|A 'Growing' Business: Planting for Dollars and Sense|
A new BioScience paper authored by a KBS LTER team shows that by changing row-crop management practices in economically and environmentally stable ways, US farms could contribute to improved water quality, biological diversity, pest suppression and soil fertility while helping to stabilize the climate.Further, Midwest farmers, especially those with large farms, appear willing to change their farming practices to provide these ecosystem services in exchange for payments, the article reports.
A previously published survey showed that citizens are willing to make such payments for environmental services such as cleaner lakes.
The LTER's Phil Robertson is lead author of the article, to be published in the May issue of BioScience. Co-authors include Kay Gross, Steve Hamilton, Doug Landis, Thomas Schmidt, Sieg Snapp and Scott Swinton.
The research analyzed by Robertson and colleagues investigated the yields and the environmental benefits achievable by growing corn, soybean, and winter wheat under regimes that use one third of the usual amount of fertilizer—or none at all—with “cover crops” fertilizing the fields in winter. The research also examined “no-till” techniques. The regime that used fewer chemicals resulted in more than 50 percent reductions in the amount of nitrogen that escaped into groundwater and rivers, with crop yields close to those of standard management.
Nitrogen pollution is a major problem in inland waterways and coastal regions, where it contributes to the formation of “dead zones.”