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May-June 1997 CSAS Newsletter

                     May-June 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. The electronic version of this
bimonthly newsletter is sent to SANET and PENPages
10-14 days before those on our mailing list receive their hard
copy. The newsletters are also available along with other
sustainable ag information on our 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
beginning with the next bimonthly issue (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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                              * * *


Third in a four-part series: Environmental-Economic

[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.]

The objective of this research was to quantify the impact of alternative
production systems on the K-factor of the RUSLE (Revised Universal Soil Loss
Equation). A subobjective was to quantify the impact of alternative
production systems on the soil properties used to determine the K-factor in
the RUSLE.

For this study, alternative production systems were selected using the
criteria of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) for organic
farms. Parameters of the K-factor for these alternative production systems
were then compared with those of adjacent conventional systems. Three pairs
of fields were identified in east central Nebraska. Each pair consisted of
an alternative and conventional field. Within a pair, the fields sampled had
similar soil type, climate, and relief.

It was found that alternative production systems have a significant effect
on the soil parameters used to determine K-factors in RUSLE. Organic matter
levels and permeability values were significantly higher for alternative
systems at all locations in the study with the exception of permeability
values for one soil. However, while these higher organic matter and
permeability values did not translate into significantly lower K-factors for
all soils, K-factors were observed to be significantly lower on average for
alternative production systems. The results of this study indicate that
K-factors can and do vary within a soil type, and alternative production
systems can reduce soil erodibility and erosion.

For two soil series, Redstoe and Moody, economic-environmental trade-offs of
alternative cropping and herbicide-tillage systems were studied using a
multiple integer linear programming model. Compared to the herbicide-tillage
options, an organic tillage production alternative was also included here in
which no herbicides or pesticides could be used (fertilizer allowed). This
was an option for both corn and soybeans.

Five cropping systems were studied: 1) continuous corn (Cont. C), 2)
corn-soybeans (C-B), 3) corn-corn-soybeans (C-C-B), 4) corn-oats (C-O), and
5) corn-oats-alfalfa-alfalfa (C-O-A-A). These systems could mix
herbicide-tillage systems. In addition, optimization of cropping systems was
also completed for each of the four herbicide-tillage systems (banding,
broadcasting, no-till, and organic). Two fertilizer assumptions were made
for each sub-analysis: 1) no manure but fertilizer applied using the 1.25
rule, and 2) manure only.

Using the EPIC computer modeling program, environmental criteria were
estimated for each soil, slope, fertilizer assumption, and cropping
system/herbicide-tillage. Five environmental criteria were examined: 1)
surface nitrates - lb/ac, 2) leached nitrates - lb/ac, 3) surface pesticides
- gm/ac, 4) leached pesticides - gm/ac, and 5) soil erosion - tons/ac. In
the analysis, arbitrary limits for each environmental criteria are assumed
for purposes of focusing on environmental problems and where solutions to
those can occur. These are 20 lb/ac, 2 lb/ac, 4 gm/ac, 1 gm/ac, and 5
tons/ac, respectively.

Summarizing, profit maximizing solutions are generally effective in meeting
the environmental criteria as defined. This is most apparent for the Redstoe
situations and the Moody Dryland-Irrigated situation (except leached
nitrogen). For the Moody soils, some mixed results occur. For 1% slopes,
profit maximizing solutions tend to be generally environment efficient in
that other alternatives involve very high costs. For the Moody 10% slopes,
crop organizational changes could alleviate some environmental problems with
moderate costs in the neighborhood of $50 per acre.

Editor's Note: The first article in this series discussed how the
producers/production systems were classified into clusters; the second
article focused on economic analysis of whole-farm systems; the fourth and
final article will address the sociological aspects of the study.


The second annual specialty crop field days will be held in Lincoln on
August 9 and 16. The tours will begin at the Haymarket Farmers' Market. The
afternoon will include visits to nearby farms. Cosponsors of the event
include the CSAS and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. For more
information contact Pam Murray at the CSAS office (402-472-2056,
csas001@unlvm.unl.edu) or Cris Carusi at NSAS (402-254-2289,


Shades of red, green and yellow fruits and vegetables gleam temptingly from
tabletops and pickup tailgates of a farmers' market. Amidst the colorful mix
is the trade of economic growth and community spirit.

