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AFSIC Sustainable Agriculture News Feed

Last updated on  February 4th, 2014

Online Courses about Organic Farming by eOrganic: Click here

Open Source Seed Initiative Releases 29 New Crop Varieties: Click here
On April 17, the Via Campesina global day of action, the Open Source Seed Initiative held a launch event in Madison, Wisconsin, where activists and scientists announced the release of 29 new varieties of crop seed, reports National Public Radio. Plant br…

Locavore Index Ranks States' Commitment to Local Food: Click here
Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group, has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. The 2014 Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current data is availab…

New Jersey Program Recognizes Farm to School Participants: Click here
New Jersey Department of Agriculture has instituted a program to recognize schools and farmers who work together to ensure students have access to healthy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias. Applications for the 2014-2015 Jerse…

Cost Analysis: Are You Making Money?: Click here

Marketing Course Offered Free, Online for Farmers: Click here
The Farmers Market Federation of New York and the NY Farm Viability Institute are cosponsoring Marketing for Profit: Tools for Success, an free, online course in marketing aimed at farmers. This program is funded by USDA SARE's NE Professional Developmen…

USDA Announces Specialty Crop Block Grant Funding for States: Click here
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that approximately $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants will be available to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers through research, programs t…

Biological Controls Fight Weeds in New Zealand: Click here
The Horizons Regional Council reported that landowners in New Zealand have been successfully combating ragwort (Senecio jacobaeae) in pastures with three insect bio-control agents, according to Entomology Today. Instead of using pesticides, landowners in…

Resources from CenUSA - Sustainable Production and Distribution of Bioenergy for the Central USA: Click here

Resources from CenUSA - Sustainable Production and Distribution of Bioenergy for the Central USA: Click here

Research Summary: Near-Infrared (NIR) Analysis Provides Efficient Evaluation of Biomass Samples: Click here

Report Explores Fire Blight Control in Organic Fruit: Click here
The Organic Center is making a new Critical Issue Report available online. Fire Blight Control Program in Organic Fruit offers grower lessons and emerging research for developing an integrated non-antibiotic fire blight control program in organic fruit.…

FarmLogs Release Free Online Soil Maps: Click here
AgriView reports that FarmLogs, an agricultural tech startup that helps farmers leverage data to increase profitability, has released free online soil maps for every field in the United States. The color-coded soil maps overlay soil texture zones on sate…

BirdReturns Program Paying Farmers for Bird Habitat: Click here
In California's Central Valley, the BirdReturns program is linking conservationists, bird watchers, and farmers in an effort to provide critical habitat on agricultural land for migrating birds, reports The New York Times. The program utilizes data from…

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform Develops Farmer Self Assessment: Click here
The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative platform has released a Farmer Self Assessment tool designed for farmers to assess their sustainable agriculture practices in a way that is universally recognised by the food and drink industry, reports ClickGreen.…

Webinar: Lessons Learned from a Reduced-Tillage Organic Cropping Systems Project: Click here

Webinar: Lessons Learned from a Reduced-Tillage Organic Cropping Systems Project: Click here

Free Apps for Agriculture Featured: Click here
The Ag Marketing Resource Center has compiled an online list of efficient agriculture applications, 'apps,' that are available for free for smartphones. Many of these apps combine general information tools, like current news, weather forecasts, or financ…

Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from Agriculture Rising, Warns UNFAO: Click here
Agriculture greenhouse emissions have nearly doubled over the past 50 years and may increase by another 30% by 2050, according to new estimates from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The largest source of emissions within agriculture is en…

NMPAN Webinars: Click here

NMPAN Webinars: Click here

USDA Economic Research Service Updates Organic Agriculture Information: Click here
Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth for well over a decade, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products, says USDA Economic Research Service (ERS). ERS has posted a section on Org…

Leopold Center Awards Research and Demonstration Grants: Click here
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has awarded grants to 24 innovative research and demonstration projects that will help Iowa farmers improve soil health, take advantage of opportunities related to local foods, and fine-tune alternative prac…

Extension Helps Promote Agritourism in Florida: Click here
Related ATTRA Publication:Entertainment Farming and Agri-TourismPolk County Cooperative Extension Service in Florida has taken the lead in coordinating agritourism activities on small farms in the county, reports The Ledger. Extension is taking the lead…

How can I treat frothy bloat in my cow?: Click here

Answer: Frothy bloat refers to a condition when a ruminant consumes forages that produce a frothy gas in the rumen and the animal cannot pass the gas. The rumen gets so full of gas that it eventually presses against the heart or lungs and the animal expires. Legumes such as alfalfa and clovers can cause bloat. In Montana, for example, alfalfa hay from first and second cuttings will generally not bloat cows, but alfalfa hay from third cutting can. Clovers and alfalfa in pastures can also bloat cows. Birdsfoot Trefoil and Sanfoin are legumes containing tannins that do not let the frothy gases form, hence no bloat.

