Jan-Feb 1997 CSAS Newsletter

                     January-February 1997 CSAS Newsletter

The Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (CSAS) in the 
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is an interdisciplinary
center formed in 1991 for the purpose of bringing together people
and resources to promote an agriculture that is efficient,
competitive, profitable, environmentally and socially sustainable
for the indefinite future. Electronic versions of the CSAS
bimonthly newsletter are sent to SANET and PENPages
10-14 days before those on our mailing list
receive their hard copy. They are also available along with other
sustainable ag information on our new World Wide Web page:

Note: The electronic version is not sent to individual e-mail
addresses. To be added to the "hard copy" newsletter mailing list
(not sent to overseas addresses), or for questions or comments,
contact the newsletter editor, Pam Murray, Coordinator, Center
for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, PO Box 830949, University
of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0949, 402-472-2056, fax -4104,
e-mail: csas001@unlvm.unl.edu.
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FIRST in a four-part series: Classifying Producers/Production Systems

[With primary funding from an Agriculture in Concert with the Environment
(ACE) grant, a team of UNL researchers conducted one of six regional studies
that will be aggregated to assess the national impact of moving toward a
more sustainable agriculture. The goal of the Nebraska project was to study
existing whole-farm system groups along a continuum from "conventional" to
"alternative" and compare the economic, environmental, and sociological
performance/characteristics of each group. Team members of the 1993-1996
study were Glenn Helmers, Kevin Bernhardt, John Allen, Alice Jones, and
William Powers. For more information, contact Pam Murray in the CSAS office.]

Cluster Analysis

A classification method was needed to identify farm systems originating from
surveys for rigorous comparison research. The method used was cluster
analysis. The method proved to be successful with 59 crop production
practice variables being cluster analyzed into five groups. The groups
ranged from a virtually all irrigated monocrop corn system to one that is
near organic.

This classification method statistically and without a priori knowledge 1)
classifies  farms into homogeneous subgroups based on similarity of their
production systems, 2) develops subgroups along a continuum from
"conventional" to "alternative," 3) conducts the classification such that
results would be suitable for statistical analysis, and 4) results in an
unbiased mathematical classification of the data. What follows are the
results of the cluster subgroups:

Irrigated-Monocroppers:  This group has the highest feedgrain base, and are
highly dependent on chemical means of weed and insect control. They also
depend largely on synthetic sources of nitrogen fertility, especially
anhydrous ammonia, and virtually no nitrogen from organic sources. Ridge or
conventional tillage is the most common tillage system. This group also used
crop consultants and soil testing more than any other group, has one of the
higher education levels, and has the most conventional score on the
Alternative-Conventional Agricultural Paradigm (ACAP) scale.

Young-Business-Technocrats:  This group is the youngest, and tends to be
more aggressive in employing new technologies for both business and
production aspects of their operations as evidenced, in part, by their much
larger use of computers and no-till tillage systems. Common rotations for
this group are corn-corn-soybeans on irrigated acres and corn-soybeans on
dryland. They monitor nitrogen application more than other groups and are
second for soil testing and crop scouting. They have the largest average
farm size, but own less percent of their farm compared to the other groups.
This group is also one of the more educated groups and tends to use off-farm
sources of information more than any other group.

Integrated:  The integrated group employs a spectrum of practices. They use
synthetic fertilizers and chemical means of pest control, but they are also
among the highest users of natural nitrogen sources and organic means of
pest control. Whereas the young-business-technocrats are early adopters of
mechanical type technologics, the integrated group is more likely to adopt
on-farm or method type technologies such as strip cropping, parasitic means
of pest control, and double, inter, or relay cropping. They generally employ
conventional tillage, but are much more experimental with alternative
cropping patterns and rotations. They receive almost half of their income
from livestock, and their paradigmatic view of the world tends to be more
toward the alternative point of view. Finally, they and the near organic
group are the only groups to have some affiliation with the Nebraska
Sustainable Agriculture Society.

Urban-Fringe (Traditional):  The urban-fringe group is the hardest to label.
This group seldom was characterized as being the highest or lowest user of
any practice with the exception that their percent of income coming from the
farm was 15-20% lower than any of the other groups. They tended to be fairly
conventional with respect to nitrogen and chemical use, but were further
towards the alternative side of the ACAP scale than either the
irrigated-monocroppers or the young business technocrats. They also tend to
use alfalfa in their crop rotations, which is more in keeping with the
integrated and near-organic groups. Another interesting characteristic of
this group, and the source of their name, is that they tend to be located
around major metropolitan areas, which may explain the higher level of
household income coming from off the farm and smaller farm size.