Nebraska has 38 farmers' markets across the state. These producers provide
communities with an alternative source of fresh produce, promote
entrepreneurship, and contribute to town vitality. Farmers' market producers
have direct access to their buyers' eyes and ears to help them grow foods
that fit local tastes. For instance, some producers may offer giant melons
for picnics or midget melons better suited for small families.

Beyond business, a farmers' market is a chance for rural neighbors to meet,
for urban residents to learn more about agriculture, and for retired
producers to stay active on a smaller scale. The outdoor markets have become
so popular that retail grocers are adopting similar marketing techniques in
displays to make produce appear fresher and better tasting.

In 1996, more than 2,500 farmers' markets existed in the U.S., serving
almost one million customers a week. The USDA estimates sales at over $1
billion, with the average customer spending about $17 per visit.

Some of the challenges to producing for a farmers' market include producing
a diverse mix of crops of consistent high quality, keeping the produce fresh
and cool, matching supply and demand, and developing a loyal customer base.

Producers must stay on top of varying local ordinances that govern where,
when and how they can market their product. In Omaha, for example, markets
can be located only in areas zoned for selling goods. The Lincoln farmers'
market requires bakers to attend a food safety course before they can sell
baked goods in the Haymarket. Items cannot be sold by the pound unless a
scale certified by the Nebraska State Office of Weights and Measures is used.

Farmers' markets are places of dynamic social interactions where producers,
residents and tourists connect with others of various ages, ethnic
backgrounds and income levels. This "spirit of place" is the essence of a
community and is most evident in successful farmers' markets.

Source: Excerpted from article in April 1997 Educator Extra. Comments are
those of Laurie Hodges, UNL commercial vegetable specialist.


We frequently urge growers to rotate their vegetable land, especially if
growing cruciferous (cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi) cucurbit (vine
crops), or solanaceous (tomato, pepper, eggplant) crops. But good, irrigated
land for alternative crops may not be readily available. In the last 15
years, the vegetable industry has become more intensive, using such
production practices as double cropping and high plant populations to
increase efficiency. Greater yields are produced on less acreage. Good
management practices become more important as the intensity of production
increases. One of the most important is a good crop rotation schedule.

Crop rotation refers to a long-range plan for growing different crops on the
same land. The length of time to complete the cycle may vary from two to
eight or more years depending on the crops grown. Double-cropping, or
growing two crops on the same land in a single year, can be an important
part of the rotation.

Some of the advantages of a good crop rotation include several which can
directly affect profits. These include:
- Reduce losses to disease. Disease organisms can survive in the soil as
persistent structures or in plant debris from year to year. As crop residue
decomposes over time, the life cycle of the pathogen is interrupted. 
- Many of the nematodes which infest vegetables cannot reproduce in grasses.
A grass crop, such as sweet corn, in the rotation can minimize nematode
- Manage insect pressure. Small grain stubble or sod can serve as a
reservoir for insect populations. If crops such as fall cabbage are planted
in wheat stubble, seedlings must be watched carefully for insect damage.
- Residual nitrogen management. Crops which take advantage of high residual
soil fertility can follow those which tend to leave nutrients in the soil.
- Minimize soil erosion. A good crop rotation will protect the soil during
the winter with either crop stubble or a cover crop.

A good crop rotation requires some thought but is not too complex. Crops
with similar pest problems should not follow each other. Generally, it is a
good idea to alternate shallow-rooted crops with deep-rooted crops. Rotation
with a grass crop (field corn, sweet corn, winter wheat, oats) should be
planned to allow use of herbicides for broadleaf weed control. Many
herbicides registered for use in vegetables are weak on broadleaf weeds.
Although the grass crop in rotation may not generate the greatest profit per
acre, the benefit is in reduced weed pressure in the following vegetable
crops and minimizing the soil erosion during the winter.

There is no "standard" crop rotation schedule. By reviewing the production
requirements and pests common in each crop, patterns will become evident and
a rotation scheme can then be planned to minimize adverse impacts and
increase sustainability of the land for desired long-range profit.

