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Fertilizer's Role in Climate Change

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In a new study reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists from the University of California-Berkley have found that fertilizer use is responsible for a huge increase in potent green house gases. From UC Berkley’s News Center:

University of California, Berkeley, chemists have found a smoking gun proving that increased fertilizer use over the past 50 years is responsible for a dramatic rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide, which is a major greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.

“We are not vilifying fertilizer. We can’t just stop using fertilizer,” she added. “But we hope this study will contribute to changes in fertilizer use and agricultural practices that will help to mitigate the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.”

Since American farmers bear the brunt of climate change as weather worsens, you would think it would be in their own best interest to look for alternative methods of cultivation. It’s worth noting that much of the increase in fertilizer use in the past decade has been fueled by the corn ethanol boom. Corn ethanol’s generous federal support has been predicated partly on the fuel’s dubious environmental benefits.

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Table Scraps

-          The Healthy Waters Coalition that includes municipal water and wastewater utilities is asking that the next farm bill focus on strengthening the link between agricultural land and water quality.  The group notes that more than half the nation’s rivers, streams, and lakes and nearly 60 percent of bays and estuaries are impaired because of excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus; of the majority of these waters, nutrient run-off from agricultural lands is the dominant source.

-          The Sioux City Journal’s Dave Dreeszen has the scoop on how the PR firm Ketchum for Beef Products Inc. was caught in a conflict over representing the manufacturer of the lean finely textured beef  now vilified as pink slime. Ketchum is also the firm that spearheads the $30 million dollar US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance PR effort, which was formed in part to inoculate industrial agriculture against consumer product revolts. Progressive Farmer editor Chris Clayton looks at LFTB and the curious timing of a USFRA release highlighting their accomplishments.

-          Farm subsidies continue to be a topline issue in a California congressional race.

-          The Virginia farm bureau uses the discredited notion of farm subsidies as a national defense issue.

Tweet of the day:

@FarmAid Speaking of delicious eggs, an article about some produced by Ben Young, son of our co-founder Neil Young: http://t.co/EtnDCkOh

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