerals subcommittee that addressed the safety and risks of natural gas drilling. Fox narrates, "The FRAC Act is making its way through Congress, and industry is lobbying hard against it." The FRAC Act called for the removal of hydraulic fracturing's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and would have implemented federal regulation of the industry. But the bill never received a vote.

Gasland Part II premieres tonight on HBO and picks up in the spring of 2010, with Fox touring the Gulf of Mexico by helicopter. Below, oil from BP's exploded Deepwater Horizon rig streams along the surface. Through voiceover, Fox explains how difficult it was to get clearance to fly in the area. "Journalists would call up the FAA to clear flights," he says, "and BP would answer the phone." It's an emotional sequence, which immediately sparks a sense of injustice and opens up the film's broad theme of industry influence on government.

Here's the trailer:

How to Make Aerated Compost Tea - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH NEWS

July 10, 2013
By Leila Darwish

"Earth Repair" by Leila Darwish is packed with simple, accessible and practical tools for healing and regenerating damaged ecosystems.

Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers

Earth Repair by Leila Darwish (New Society, 2013) is packed with simple, accessible, and practical tools for healing and regenerating damaged ecosystems from contaminated urban lots to polluted waterways and oil spills. Compost tea is just one of the tools that can help you bind and break down contaminants in the soil.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes.

Actively Aerated Compost Tea

According to the Toolbox for Sustainable Living, actively aerated compost tea is a “water-based oxygen rich culture containing large populations of beneficial aerobic bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa, which can be used to bioremediate toxins.” Good compost tea should contain thousands of beneficial microorganisms; this increases the chances that some of them will be able to bind and break down the range of contaminants on your site. Compost tea allows you to amplify a small amount of compost into a dispersible liquid form, helping a little compost go a lot farther.

Compost tea is relatively easy, cheap and fun to make — it is also a really great activity to do with kids. It requires an inoculant of beneficial bacteria and fungi, some key food sources, dechlorinated water, oxygen and agitation.

Inoculant for Compost Tea

Worm castings and aerobic compost are the best inoculant choices. Worm castings are a great inoculant because worms use bacteria instead of digestive acids in their stomachs to break down food. The castings are rich in beneficial microorganisms, some of which have been found to be effective in breaking down certain contaminants. Worm castings are also a source of humic acid, which is a good food source for your tea. Similarly, good aerobic compost (especially thermophilic compost) is a great inoculant; if made properly, it should be full of beneficial microorganisms.

The quality of the compost used to make compost tea is really critical. The tea can only amplify the biology already present in the compost. So you want an incredibly biologically active compost, ideally one that has at least both bacteria and fungi, to serve as your inoculant. Compost piles that have been curing for three to six months are more likely to be fungal-dominated, while piles that have been curing for one to three months, tend to be more bacteria-dominated. I’ve heard several compost tea experts say that it can be difficult to get a good amount of fungi. If you can use a more fungal-dominated compost pile as an inoculant, that could give you a bit of an advantage. If you also happen to be cultivating mushrooms, you could try adding spent spawn to your compost to increase its fungal load.

Bacteria are very easy to grow in your tea — they are easy to extract and they like growing in the water. If you test your tea and find it to be fungi deficient but strong in bacteria, it is still good for inoculating your site with beneficial bacteria. You will just have to find another way to get replenish the fungi in your soil food web.
Food Sources for Your Compost Tea

The food sources you add to your compost tea will determine the composition of microorganisms that grow in it, as bacteria and fungi favor different food sources. Different recipes I found called for different ingredients, and these different ingredients allow you to select for a more bacterial or fungal tea. A mixture of these foods will create a tea with both bacteria and fungi, which is ideal for the remediation of contaminants.