Source: From Farm to Market, May 8, 1997, UNL Dept. of Horticulture, Laurie
Hodges, Editor


Earlier this year the Organic Crop Improvement Association International
relocated its main office from Ohio to Lincoln, Nebraska. OCIA is an
internationally recognized, farmer-owned and operated grassroots
certification program with more than 70 chapters (Nebraska has three)
totaling more than 35,000 grower members all over the world.

The OCIA trademark is a farmer-owned seal of quality for organic foods,
backed by an audit trail, which can trace a product from the market shelf
back through all the intermediaries (including the farmer), right to the
seed. Such an audit trail is the consumer's best guarantee that a product
really is organically grown and processed.

Since the OCIA-certified product is tracked at every stage  from the field
through processing to packaging  processors and wholesalers that handle
OCIA-certified products must also be certified if they wish to use the OCIA
trademark to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. This entire process
is verified by an accredited independent inspection of the facility and
records on at least an annual basis. OCIA certification standards exceed
USDA proposed organic standards and the accreditation requirements of the
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

For more information contact: OCIA International Headquarters, 1001 Y
Street, Suite B, Lincoln, NE 68508-1172, phone: 402-477-2323, fax:
402-477-4325, e-mail: ociaintl@bright.net.


To address the growing interest in agroforestry, a 2 -hour USDA satellite
broadcast on March 20 provided information on the purpose, concepts,
opportunities, and benefits of agroforestry. The program, targeted to field
professionals, provided information on: 1) what agroforestry is, 2)
different types of agroforestry practices (alley cropping, forest farming,
riparian forest buffers, silvopasture, and windbreaks), and 3) how
agroforestry links to other USDA programs. To obtain a copy of the taped
broadcast, call the National Agroforestry Center hotline (402-437-5178, ext.
41) and leave a message.


Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act provides funds through states and
tribes for the prevention and abatement of nonpoint source water pollution
and restoration of watershed resources. This program is a potential source
for 60% funding of agroforestry projects which improve or protect surface or
ground water quality. Such practices might include: bioengineering using
plantings for stream bank and shoreline stabilization; alley-cropping and
bio-terracing on highly erodible soils; riparian buffers used for restoring
aquatic habitat or for filtering out sediment, nutrients and/or pesticides
from runoff, including urban storm-water runoff.

All state and local units of government (not federal) and non-governmental
organizations are eligible to receive a grant from the "319" Program. For
more information contact your state, tribe or regional "319" Program
Coordinator; the Nebraska state coordinator is Dave Jensen, 402-471-3196.

Source: Inside Agroforestry, Spring 1997, National Agroforestry Center


During the past 30 months the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Training
Program (NCSATP) has awarded 32 minigrants to support sustainable
agriculture education. The goal of the minigrant project is to enhance
learning by providing on-farm experience with various systems and by
fostering the exchange of ideas among farmers, Extension educators, Natural
Resources Conservation Service specialists, and nonprofit representatives.

Recipients of minigrants have included the University of Illinois Extension,
Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems, Lincoln University, and
others. A typical grant is $1000 to $1,500, and a total of $16,521 has been
disbursed to date. Principal investigators submit reports that include
evaluation and suggestions for other trainers.

At the 1996 NCSATP review meeting, state sustainable agriculture
coordinators considered the minigrant project a priority for future funding.
Many commented that minigrants are important because they provide
programming opportunities they could not afford otherwise.  

Success of the program is most clearly demonstrated through the information
that participants have gained and could apply in their work. The following
comments are extracted from reports.

Nebraska farmers and Extension educators visited Baldridge Hybrids in Ohio:
"On dairy farms, the window of grazing maize is probably about 75 to 110
days after planting. Their research shows protein drops from 15.6% (78 days)
to 9.7% (91 days). During that same time the dry matter accumulation
increases from 14, 682 pounds to 21, 828 pounds. Daily or twice daily strip
grazing is efficient use of grazing corn."

Fred Blackmer, Iowa State University agronomist, delivered one of the
keynote talks at the Innovative Farmers of Ohio annual meeting:
"Farmers in attendance were particularly impressed with the data presented
that showed the net savings that could be realized by timely applications of
appropriate amounts of nitrogen fertilizers. Using the late spring nitrogen
test in corn frequently meant that farmers could substantially reduce their
nitrogen input, thus reducing costs and reducing the leaching of nitrogen,
an important environmental concern in much of the Midwest."

The Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association invited Bob Leader, a
farmer from Brookston, Indiana, to speak at the Agriculture Mega Conference
in Lansing:
"Two Midwest companies have joined forces to introduce this community-based
concept for the first time. Triple F, Inc. provides the technology to remove
oil from oilseeds by mechanical pressing rather than chemical extraction
methods used by major processors. BioResearch International, Inc., has
developed methods to process the oil into a wide range of value-added
products. By producing consumer-ready goods rather than raw materials, the
farmer gains a larger portion of the profit margin that enables him or her
to remain a viable entity in the future landscape of American agriculture"

Dennis Johnson, University of Minnesota Dairy Specialist, used participatory
approaches at a sustainable agriculture training workshop in North Dakota:
"Johnson stressed Extension educators' roles may change when dealing with
sustainable agriculture audiences. They may be less a teacher and more a
facilitator or networker. Johnson practiced what he preached by constantly
asking questions and facilitating dialogue with the participants, seeking
their input. In this way, he showed that he was not necessarily the expert
and that others had knowledge and experiences to share that strengthened the
learning experience."

What makes these educational events click? According to grant recipients,
planners must project that their work and the event are valuable, identify
the big-picture purpose of the activity, focus on the group of people they
want to see there, and ask for help from many individuals.  For more
information on the minigrant project, contact Heidi Carter at 402-472-0917.
                                            Submitted by Heidi Carter


Leopold Center Progress Report: Summaries of 16 Research and Education
Projects, 1997. Free. Describes and briefly evaluates 16 sustainable
agriculture projects in Iowa, stressing research in education, livestock,
pest management and water and soil quality. Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture, Iowa State University, 209 Curtis Hall, Ames, IA 50011,

Water Resources in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges and Implications for
Action, 1997. Free. International Food Policy Research Institute. Discusses
threats to agricultural water supply from pollution, growing demand,
salinization and other causes, and describes ways to increase water
availability, including desalination, waste water reuse, capture and
diversion of rainfall, and using surface and ground water. Examines
potential to manage water supply and/or water demand to conserve water
supplies, and makes policy recommendations. IFPRI, 1200 Seventeenth Street,
NW, Washington, DC 20036-3006, 202-862-5600, ifpri@cgnet.com.

The Myths and Realities of Pesticide Reduction: A Reader's Guide to
Understanding the Full Economic Impacts. $6. New report helps readers
understand and evaluate the economic predictions in studies about
restricting the use of, or reducing the risks from, agricultural pesticides.
The report also makes recommendations for researchers analyzing pesticide
reduction strategies who are trying to clarify the scope and inherent
limitations of their work. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture,
9200 Edmonston Rd., #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770, 301-441-8777,

Our Children's Toxic Legacy. $24 + $3.50 s&h. John Wargo, associate
professor at Yale University and one of the nation's leading experts in
pesticide policy, traces the history of environmental law and science, with
a focus on the special hazards faced by children. Order Dept., Yale
University Press, PO Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040, 1-800-987-7323.

>From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. $18.50
(incl. s&h). This cookbook, created by Madison Area Community Supported
Agriculture Coalition, contains 200 pages of recipes, essays and resources.
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, W2493 County Road ES, East Troy, WI
53210, 414-642-3303.

The IPM Practitioner. Various subscription rates.  Monthly journal from
BioIntegral Resource Center (BIRC) about integrated pest management (IPM).
Includes research updates, book reviews and listings of IPM resources. BIRC,
PO Box 7414, Berkeley, CA 94704, 510-524-2567, 

National Organic Directory, 1997. $44.95 + $6 s&h. Provides information
about labeling, certification and laws pertinent to organic products. Lists
organic farmers, wholesalers, farm suppliers, resource groups, publications
and certification organizations, including brief descriptions and contact
information. Chapters describe issues important to organic agriculture, such
as organic food exports, certification, National Organic Standards, U.S.
state organic laws, organic marketing and the internet. Community Alliance
with Family Farmers, PO Box 363, Davis, CA 95617, 916-756-8518, nod@caff.org.