Alternative-Conventional Agricultural Paradigm (ACAP) Scale

A statewide study of Nebraska agricultural producers was used to test
whether a relationship exists between producers' world view/paradigm and the
actual production systems they employ. Assessing the linkage for areas of
attitudinal commonality or divergence can contribute to a better
understanding of the nature and sources of conflict between conventional and
alternative agriculturalists.

The ACAP scale was developed by Curtis Beus and Riley Dunlap to determine
how adherents of the (two) camps see the agricultural world and, in the
process, shed light on the roots of agricultural policy debates. Their
purpose was to develop a tool for determining the degree of divergence
between alternative and conventional agriculturalists, for identifying the
elements of the debate over which there is the greatest (and least)
divergence, and for examining the degree to which each camp holds consistent
positions across these elements.

Study results indicate that, overall, a relationship does exist. Further,
conventional vs. alternative paradigmatic views generally correlate with the
appropriate conventional vs. alternative production system. Not
surprisingly, divergence of opinion was greatest with respect to how food
and fiber should be produced. For example, the question with the most
divergence between the conventional and alternative groups was that farmers
should use natural fertilizers and production methods versus using synthetic
fertilizers an pesticides.

Perhaps more interesting for policy development than where divergence
occurred is where there was commonality. Farm operators in today's social
climate are often stereotyped. Conventional producers are purported to be
anti-environment and anti-community while alternative producers are radicals
that advocate a complete restructuring of agriculture. However, results do
not support either view. In fact, no matter what camp they adhere to,
producers appear to share similar long-term goals for agriculture. All
producers scored conventionally with the views that farming should be
handled as a business with the aim of earning an above average standard of
living, that U.S. agriculture is the most successful in the world, and that
modern agriculture is a minor cause of ecological problems. All groups
scored on the alternative paradigm side of the scale with respect to
farmland being farmed so as to protect the long-term productive capacity of
the land even if this means lower profits, that farm traditions and culture
are essential for good farming, and that healthy rural communities are
essential for modern agriculture's future success.

Editor's Note: The second article in this series will address the economic
aspects of the study.


Farmers and ranchers interested in exploring new possibilities for higher
profits, environmental stewardship, or community  development have the
opportunity to do so with funds for research and  education projects from
the USDA's North Central Region (NCR) Sustainable  Agriculture Research and
Education (SARE) Producer Grant Program.

Over 160 producer grants have been  awarded in the NCR since the inception
of this competitive grant program five years ago. This year, $200,000 is
available  up to $5,000 to individual producers investigating any
sustainable practice or concept and up to $10,000 to  groups of producers
proposing creative marketing projects.

Producers must reside in the 12-state region: IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO,
NE, ND, OH, SD, WI. Applications are  due May 1, 1997. Funds will be
available in mid-fall for the 1998 crop production season. Call the North
Central Region Office 402-274-7081, or e-mail sare001@unlvm.unl.edu for an


Margaret Mellon, editor of the newsletter The Gene Exchange, attended an
October 1996 conference on biotechnology. Monsanto's new product, Roundup
Ready (RR) soybeans, dominated discussions. The following is excerpted from
her column.
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The scientists in the room agreed that the RR soybeans will work to control
weeds and perhaps lower costs in conventional systems  for the short term.
But they also pointed out that sooner or later weeds will begin to develop
resistance to Roundup and more applications of the herbicide will be
required. Increasing use of Roundup, of course, will likely increase the
rate of herbicide resistance development and pretty soon, farmers will again
have lots of weeds and even fewer weed control options.

At that point, according to the scientists, farmers will have to turn to
crop rotation, innovative cultivation techniques, intercropping, and other
methods for weed control. These methods are harder to adopt than a new
variety of soybean, but once adopted, work reliably and safely over the long

From my perspective as a consumer and environmentalist, I could not help but
wonder why we are waiting.... We should have started down the road of making
it possible for farmers to permanently reduce the use of toxic chemicals
years ago. Instead it looks like we may need to wait for the failure of yet
another silver bullet.
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Source: The Gene Exchange, December 1996


Ecological Agriculture Projects (EAP) at McGill University in Canada is
launching a unique new sustainable agriculture information retrieval
service. It is a membership-based organization, providing a full range of
information services.