Food sources for bacteria include simple sugars, simple proteins and simple carbohydrates. The most commonly used food source in compost tea recipes seems to be unsulphured molasses. Some other bacteria food sources include fruit juice, cane syrup and fish emulsion. Food for fungi include complex sugars, amino sugars and complex proteins. The most commonly used compost tea food sources for fungi are fish hydrolysate, kelp/seaweed and humic acid. Some additional food sources include fulvic acids, soybean meal, oat bran, oatmeal, fish oils, cellulose, lignin, cutins, rock phosphate dust, fruit pulp (oranges, apples and blueberries) and aloe vera extract (without preservatives). The more types of food added, the greater the diversity of species of microorganisms likely to be present.

Some grassroots compost tea brewers I spoke with preferred to avoid purchasing commercial products (like humic acid) for making their tea, and instead felt that it was sufficient to use their compost and worm castings as an inoculant, along with some dynamic accumulating and nutrient/mineral rich plants, weeds and seaweeds.

Compost Tea Recipe

This is a simple and standard recipe for five gallons of compost tea. The proportions can be multiplied for larger batches.

Ingredients and Supplies
five-gallon bucket (make sure it is clean!)
un-chlorinated water (either rainwater, pond or if tap)
1 cup of inoculant (worm castings and/or aerobic compost)
1/4 cup of food: unsulphured molasses, humic acid (1 tablespoon), fish hydrolase and kelp.
1 compost tea bag/stocking
air pump
plastic watering can or backpack sprayer (one that has never been used for chemical applications)
Your Compost Tea Bag or Stocking

Many grassroots compost tea brewers I know use a nylon stocking to hold inoculant. However, some compost tea brewers claim that nylon is not the best material to use, and recommend using a non-sticky compost bag (like a polyester mesh screen) which will allow for more fungal extraction. The mesh should be at least 400 micrometers to allow fungi and nematodes to flow through. For optimal extraction, it is also important that you put your inoculant in the bag and not just directly in the water.

Aeration and Agitation

Use an air pump to keep your tea sufficiently oxygenated. Though there are many sources that say that some variation of an aquarium pump connected to some airstones could supply enough aeration for a five-gallon batch of compost tea, that is not necessarily the case.

What many folks don’t seem to know is that you need both aeration and agitation for effective compost tea brewing. Lots of compost tea brewers have pumps or bubblers that provide good aeration, but they may not provide the necessary agitation you need to truly aerate the water and knock the organisms, like fungi, off the organic matter and into solution. Fine bubbles don’t aerate water. It’s the breaking of the surface of the water that gets oxygen into it. So instead of a lightly bubbling compost tea, you should aim for more of a rolling boil, or churning. To achieve this, you may have to play around with a few different air pumps or generative blowers. Some sources suggested using a high-pressure (3.9 psi), high-volume air pump (17 gallons per minute). Avoid using air compressors as they can damage microorganisms.

Remember, these pumps need a power source, and the tea needs to be aerated constantly - so make sure no one turns off the pump at night. In a post-disaster situation where power may be more difficult to come by - or if you live somewhere where electricity is a touchy thing - it may be harder to make compost tea properly.

How to Make Compost Tea

1. Pretreat your compost to increase its inoculant and fungal power. Take your compost inoculant and add some humic acid or fish hydrolase to it. Put it into a shallow tray and mix it up well. Then let it sit for two to three days. This encourages fresh microorganism growth in the tea. Many recipes don’t require you to pretreat your compost: you can treat this as an optional step or you can see it as a way to increase the effectiveness of your brew.

2. Fill a bucket with non-chlorinated water. Water temperature is ideally between 55-80oF. If using tap water, leave it sitting and uncovered for 24 hours to off-gas any chlorine, or add humic acid to it to deal with chloramine.

3. Put the airstone in the bottom of the bucket, attach the air pump and let it start to bubble. Make sure there is enough oxygen and agitation moving through your liquid; if not, get a more powerful pump or move to the gang valve and three-bubbler approach. Remember, you are looking for more of a churning or rolling boil, not simply fine bubbles.