Whenever you look at a cow, always critically evaluate five areas: eyes, ears, rumen, udder, and manure. After a while, this will become second nature to you. The rumen "triangle," or paralumbar fossa (see for a useful graphic) should be not be expanded; if it is, the animal is going to bloat or already bloating. The following link shows what a cow looks like when she is bloating:

The paralumbar fossa is also known as the "death triangle." Besides checking for bloat, it is an easy way to check if a cow's feed intake is normal. If you see a severely "dished in" triangle, the cow’s feed is incorrect—either you are under-feeding her or she is off her feed for some reason.

To treat bloat, use Therabloat from your vet. It comes in a two-ounce vial. Pour the vial into a 16-ounce soda bottle, add about 10 ounces of water, and drench the cow with it. If you have not drenched a cow before, it is probably best to call your veterinarian for assistance, as it is possible to get the fluid into her lungs by mistake. It does not hurt to keep the cow walking for 30 minutes. About 10 minutes after administering the drench, the cow will start to belch. Generally, in one hour, the bloat is relieved. This treatment must be administered before the cow is down. When she is in a prostrate position, your chances of saving her are reduced. It is not a bad idea to have vial or two of Therabloat on hand at all times.

Inserting a needle, knife, or trocar into the rumen via the paralumbar fossa is not recommended to treat bloat. While effective in relieving the bloat condition, this procedure also almost always causes peritonitis, which is an intense systemic infection that is often untreatable. Peritonitis will kill the cow in about three to five days.

To prevent bloat, you can feed a bloat block that the cow can lick on. It is a molasses base, so intake is generally assured. The key to prevention is also to always keep feed in front of the cow—keep her full.

For more information on ruminant nutrition, see the ATTRA publication Ruminant Nutrition for Graziers at .

HACCP in an Hour: Click here

Bioenergy Resources from the Sun Grant Initiative: Click here

Webinars by eOrganic: Click here

Poplar (Populus spp.) Trees for Biofuel Production: Click here

Soil Nematodes in Organic Farming Systems: Click here

Feedstocks for Biofuel Production - Table of Contents: Click here

Land Link Programs in the Northeast: Click here

This report summarizes the results of data collected by Pennsylvania State University researchers on 21 land link programs in the Northeast and provides recommendations to existing and new programs. Land link programs connect farmland seekers to farmland owners, and/or connect participants to services that support land access and use decisions.

Finding a Fit for Native Pollinators in North Florida Sustainable Farm Management: Click here

University of Florida ecologists are studying how natural landscapes and on-farm vegetation contribute to native bee populations.

Cover Crop Management and Termination: Click here

The spring can be a challenging time for farmers busy to get into the field and start planting. Killing a cover crop is not business as usual. Planning for proper spring management of your cover crop needs to happen before April. Learn from two experts in the field on a couple different methods for termination.

Watch the webinar now.

Panelists include Illinois consultant Mike Plumer and Iowa farmer Steve Berger. The webinar was recorded on March 27, 2014.

This webinar series was produced by the American Society of Agronomy and was co-sponsored by SARE.

Cover Crops Seed Selection and Planting: Click here

Knowing which cover crops to pick for your farm's goals can be daunting. So many options exist that it is sometimes hard to know what to pick and then how to plant it. Whether you are new to cover crops or an advanced user, hear from two experts in the field on how they best chose and seed their cover crops.

Watch the webinar now.

Panelists include Ohio State University Extension's Jim Hoorman and Keith Berns of Green Cover Seed. The webinar was recorded on March 20, 2014.

This webinar series was produced by the American Society of Agronomy and was co-sponsored by SARE.

Combining Livestock, Manure and Cover Crops: Click here

A livestock and cover crop combination is the fastest way to profit from your investment. Cover crops not only provide feed for livestock, they also hold and scavenge precious nutrients to reduce potential offsite pollution.

Watch the webinar now.

Panelists include Michigan State University's Tim Harrigan and Minnesota farmer Kent Solberg. The webinar was recorded on March 13, 2014.

This webinar series was produced by the American Society of Agronomy and was co-sponsored by SARE.

What are some options to organically deworm my cow and her calf?: Click here

Answer: There are several things you can do to reduce the need for deworming. Providing your cows with excellent nutrition, practicing rotational grazing, and breeding for parasite resistance can reduce your dependence on deworming medications. All animals will face some parasite burden. Your goal should be to deworm only animals that actually need treatment— that is, animals that are showing signs of parasitism.

There are several natural compounds that have been used to organically treat cattle, including garlic, tannin containing plants like Sericea lespedeza, copper boluses, chicory, and wormwood.

If you are certified organic, then you must check with your certifier before treating your animals. You must ensure you are treating with an approved substance. You should also check with your local veterinarian. He or she can perform a fecal egg count on your animals, letting you know the parasite load and what types of parasites your animals have. You may find out that your animals aren't actually in need of treatment.

If your cow is on pasture, incorporating a three-pronged approach into your grazing strategy will reduce worm infestation.

