Missouri Forage and Grassland Council 2018: Ground Zero, How Grazing Will Save The World in the Year 2050

Dean Houghton

Anyone who wants to protect soil, air and water is at ground zero. Houghton has been an observer of agriculture. He bought a 35mm camera and enrolled in journalism at the University of Missouri. He is also a farmer in Polo, Missouri. His wife loves baldie cattle and he raises sheep. When they first got married, Dean left the cattle alone and his wife left the sheep alone. But, they eventually realized it worked better if they managed the cattle and sheep together.

They never leave anything uncovered using strip grazing, cover crops, and no-till.

We need to recognize the benefits of cattle and livestock production including carbon sinks, soil health, and wildlife habitat. We can't sustain metropolitan areas without agriculture land.

The year 1950 is the Great Acceleration point for the use of resources. We are now in the Anthropocene, which is defined as the earth's most recent geologic time frame. This is defined by human activity influencing geological phenomenon.

We are no longer an agrarian society. Now, 80% of Americans live in urban areas. The urban area has quadrupled since 1945.

The tallgrass prairie once covered 240 million acres, but less than 1% of it remains today.

We are losing the coastal Redwoods. These Redwoods create their own micro-climate by turning coastal fog into rain. The Redwoods can also absorb rain through their leaves.

Jay Fuhrer doesn't call it the Great Acceleration, he calls it the Great Extraction. Most of what we extracted (coal, wood, soil) was carbon based.

Rain patterns in the corn belt are changing. We have fewer moderate rains and more heavy rain storms or periods of no rain.

Gene Takle at Iowa State University states that the frequency of big rains has increased since Grandpa ran the farm.

And, you are not breathing the same air as Grandpa. There is much more carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide is a fertilizer for plants. However, plants grown with more carbon dioxide are not as nutrient dense. They have less iron, zinc, and protein.

Wildfires are another example of knowing things are changing.

Algae blooms are another example of seeing changes. "When you see the mistakes we are making in agriculture, and you can see it from a satellite, you know you are making big mistakes," Houghton says.

In Iowa bird species diversity is down 74%.

That is the bad news. The good news is we can do something about it. Every gram of carbon returned to soil stores 8 grams extra water. Every gram of carbon returned to soil boosts microbial ecology--brings 10 billion new "workers". Farms could biosequester 20 billion tons of carbon annually back into the world's soils.

There are 654 Million acres of pasture and range. This is a big chunk of the land in the United States.

Montana State University study shows a large area of Dakotas and Canada are bucking the global warming trend. Keeping land covered with a living crop rather than tilled and left fallow results in lower summertime temperature and higher precipitation.

You can harvest carbon out of the air. John Wick, through the Marin Carbon Project, has shown that not only do we get carbon into plants, we can also get it into the soil. The increased carbon in the soil increases the productivity of the soil. This carbon farming produces plants used by human (food, fiber, fuel), and also improves the productivity of the soil. People are buying into this process.

Loren Alfonso Poncia at Stemple Creek Ranch has created a carbon farm plan for his ranch.
Carbon taxes pay for carbon sequestration grants. Joe Pozzi uses the positive benefits of the carbon sequestration to better market his meat to the citizens of California.

Mark Schleisman in Calhoun County, Iowa is part of a demonstration project for water conservation. They have focused on cover crops. This has helped with their cattle operation along with their crops. Schleisman says they can be profitable and a conservationist at the same time.

CRISPR is a word processor that scientist can use for gene editing. CRISPR products will be hear by 2025 and commonplace by 2050. In maize (corn) they have identified corn that can sequester its own nitrogen.

"We need to put C, carbon, first in the changes we need to make," Houghton said.

Abe Lincoln said, "Our farmers can feed the world..." Lincoln wanted to plow up the prairies to export crops to bring in currency to the United States. However, this view has not changed in the farm bills since his time.

Dean's Dream is to allow market forces to reduce, if necessary, commodity row crop production. Allow market forces to increase amount of land producing nutrient-rich, carbon-positive, food, feed, fuel and fiber products. Direct payments should be tied to ecosystem practices.
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