Tue May 7, 2013
Research Project To Study Link Between Farms, Climate
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a grant for researching agriculture and the climate, during a visit to Wisconsin today.
Few industries depend on the climate as much as farming. Bad weather can spell disaster for crops and animals. So the U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a $10-million climate research project that includes the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison. During a visit to the campus, Vilsack says a department study indicates that weather patterns are becoming more intense and more variable: “Two years ago there was too much water last year there wasn't enough water and now, it depends on where you are — you may have too much or too little.”
Other universities involved in the national project will examine how to make plants and animals more resilient. At UW-Madison, soil scientist Matt Ruark will research ways to make farm systems better manage carbon and nitrogen, by using alternative farming practices that reduce erosion.
“Reduction in tillage; use of cover crops; timing and application of manure; the source of manure. Has it been processed? Has it been separated? Has it been digested? All of those things will be evaluated after they're applied to soil.”
Some farmers in the United States are trying to reduce how much energy they use and convert waste to energy with manure digestors. Vilsack recently extended a memorandum of understanding with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The long term goal of that agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.