4. Put inoculant in the stocking or mesh bag, tie off the end and suspend it in the water.

5. Add the food.

6. Let the whole brew bubble for 24 hours and for no longer than 36 hours. After 36 hours, if the tea received insufficient oxygen or too much food, anaerobic organisms will overcome the beneficial aerobic organisms. It will be obvious if the tea went anaerobic, because it will stink! If that has happened, pour it out away from garden plants and start over. One thing to be aware of — just because your compost tea smells earthy and sweet (which is the smell you are going for), it does not mean that it packs a microbial punch, as that smell can also come from molasses. If possible, do a soil biology test of your first few batches to see if you truly are rocking the microbe production.

7. Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove large debris so that it doesn’t clog your backpack sprayer or plastic watering can (supposedly bacteria can react with some metal cans).

8. Make sure to clean your bucket and pump for your next round of tea. Use a non-toxic, environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaner.
Applying Compost Tea

Use your compost tea within four hours of turning off the bubbler, since after that amount of time without oxygen your aerobic microorganisms will begin to die. At this point, you can bring the tea to your site and apply it directly onto the contaminated and/or damaged land, a spill area or onto your phytoremediating plants to increase their health. It is best to apply your tea to moist soil or after a rain, on a cloudy morning or in the evening as some microorganisms do not like baking in the hot sun. If you are applying your tea with a sprayer, make sure that the sprayer doesn’t need too high a pressure and that the velocity of the spray is slow — the microbes you are working with benefit from gentle treatment. You can also take a digging fork or piece of rebar and make holes throughout your site to loosen soil and give the microorganisms a way to move more rapidly down to where the contamination may be.

With actively aerated compost tea, you can’t really have too much of a good thing. Some sources recommend that you use a minimum of about one gallon of tea for 1,000 square feet of contaminated land. When you are using tea for remediation (drenching the soil instead of spraying plants) you do not need to dilute your tea. Finally, apply tea several times, waiting anywhere from two weeks to one month between applications.

If you are going to be making large brews of compost tea, you can use a rain barrel-sized container. Just make sure to adjust the proportions of inoculant and food and get a strong enough pump or two to ensure the barrel is properly oxygenated and agitated. You can also purchase pre-made compost tea brewer systems that ranges from a five-gallon system priced around US$180 to a 1,000-gallon compost tea brewer for US$7,000.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/print.aspx?id={ADD8E329-94C8-4668-B688-6C47F1948D4F}#ixzz2Yk5pgJDV
How to Make Aerated Compost Tea - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Uncovering cover crops

Uncovering cover crops
Jeff Caldwell 07/10/2013 Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Cover crops have been a hot topic in Midwestern agriculture for the last couple of years. And, for good reason; a growing number of farmers say they're seeing their soils and crop yields benefit from adding cover crops into their crop rotations.

Here are some of our editors' latest stories and features on cover crops, from their basic soil benefits and just how many acres are out there, to how they can become a larger part of your crop mix.
Crop Talk: Where are all the cover crops?

Cover crops paying off, survey shows

Cover crops work. That's the message from the results of a recent study released this week. Last year's drought gutted corn and soybean yields. But that yield hammer was much lighter on those crop acres that were preceded by a cover crop. The study sought opinions from more than 750 farmers in the Corn Belt on cover crops, how widely they're adopted, their payback, and challenges.
InsideAg: Cover crops 'proving to have very visible benefits'
Cover crops have tremendous benefits to the soil and the crops grown in it. Check out this feature showing some of the biological processes and elements influenced by cover crops. 

Soil-saving systems

A little crop residue goes a long way, especially in a year when drought has turned otherwise good soils to dust. That's exactly what's happening around Almena, Kansas, where Michael Thompson raises wheat, soybeans, and corn in conventional tillage and no-till systems.
See more from Thompson's farm
Check out this farm: 70 cover crops and counting!

More cover crop news and features
No-till, nitrogen, and replant decisions
Cover crop decisions
Keeping your soil healthy
Cover crops a 'great opportunity' in drought year
Cropping strategies to lessen drought symptoms

Uncovering cover crops

The aging American farmer: Who will work the land next? - KansasCity.com

July 9
Harvest Public Media

The American farmer is graying in the center.

