Grass fed beef is best

according to a recent report by the National Trust in the UK. The report uses modeling.

"Research reveals that grass-fed beef is better for people and the environment. Feeding cattle on grass throughout their lifecycle is the most environmentally sustainable way to rear beef, according to new research we've commissioned."

"The results are contrary to recent thinking that livestock farming methods must intensify further in order to lessen carbon emissions to feed an ever-increasing world population."

Tony Lovell's TED talk

Here is Tony Lovell's talk from TEDxDubbo, September 2011. He begins with an excellent explanation of why our brains can't cope with climate change, and does a great job of explaining the implications of the biological carbon cycle. Click the link if the frame below doesn't show.

April update

 

The 2011-2012 Soil Carbon Challenge baseline tour has come full circle. I arrived back home in northeast Oregon's Wallowa County on the last day of March 2012, after 250 days on the road and 12,137 miles in the converted school bus as well as several side trips by car, plane, and train. It was a fantastic trip, and I'm deeply grateful to all those whom I visited for their participation and hospitality.

The future of agriculture

The January 2012 Burleigh County Soil Conservation District's soil health workshop presentations are now online:

http://www.bcscd.com/?id=63

These include videos of great presentations by Rudolf Derpsch, Gail Fuller, Jay Fuhrer, Doug Peterson, and Kenny Miller.

These presentations are about the future of agriculture, based on what's already been tried. Essential learning, essential principles for all areas.

Texas Challenge

The Texas Soil Carbon Challenge has been the biggest yet, fitting the state. So far I've done over two dozen baseline plots in this state, and I'm not quite done. The support of the Dixon Water Foundation has been wonderful.

The 2011 drought in Texas has been among the worst ever for a single year. In addition, fires have burned up huge acreages, including this ranch in West Texas (right).

Vermont Soil Carbon Challenge kickoff

Seth Itzkan kindly provided some video of the short talks at this event at Stan and Helen Ward's Three Springs Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont on October 21, 2011.

Peter Donovan and Abe Collins are co-founders of the Soil Carbon Coalition, which initiated the Challenge.

Seth Itzkan is a futurist from the Boston area who recently spent 6 weeks at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Dibangombe, Zimbabwe.

NRCS soil health factsheets--Farming in the 21st century

These excellent factsheets are courtesy of the NRCS Soil Quality Team. Right-click and choose Save As to download.

2-page version (4 mb):
http://soilcarboncoalition.org/files/21st_century_soil_health_factsheet.pdf

6-page version (7.8 mb):
http://soilcarboncoalition.org/files/21st_century_soil_health_expanded_v...

Diversity in the Dakotas

ORTONVILLE, MINNESOTA--The past month I have been traveling through South Dakota and North Dakota doing baseline carbon monitoring.
First stop in the Dakotas was outside of Newell, South Dakota, at the two ranches purchased in 2010 by Grasslands LLC in cooperation with the Savory Institute. Brandon Dalton manages the cattle and grass, and this year they are running about 3400 yearling cattle and several hundred cow-calf pairs on about 14,000 acres total. It was exciting to see such large herds moving across this splendid grassland. One day I observed large, ball-rolling dung beetles at work. Brandon helped me with a couple of plots.

Water

Top, the remains of Teton Dam near Newdale, Idaho. Middle, taking core samples in eastern Idaho. Bottom, drying core samples for processing along the Yellowstone River. (Solar hot water heater at right.)

Recently I visited the site of the 1976 Teton Dam failure, a testimony to the failure of engineering and technology to control water. And driving down the Musselshell River in Montana, the evidence of this spring's catastrophic flood was everywhere. And the Montana grasslands are greener in August than many can remember.

With all the emphasis in the climate conversation on carbon, we sometimes forget that water vapor is the number one greenhouse gas. Without water vapor in the atmosphere, the earth would be a ball of ice even in summer, as Irish physicist John Tyndall recognized in 1859.

About a third of incoming solar energy is taken up by the evaporation of water, mostly from the oceans. Photosynthesis, which drives the carbon cycle, uses much less solar energy, much less than 1 percent of incoming solar. Yet this production of biomass, and the foodwebs and biodiversity it helps generate, is the primary factor for effective water cycles on land as these videos demonstrate. Without biomass to build and maintain them, and to slow water, our soils would wash into the sea even faster than some of them are now.

On transect

The other day I did three transects for a ranch up Antelope Creek off Big Lost River: one in a flood-irrigated peat meadow, the next in an aerobic subirrigated meadow (pictured, with the bus in the background), and the last one in dry sagebrush. Within one mile, a tremendous contrast of soils.

I built a fire in the stove the next morning, as it was about a degree above freezing at daylight in this mountain valley at 6200 feet.

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