Environment

Courtesy of USDA

Last month, the Illinois Department of Agriculture opened applications for its second annual Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program -- which provides a crop insurance discount for each acre of cover crop a farmer plants.

 

It filled up in less than 24 hours.

 

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media file photo

Algal blooms in bodies of water often caused by runoff of manure and fertilizer on crop lands have a high price tag. 

An economic analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found that 22 states have spent more than $1 billion altogether since 2010. Kansas, Iowa and Texas are among the states that have spent millions clearing the algae. Of the Midwestern states in the study, Iowa has spent the most — more than $40 million across six sites since 2010. 

Marlee Baldridge / Harvest Public Media

Rural communities are some of the most politically disenfranchised when it comes to climate policy, and last year’s National Climate Change Report showed they’re also among the most at risk when it comes to the effect of climate change. This could mean stronger storms, more intense droughts and earlier freezes.

Meramec State Park in central Missouri was surveyed this summer for tick-borne viruses after a patron died of a virus that may be associated with ticks.
Alex Smith / for Harvest Public Media

Tammy Wilson loved the outdoors and was happy to spend her days working at Meramec State Park in the central part of Missouri.

Her family often stopped by to see her, most recently at the end of May.

“My mom had two seed ticks on her hip – I believe it was her right hip,” says Wilson’s daughter, Amie May of Bonne Terre, Missouri. “And my sister pulled them off. A couple days later, mom said she just wasn’t feeling herself.”

Corn yields could drop 7 percent globally for every 1 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, according to a recent study.
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A new study found that staple crops like corn and wheat, which provide a large proportion of the world’s calories and U.S. farmers’ output, will likely see negative impacts from rising global temperatures.

Nearly all of the ethanol blended into U.S. gasoline is made from corn.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

On a sweltering summer morning, Rob Mitchell surveys a plot of switchgrass at a research field near Lincoln, Nebraska. The grass is lush, green and nearly six feet tall.

“And it will get a couple feet taller than this,” says Mitchell, an agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “So we’re putting on a lot of biomass right now.”

Farmer Wendy Johnson markets hogs, chickens, eggs and seasonal turkeys. She also grwos organic row crops at Joia Food Farm near Charles City, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

The demand for beef, pork and chicken raised on smaller farms closer to home is growing. Now, some Midwest farmers, like Johnson, are exploring how to graze livestock to meet those demands while still earning a profit.

The theft of agricultural trade secrets is a growing problem, according to the FBI.
University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability / Flickr

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

Residents of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, are under pressure from regulators to reduce nitrate levels in their water.
Alex Smith / For Harvest Public Media

Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 680, had a moment in the spotlight during the confirmation hearings for new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran mentioned Pretty Prairie as an example of a community that’s struggling because of EPA regulations that Pruitt could ease.

But residents of the tiny south central Kansas town are also concerned about how federal budget cuts might affect their ability to pay for a new water treatment system.   

Rob Fleming, a grand-nephew of Henry A. Wallace, uses this 1947 Ford 2n as he works to restore the prairie around his childhood home in Carlisle, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today’s major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

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