Bob Hawthorn, 84, still works his 2,000-acre farm in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

These stories are part of “Changing Lands, Changing Hands,” a five-part radio series and TV documentary from Harvest Public Media about the aging of the American farmer. The radio stories are airing all week on KCUR FM 89.3. The half-hour TV documentary is scheduled to air on KCPT Channel 19 at 8 p.m. Friday. More information is at HarvestPublicMedia.org.

According to the U.S. census, the average age of the U.S. farmer is 57, and the fastest growing age group is those over age 65. That demographic shift puts the agriculture industry on the precipice of a transition.

Though many farmers are clearly working well into the traditional retirement years, thousands of farms soon will be changing hands. How that occurs could reshape the industry that drives much of the economy in middle America.

Working longer

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days — but farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census, 25 percent of all farm operators were over age 65 compared with 5 percent of the overall U.S. work force.

Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.

“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

Duffy said there’s also an economic incentive. Many farmers are making more money today than just about any time in their careers thanks to higher yields and high grain prices.

But there’s something else about farmers. In surveys of farmers in Iowa, Duffy has learned that regardless of the money or new technology, some farmers will just never quit.

“Farmers are farmers,” Duffy said. “And that’s who they identify themselves as. They’ll leave horizontal.”

Bob Hawthorn is that kind of farmer. At 84, Hawthorn’s hands and face are weathered. This year, spring came late, so on a bright April afternoon he was in a hurry to get corn and soybeans planted on his 2,000-acre farm in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

Hawthorn braced himself against the wind in the back of his red pickup and unstrung the top of a bag of seed corn. After nearly 60 years on the farm, he said, neighbors ask how long he plans to continue.

“They keep bugging me,” Hawthorn said. “They say, ‘When are you gonna quit?’ I think I’ll tell ’em I won’t quit farming till all hell freezes over. Something like that.”

The farm was started by his great-grandfather, Trapper Hawthorn, in the late 1870s. Bob Hawthorn left for a brief career in aerospace before returning to Iowa in 1955 to farm with his father, Fred, who worked on the farm into his 90s and lived to be 98 years old. Longevity runs in the family.

But after four generations, the Hawthorn family farm will come to an end. He has had foster children, but he never had biological children and never married. No one is lined up to take over the farm, but then, Hawthorn has no plans to quit, either.

“I’d be bored not having anything to do,” Hawthorn said. “I’ve also noticed that farmers, when they retire, buy a house in town and die of a heart attack about in the next year. It seems like farmers have to keep going or they just fade away.”

Psychologist and retired farmer Mike Rosmann calls it the “agrarian imperative,” the drive to keep farming even when your body might be ready to quit. In fact, Rosmann said, studies show over half of aging farmers don’t have a will or an estate plan.

“I think it reflects perhaps a denial of the fact that somebody’s got to take over and I need to have a plan for that,” Rosmann said.

Turmoil in transitions

Randy Hertz, a financial planner with Hertz Farm Management, in Nevada, Iowa, says even as the average age of farmers creeps ever upward, few families make all the plans they could for smooth transitions.

“It’s pretty ominous the number of farmers that plan to retire in the next five to 10 years,” Hertz said. “Some of them have no plan, and the default succession plan is, well, I guess we’ll just rent it to somebody in the neighborhood.”

The 2008 Iowa Farm and Rural Life poll found that 42 percent of farmers surveyed said they planned to retire in the next five years. But Paul Lasley, an Iowa State University sociologist who conducts the poll, said it’s tough to define retirement with farmers.

“The retirement process for many farmers may take years, even a decade or so,” Lasley said. “They slowly phase out of farming, and allow their adult children, who are often middle age, to take over, but they remain somewhat involved to ‘make sure the kids do it right.’”

That’s how it is working out for the Arganbright family in the western Iowa town of Panora.

Jim Arganbright, 83, three years ago started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his eight children who farms full time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.

“I only have 12 cows and a bull and eight calves,” he said.

Tom Arganbright farms his parents’ 160 acres, several other rented fields and his own farm — in all, about 1,500 acres. He bought some of his acres from one of his uncles.