EAP is home to one of the world's largest collections of materials on
sustainable agriculture. Founded in 1974 by Dr. Stuart Hill, the EAP
collection consists of nearly 100,000 articles, more than 2,000 books and
hundreds of journals and newsletters. It has been used regularly by farmers,
gardeners, researchers, extension agents,  business people and consumers to
further their knowledge of ecological and alternative farming practices. The
collection is going on-line in spring 1997. Promotional material says it
will be the most sophisticated ecological agricultural site on the Internet,
and will include a mix of full texts and excerpts from key documents
selected from its collection, back issues of important farm magazines and
newsletters, all of EAP's writings, and the syntheses and fact sheets
prepared for its Agro-Bio and Eco-Info services. In addition, it will be
hosting on-line conferences. At the same time, it will launch another new
service, providing members with commentary on  sustainable agriculture news
and events. Part of the site will be freely accessible to all Web browsers.
For more information, including membership costs, see


A bell pepper evaluation was conducted on the Integrated Farm at the UNL
Agricultural Research & Development Center in Ithaca, Nebraska during the
summer of 1996. Our objectives were to determine if cultivars responded
differently to production under wind-protected culture than to production
under more open conditions, and to identify cultivars that show promise for
high yields of marketable fruit of excellent size and quality.

A key quality factor in bell peppers is wall thickness, which is reflected
in the average weight per fruit. Genetics, cultural practices, and
temperature affect wall thickness. This past summer was atypically cool for
Nebraska and contributed to the excellent quality in the peppers, since high
temperatures contribute to thinner walls.

On each harvest, we picked from an average of 3.3 plants/sq. ft. in the
sheltered plot but only 1.3 plants/sq. ft. in the exposed plot even though
the stand counts were identical. A significant factor in the reduced yields
from exposed plot vs. sheltered plot was the much more severe development of
bacterial leaf spot in the wind exposed plants. Wind abrasion provides entry
points for this devastating disease. The genetic leaf spot resistance in
cultivars such as 3XRCamelot held up in our situation. Weekly copper sprays
held the disease in check in the sheltered plots and infestation was much
less severe. 

Continuous data recorders monitored environmental conditions in the plots.
Unfortunately, several weeks of wind data were lost due to malfunctioning.
We normally obtain roughly 47% reduction in wind speed in the zone 1-2X the
height of the windbreak, which was the location of the pepper plot. There
were very high winds during the first week of July, 3 weeks from
transplanting. From transplanting through the fifth harvest, the seasonal
accumulated air temperature was 43% higher in the sheltered area. In our
heavy clay soil, the soil heat unit accumulation, measured 3 inches deep,
was 61% higher in the sheltered areas.

Wind significantly reduced plant height, the number of flower buds
initiated, and the number of open flowers and fruit set. Fruit set four
weeks after transplanting indicated significantly higher numbers of
reproductive structures on plants in the sheltered plot. This early
advantage carried through to the seasonal harvest. Five weekly harvests were
made between July 31 and August 30. There was 63% more early (harvest 1+2)
peppers and 358% more total marketable peppers in the sheltered plots
compared with the exposed plots. No cultivar showed a unique response to
shelter (non-significant interaction of treatment and cultivar), thus the
primary differences in yield were due to shelter and cultivar acting
independently on yield. Cultivars that produced good early yields were Vidi,
King Arthur, Gator Bell, Renegade and North Star. Vidi is a very elongate
bell pepper; Gator Bell, Renegade, and King Arthur are somewhat elongate;
and North Star is a square blocky bell. The average weight per marketable
fruit is indicative of both size and wall thickness. Individual fruit size
is also a function of how much total fruit is on the plant. There were
significantly more culls due to fruit shape from the sheltered plants,
mostly because the fruit became crowded on the plant. When sheltered,
Keystone Resistant Giant #3 produced the heaviest average fruit weight (8.2
ounces) and when exposed, Gator Bell averaged 8.4 ounces for the heaviest
fruit. On average, cultivars producing fruit averaging at least 7.5 ounces
include Camelot and X3RCamelot, Galaxy, Elisa, KRG#3, Clovis and Gator Bell.
The average bell pepper fruit from the sheltered plot was 30% heavier than
from the exposed plot. Overall, there were more culls from the sheltered
plots because there was more fruit! Significant increases in culls in
sheltered production were due to shape, insect damage (mostly grasshopper),
and hail damage which occurred between the first and second harvest.

