Prepping the American farm for climate change

No Water at the Well...

Photo by MyEyeSees via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Researcher Gary Paul Nabhan had an op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday with some important suggestions for how we ought to be preparing —from the perspective of agricultural policy—to withstand the effects of a warming climate. It’s a great piece, and has me intrigued about his new book, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons From Desert Farmers in Adapting to Climate Uncertainty. For example, he writes in his essay that

Fortunately, there are dozens of time-tested strategies that our best farmers and ranchers have begun to use. The problem is that several agribusiness advocacy organizations have done their best to block any federal effort to promote them, including leaving them out of the current farm bill, or of climate change legislation at all.

One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields. By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.

And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distributed to nearby farms.

Find the full piece here.

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