“It’s not just any ground you’re purchasing, it’s part of the original Arganbright land, and it’s up to you to keep hold of it through good times and bad and be able to pass it along to the next generation,” Tom Arganbright said. One of his five children currently farms with him.

Though Jim Arganbright is no longer farming, he said he has not yet established a formal plan for how ownership of his land will transfer to the next generation, something he knows he ought to do. He expects his children to keep it in the family.

Farmers in waiting

More farmers staying on the farm into their old age is one reason younger farmers struggle to find their place.

“We’re not short of young people who want to farm,” said Duffy, at Iowa State. “We’re short of old people who want to move over.”

One reason farmers are working long past the age when others might retire is that their golden years turned out to be boom years.

“Often they’re the only people that have enough money that they can keep doing it and can keep buying land that comes up for sale,” Rosmann said.

The ability to buy land is a big hurdle keeping many young people from entering the agriculture industry as producers.

“There’s no way I’ll ever be able to own my own ranch,” said Bo Bigler, 25, a graduate student at Colorado State University. He’ll graduate at the end of the summer with a master’s degree in beef management.

“The price to buy into it, it’s too much,” Bigler said. “The only way that somebody can get into it is if a ranch was handed down to them, unless they’re millionaires to begin with.”

A 2011 survey from the National Young Farmers Coalition showed access to land and capital to be the single biggest factors keeping young people from getting into farming or ranching. The results also indicated young people were concerned about the environment and interested in small-scale operations.

In Longmont, Colo., Eva Teague, 31, has learned how difficult it can be to start a financially sound pig farm. Teague is a grad school dropout turned farmer, originally from the East Coast. Jaded with academia, she moved to Colorado and began working as a farm apprentice. She bought her first pigs a couple of years ago and now leases 15 acres at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

“Didn’t have that much cash, so I paid for feed with the credit card just to get going,” Teague said.

Right now, her biggest challenge, like that of many other young farmers, is access to capital. She recently secured a low-interest loan from the federal Farm Service Agency, but it’s not enough to get her business off the ground completely. Teague still spends her days on the farm, and every evening working full time as a waitress. Next year she’s taking a big leap, quitting her off-farm job and relying on her farm income to sustain herself.

“I think a lot of young people want to work outside in sort of a ‘farm camp’ fun experience,” Teague said. “There are fewer people who would like to work really hard, like 50-60 hours a week for not a lot of money, which is what working on a farm is.”

Even though small farmers aren’t making large profits, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the largest increase in farm numbers by far is for small farms, with annual sales less than $10,000 a year.

Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer and Luke Runyon contributed to this story.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/09/4335760/the-aging-american-farmer-who.html#storylink=cpy

The aging American farmer: Who will work the land next? - KansasCity.com

Jul 10, 2013

Making Money with Meat Goats - YouTube

Making Money with Meat Goats - YouTube

Monetary Cocaine: How The Fed Steals America's Savings

Published on Jul 10, 2013

Full video is available at: http://fora.tv/2013/04/11/David_Stock...

David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, accuses the Federal Reserve of corrupting savings and the stock market.

Monetary Cocaine: How The Fed Steals America's Savings - YouTube

David Stockman: 'The Endless Campaign' Kills Democracy

Published on Jul 10, 2013

Full video is available at: http://fora.tv/2013/04/11/David_Stock...

David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, outlines a radical amendment that would dismantle incumbent politics, lobbyists, and the permanent campaign in Washington.

David Stockman: 'The Endless Campaign' Kills Democracy - YouTube

Monsanto Is Losing the Press | Mother Jones

—By Tom Philpott
| Wed Jul. 10, 2013

RTImages and Xul/Shutterstock

Ah, high summer. Time to read stories about the declining effectiveness of GMO-seed giant Monsanto's flagship products: crops engineered to resist insects and withstand herbicides.