Wallace Institute's Web site. Homepage features a description of the
Institute and its agenda of leadership, policy research, and information.
The site has/will have links to the Institute's programs: Policy Studies
Program, Agriculture Policy Project, Ward Sinclair Memorial Internship, and
Education Outreach. Alternative Agriculture News is available at the site,
which will also soon include information about and summaries of additional
publications: American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, Policy Studies
Program Reports, Occasional Papers, Annual Reports, and the Henry A. Wallace
Annual Lecture.

Sustainable Farming Connection Web site. Two former editors of The New Farm
magazine have launched a Web site that offers innovative production and
marketing stories to help you cut costs, improve soil, protect the
environment and add value to healthy food. It includes commentary by rural
writers, timely news and action alerts, archived material, and links to
other key sites, as well as farmer forums. For more information contact:
Christopher Shirley, Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, 609 S. Front
St., Allentown PA 18103, 610-791-9683, cdshirley@aol.com.

Alternative Agricultural Research and Commercialization Web site. AARC, a
wholly-owned corporation of the USDA, is a venture capital firm that makes
equity investments in companies to help commercialize biobased industrial
products (non-food, non-feed) from agricultural and forestry materials and
animal byproducts. Most clients are small, rural-based firms.

WASTENOT listserv. An unmoderated discussion and forum for professional
exchange among those in the research of, management, design, implementation,
processing, treatment, analysis, regulation, marketing and distribution, or
usage of organic wastes and the compostable materials from industrial,
commercial, municipal, or agricultural sources. To subscribe, send the
following command in the body of an email with no subject to:
subscribe wastenot firstname lastname

CRP Hotline. The Center for Rural Affairs of Wathill, Nebraska has
re-activated its Conservation Options Hotline to assist farmers and ranchers
wanting to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program, the new Environmental
Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Farm Option. The hotline
number is 402-994-2021, and is staffed by Duane Hovorka.

 National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (NPTN). NPTN provides
objective, science-based information about a wide variety of
pesticide-related subjects including: pesticide products, pesticide
poisonings, toxicology, and environmental chemistry. Sponsored by Oregon
State University and the EPA. Available to any caller in the U.S., Puerto
Rico, and the Virgin Islands. NPTN can connect callers directly with the
Oregon Poison Control Center or the National Animal Poison Control Center,
and can direct callers for pesticide incident investigations, safety
practices, clean-up and disposal, and laboratory analyses. NPTN can be
reached 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
1-800-858-7378, nptn@ace.orst.edu.


Contact CSAS office for more information.

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 10th Anniversary
Ames, IA
Aug. 2  Center for Rural Affairs Annual Meeting, Norfolk, NE
Aug. 3-6  5th North American Agroforestry Conference - Exploring the
Opportunities for Agroforestry in Changing Rural Landscapes, Ithaca, NY
Aug. 4-5  Organic Farming Research Foundation Conference - Organic Rules:
Are We Ready? Oakland, CA
Aug. 20-23  International Symposium on Sustainable Agricultural Technology,
Bejing, China
Aug. 27-30  Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers National
Conference, Portland, OR
Sep. 15-19  International Symposium on Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming,
Xi'an, China 
Oct. 6-7  Agricultural Research Institute 46th Annual Meeting -
Agricultural Research: Funding Now to Ensure Food for the Future, Rockville, MD
Nov. 2-6  3rd North American Workshop of Farming Systems Research &
Extension Association  - Food & Natural Resource Systems: Integrating
Diversity, Inquiry, & Action, Mt. Hood, OR
Dec. 1-4  3rd IFOAM-Asia Scientific Conference - Food Security in Harmony
with Nature,  Bangalore, India 

Jan. 9-10  Great Plains Vegetable Conference, St. Joseph, MO
Mar. 5-6  National SARE Conference - Building on a Decade of Sustainable
Agriculture Research & Education: Sharing Experiences to Improve Our
Agriculture, Austin, TX

Did You Know...
Every American annually uses and average of 84 tons of Earth's resources to
support his/her lifestyle, the World Resources Institute said.
Pam Murray, Coordinator
Center for Grassland Studies and
Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems
PO Box 830949
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0949
phone: 402-472-9383
fax:   402-472-4104
e-mail: csas001@unlvm.unl.edu