In summary, weather conditions, cultural practices, and harvest timing all
affect marketable yields. Our yields, while approximately the U.S. average,
were not competitive with major production areas. The higher yielding
cultivars, when grown under sheltered conditions, come the closest to the
desired 20,000 lb/acre marketable yield. The use of black plastic mulch and
higher fertilization rates if combined with drip irrigation and sheltered
production may improve yields. We anticipate repeating this study in 1998
using fewer cultivars and larger plots.  
Submitted by Laurie Hodges

Editor's Note: For more detailed information on this study, contact Laurie
Hodges, 402-472-1639, hort034@unlvm.unl.edu.


"Sustainability is a direction rather than a destination, like a star that
guides the ships at sea but remains forever beyond the horizon. However,
sustainability can still be an important guiding principle."  

John Ikerd, University of Missouri, used this metaphor to begin his keynote
address at the Southern Region Professional Development Program (PDP)
meeting in Gainesville, Florida, January 15-16. Ikerd described the many
dimensions of sustainable agriculture and strategies for management. He
asserted that the texts for understanding and teaching the fundamentals of
sustainable agriculture already have been written by people outside the
production mainstream.

Several directions emerged in group discussions about the future of PDP in
the South:
- Expand networking among Extension, commodity organizations, nonprofits,
and others 
- Improve access to information on sustainable agriculture education
- Broaden the base of stakeholders
- Gather and publish success stories to increase credibility

The next morning a diverse group spoke on their perspectives of PDP.
Michael Sligh, with Rural Advancement Foundation International, challenged
the audience to think of future issues when designing the call for
proposals. Clack Garland, University of Tennessee, and Steve Isaacs,
University of Kentucky, recounted the trials and successes of forming a
two-state team to  develop a sustainable dairy systems manual. Tom Trantham,
a dairy farmer from South Carolina, praised Extension for its past help, but
said the organization needed to commit more time and effort to sustainable
agriculture education. A proceedings of the meeting will be available from
ATTRA, 800-346-9140.
Submitted by Heidi Carter


In a study published in the September, 1996 issue of the journal
Epidemiology, scientists from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in
Omaha and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore assessed the average amount
of nitrate consumed daily in tap water by Nebraska residents diagnosed with
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the lymphatic system, and by a
control group of persons without the disease who lived in the same area.
Both groups used public water supplies. The study concluded that persons
with NHL were twice as likely to be in the group that consumed the highest
levels of nitrate from their drinking water as those without the cancer.

One advantage of the new study is that the researchers calculated nitrate
consumption levels for each person rather than simply comparing cancer rates
in large populations with differing nitrate levels in their water supplies.

"This is one of the first epidemiologic studies to suggest a link between
drinking-water nitrate and risk," said Mary H. Ward, Ph.D., the study's lead
author. However, it is uncertain whether the findings truly reflect the
effect of nitrate, she added. An alternate possibility is that nitrate
exposure is simply a surrogate or "marker" variable that is correlated with
another NHL risk factor that was not directly measured in the study.

Since 1973, incidence of NHL in the U.S. has increased about 75%  one of
the largest increases among major cancer sites.

The article from which this excerpt was taken was provided by the Cancer
Information Service, which provides a nationwide telephone service for
cancer patients and their families, the public, and health care
professionals. The toll-free number is 1-800-4-CANCER.

Primary Source: M.H. Ward et al. Drinking Water, Nitrate and the Risk of
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Epidemiology, September 1996.
Secondary Source: Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Newsletter,
Winter 1997.


Sustainable Practices for Vegetable Production in the South. $28.95 + $4.50
s&h. Covers both the concepts of sustainable agriculture and specific
technical information on how to implement these concepts in the southern
U.S. Focus c/o PBS, PO Box 390, Jaffrey, NH 03452, 1-800-848-7236,
pullins@seacoast.com, http://www2.ncsu.edu/sustainable/

Biological Control Web Page. Center for Integrated Pest Management and
Consortium for International Crop Protection. Provides links to biological
control organizations, databases and other web sites with information about
biological control.

Direct Marketing Resource Notebook. $20 (+ 5% for Nebraska residents).
Produced by the
Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Available from Nebraska
Sustainable Agriculture Society, PO Box 736, Hartington, NE 68739,

Alternative Farming Systems  Economic Aspects, March 1993-June 1996. Free.
Bibliography. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, National
Agricultural Library, 10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 304, Beltsville, MD
20705-2351, 301-504-6559, afsic@nal.usda.gov, http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic

New Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture. $14.95 + $3.50 s&h. World
Resources Institute Publications, PO Box 4852, Hampden Station, Baltimore,
MD 21211, 1-800-822-0504, ChrisD@wri.org.