Back in 2008, I felt a bit lonely participating in this annual rite—it was mainly just me andreporters in a the Big Ag trade press. Over the past couple of years, though, it's gone mainstream. Here's NPR's star agriculture reporter Dan Charles, on corn farmers' agri-chemically charged reaction to the rise of an insect that has come to thumb its nose at Monsanto's once-vaunted Bt corn, engineered to contain the bug-killing gene of a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis:

It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before. Companies like or that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years.

And this, from a veteran observer of the GMO-seed industry who—in my view—sometimes errs on the side of being too soft on it.

The Wall Street Journal's Ian Berry got the ball rolling early this year with a May report bearing the evocative headline "Pesticides Make a Comeback: Many Corn Farmers Go Back to Using Chemicals as Mother Nature Outwits Genetically Modified Seeds":

Insecticide sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness. The sales are a boon for big pesticide makers, such as American Vanguard Co. and Syngenta.

All the attention on superinsects has taken the major-media spotlight off of the "superweeds" that have evolved to shrug off copious doses of Roundup, the herbicide that's supposed to make Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops immune to weed problems. But that doesn't mean these thug weeds have stopped working their magic. They're "gaining ground" in Iowa, heart of the US corn/soy belt, reports the Cedar Rapids-based Gazzete. And farmers are responding just as they did in the South, where Roundup-resistant weeds have had been rampant for at least five years: with a chemical deluge. Here's one of several anecdotes in the Gazzettepiece on that illustrate this familiar theme:

Tracy Franck, who farms 2,400 acres in Buchanan County with his dad and son, said they “are putting on more Roundup every year to kill the same amount of weeds.” They, like most other farmers in their area, are also applying a pre-emergent residual herbicide to help control the glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup]-resistant weeds that are just beginning to show up in their fields. “We are starting to see some lambs quarter and giant ragweed that are tough to kill,” he said.

(As someone who likes to eat lambs quarter, a delicious, nutrient-dense green, I'm sorry to see it emerge as a target of chemical warfare.)

Meanwhile, Food and Water Watch has just come out with a damning report called "Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry." The nutshell: the rise of Roundup Ready corn, soy, and cotton in the mid-1990s has given rise to a boom in use of herbicides. Note how use fell for a while after the introduction Roundup Ready seeds before beginning to spike in 2001, when Roundup resistant weeds began to emerge.

Food and Water Watch

GMO industry defenders point out that relatively benign Roundup at least displaced older, more toxic herbicides as farmers transitioned to Roundup Ready crops. But as FWW shows, that no longer holds. Farmers are turning to one particularly nasty old herbicide, 2,4-D, with a vengeance as Roundup loses effectiveness:

Food and Water Watch

All of which raises the question: If Monsanto's seeds are failing, why are farmers still buying them in such vast numbers? Part of it is surely habit—for farmers, it must seem easier to plant Roundup Ready corn and supplement Roundup with a harsher herbicide than to try a whole new weed-control system.

The answer may also at least partly lie in the GMO seed giants' dominance of the seed market. Last year, the US Department of Justice unceremoniously halted its antitrust investigation of Monsanto and its peers without taking action. As I showed in my post at that time, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow together control 80 percent of the corn-seed market and 70 percent of the soy market. In such tightly consolidated markets, you get stuff like this (from my post from last year):

There's also evidence that farmers lack access to lower-priced [non-GM] seeds. In 2010, University of Illinois researcher Michael Gray surveyed farmers in seven agriculture-intensive counties of Illinois. He asked them if they had access to high-quality corn seeds that weren't genetically modified to contain Monsanto's Bt insecticide trait. In all seven counties, at least 32 percent of farmers said "no." In one county, 46.6 percent of farmers reporting having no access to high-quality non-Bt seed. For them, apparently, they had little choice but to pay Monsanto's high prices for Bt seeds, whether they needed them or not.

At any rate, as Food and Water Watch notes, the withering of herbicide-tolerant and Bt-infused crops hasn't hurt these companies at all—indeed, they also sell pesticides, and as NPR and the Wall Street Journal report, pesticide sales are booming.
Monsanto Is Losing the Press | Mother Jones