A common cattle parasite, the Brown Stomach Worm (Ostertagia ostertagi), will locate two to three inches up the grass stem within six days of exiting the manure pat. Dividing your pastures into paddocks and exiting the paddocks with a five- to six-inch residual height of grass will greatly reduce the ingestion of infective larvae. Additionally, moving cattle to a new paddock at least every five days significantly decreases the chance of infection. Furthermore, instituting a pasture rest of greater than 35 days will decrease the survival of the infective larvae. To accomplish this, you will need to divide your pasture into at least eight five-day paddocks. In areas of rainfall pasture, more paddocks will have to be added during the drier parts of the summer when the grass growth is slower in order to maintain your 35-day pasture rest.

In contrast, continuous grazing ignores all three of these management controls. Consequently, cattle are subjected to the parasite levels that can easily overcome the animals' ability to resist infection.

For more information on parasite control, see the following ATTRA publications:

Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats

Irrigated Pastures: Setting up an Intensive Grazing System That Works

Integrated Parasite Management for Livestock

Cover Crops, Soil Health Principles and Maximizing Yields: Click here

Improving soil health not only cleans up water quality and reduces soil loss but also provides a better environment for cash crops to succeed. Learn about basic soil health principles and how cover crops are key to making those happen on your farm.

Watch the webinar now.

Panelists include USDA Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Kristine Nichols and Indiana farmer Ray McCormick. The webinar was recorded on March 6, 2014.

This webinar series was produced by the American Society of Agronomy and was co-sponsored by SARE.

Oilseed Crops for Biodiesel Production: Click here

A Guide for Hawai’i’s Farmers: Click here

This guide was developed to assist new farmers in tropical small-island settings by providing a distillation of expert information on sustainable agriculture principles, agroecology, crop production, animal production, agroforestry and marketing.

William F. Lazarus: Click here

Bill Hubbard: Click here

Ben Jackson - University of Georgia: Click here

Curt Gooch: Click here

Cary Weiner, Colorado State University Extension: Click here

How much energy does wood contain as a greenhouse fuel?: Click here

eOrganic Webinar and Broadcast Recordings by Topic: Click here

What can you tell me about flame weeding as a method of weed control in organic crops?: Click here

Answer: Flame weeding is a non-chemical weed-control technique common among organic farmers. Flame weeding, also referred to as flame cultivation, often uses propane gas burners to produce a carefully controlled flame that briefly passes over weeds. The intense heat blanches the leaves, causing a disruption within the plant’s cell walls. Flamed weeds usually wilt and die anywhere from within a few minutes to a few days after flaming. One quick way to check to see if the plant foliage has been adequately flamed is to see if a thumb print is retained on the leaf when pressed between your thumb and finger.

Weeds are most susceptible to flaming when they are one- to two-inch-tall seedlings. Broadleaf weeds are more susceptible to flaming than grasses as grasses develop a protective sheath by the time they are approximately one inch tall. Therefore, grasses may require a second flaming. Repeated flaming can also be used to suppress perennial weeds such as field bindweed. Flame weeding is commonly used in the stale seedbed method, which involves allowing weeds to grow in order to be killed by the flame (or other method). This method is usually repeated prior to planting a cash crop as another flaming may be used after planting and before germination of the cash crop.

Flaming on dry, sunny days is recommended as any moisture can give the plants some resistance to the heat. For larger areas, working in sections can help establish effective fire breaks, particularly when flaming dried material, such as stubble, as it can ignite. Green plants usually do not ignite when treated with a flame.

Most flame weeders are designed to not radiate large amounts of heat. Their purpose is to sear the leaves of plants (weeds) in order to change the protein structure of the plants. As a result, stress kills the weeds, not the torching of them. Due to the design and purpose of flame weeders, there is no soil disturbance and generally not enough heat is produced to penetrate the soil and effect soil life. As stated above, timing is everything.

There are several different designs commercially available for tractor-mounted flame weeders. Some flame weeders burn propane in the gas state, while others burn gas in the liquid state. It is important to note that tractor-mounted tanks should be rated for “motor fuel” as they will be mobile and not stationary. Another design difference is whether the gas flows directly from the tank to the burners, or is distributed through a manifold first. In addition, the burners may be fixed or adjustable, with the latter offering the ability to adjust the position of the flame. Having individual shut-off valves for each burner provides flexibility in using a flame weeder so that the flames can be directed or broadcast over an area. Flame weeders are available with different BTU (British Thermal Unit) ratings.

In addition to weed-control benefits, flame weeders can also be utilized for other applications. According to some resources, potato plants up to eight inches tall can be flamed to kill Colorado Potato Beetles, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, without causing undue damage to the potato plants. Flamers can also be used to incinerate fallen fruit and mulch.

For more information on flame weeding, see ATTRA publication Flame Weeding For Vegetable Crops, available at

Castor Bean for Biofuel Production: Click here

A Look at the Newly Released Organic Pasture Rule Webinar: Click here

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