Integrated Animal Waste Management. $20 + $3 s&h. Council for Agricultural
Science and Technology, 4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014,
1-800-375-CAST, cast@cast-science.org.

Proceedings: Fourth North American Agroforestry Conference. $35 + $5 ($10
non-U.S.) s&h.  Sections of the proceedings from the July 1995 conference in
Boise, ID include: Agroforestry Potential, Biology of Temperate Agroforestry
Systems, Economics of Agroforestry of North America, Evolving Systems for
Varying Temperate Conditions, Riparian Buffer Strips, Silvopastoral Systems
in Temperate Zones, Temperate Zone Alleycropping and Intercropping, and
Windbreaks and Shelterbelts. Conference Proceedings, Attn. John Ehrenreich,
College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences, U. of Idaho, Moscow, ID
83844-1135, 208-885-7600, johne@uidaho.edu.

Social Capital and Sustainability: the Community and Managing Change in
Agriculture (22 min. video). $20. Demonstrates how social capital and
community are critical for managing change in 
agriculture, as well as how sustainable agriculture contributes to vital
rural communities.  Extension Distribution Center, Iowa State U., 119
Printing and Publications Building, Ames,
 IA 50011-3171, 515-294-5247, pubdist@exnet.iastate.edu. Specify publication

National Organic Research Policy Analysis Project. $15 donation requested.
Final report of two-year study that reviewed the "organic content" in USDA's
agricultural research programs. Organic Farming Research Foundation, PO Box
440, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 408-426-6606, research@ofrf.org

Successful Whole Farm Planning: Essential Elements Recommended by the Great
Lakes Basin Farm Planning Network. $6. Report articulates the consensus of a
diverse group of 120 farmers, nonprofit groups, researchers, and agency
staff from seven states and Ontario who are working together to explore,
test, and evaluate different approaches to whole farm planning. The
Minnesota Project, 1885 University Ave. West, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55104,
612-645-6159, water007@gold.tc.umn.edu. Or view the text at:
Also available on this web site are past issues of The Whole Farm Planner,
the bimonthly newsletter that explores innovations, experiences, and
policies related to whole farm planning. 


Contact CSAS office for more information.

Feb. 21-22  Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and the Nebraska Fruit
and Vegetable Growers annual meetings, Columbus, NE
Feb. 25-28  International Erosion Control Association 28th Annual
Conference, Nashville, TN
Mar. 1-2  Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Annual Conference, Soul
and Soil: Feeding Field and Communities, Wooster, OH
Mar. 3-4  Conservation Tillage Conference, Ada, OH
Mar. 4-5  Experiential Learning in Sustainable Agriculture, Minneapolis, MN
Mar. 7-8  Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, near Dubuque, IA
Mar. 12-14  Cover Crops, Soil Quality and Ecosystems Conference, Sacramento, CA
Mar. 19-21  International Conference on Agricultural Production and
Nutrition, Boston, MA
Mar. 26-27  Livestock and the Environment Symposium, Kearney, NE
Apr. 14-14    Interactions: Investigating Ecosystem Dynamics at the
Watershed Level, Athens, GA
May 18-21  Feeding People without Poisons  PAN International Meeting, La
Habana, Cuba
May 25-28  8th Global Warming International Conference & Expo, New York, NY
June 3-5  Wind Erosion: An International Symposium/Workshop, Manhattan, KS
June 8-9  XVIII International Grassland Congress '97, Manitoba and
Saskatchewan, Canada
June 21-22  Pacific Northwest Bamboo Agro-forestry Workshop, Ft. Worden,
Port Townsend, WA
June 25-28  3rd International Interdisciplinary Conference on the
Environment, Boston, MA
June 13-26  Training Workshop on Sustainable Agroecosystems and
Environmental Issues, 
West Texas A&M Uviversity
July 23-26  Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference (focusing
on ecosystem management within watersheds), Toronto, Ontario
July 30-31  Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's 10th Anniversary
Ames, IA

A fall 1995 survey indicated there are 29 universities in the U.S. that have
an agroforestry program. To obtain a directory listing detailed information
about each program, call Clover Shelton at the National Agroforestry Center,
402-437-5178, ext. 14.

"The first endangered species act is where Noah is asked by the Creator to
take two of every kind and preserve their lineages."
Dr. Calvin Dewitt, Director, Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies

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