Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Farming for improved ecosystem services seen as economically feasible

Date:
April 9, 2014
Source:
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Summary:
Research conducted over 25 years shows that lowering -- or avoiding -- the use of chemical fertilizers in row-crop agriculture in the northern United States can reduce polluting nitrogen runoff, mitigate greenhouse warming, and improve soils while producing good crop yields. 'No-till' agriculture provided some similar benefits. The most effective regimes required that farmers adopt more complex crop rotations, but many indicated that they would accept payments to do so, and the public seems willing to pay.

By changing row-crop management practices in economically and environmentally stable ways, US farms could contribute to improved water quality, biological diversity, pest suppression, and soil fertility while helping to stabilize the climate, according to an article in the May issue of BioScience. The article, based on research conducted over 25 years at the Kellogg Biological Station in southwest Michigan, further reports that Midwest farmers, especially those with large farms, appear willing to change their farming practices to provide these ecosystem services in exchange for payments. And a previously published survey showed that citizens are willing to make such payments for environmental services such as cleaner lakes.

Related Articles


The article is by G. Philip Robertson and six coauthors associated with the Kellogg Biological Station, which is part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network. The research analyzed by Robertson and colleagues investigated the yields and the environmental benefits achievable by growing corn, soybean, and winter wheat under regimes that use one third of the usual amount of fertilizer -- or none at all -- with "cover crops" fertilizing the fields in winter. The research also examined "no-till" techniques. The regime that used fewer chemicals resulted in more than 50 percent reductions in the amount of nitrogen that escaped into groundwater and rivers, with crop yields close to those of standard management. Nitrogen pollution is a major problem in inland waterways and coastal regions, where it contributes to the formation of "dead zones."

The no-till and reduced chemical regimes also mitigated greenhouse warming by taking up greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, in contrast to standard management, which produces significant greenhouse warming by emitting nitrous oxide. The zero-chemical regime mitigated greenhouse warming enough to compensate for the emissions produced under standard management. All three regimes also led to more fertile soil compared with conventional management.

The environmentally improved farming practices that Robertson and his colleagues studied are more complex than conventional ones. But the authors found that although sustained profitability is generally farmers' overriding concern, substantial proportions would accept payments to adopt such practices, especially those with large farms. And a 2009 survey in Michigan found that members of the public indicated they were willing to pay higher taxes so that land managers could participate in stewardship programs to benefit lakes; a smaller number were willing to pay for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Robertson and his colleagues argue that in coming decades, human population and income growth will drive agriculture to ever-higher intensities. The danger is that it will become more vulnerable to climate extremes and pest outbreaks. "Now is the time to guide this intensification in a way that enhances the delivery of ecosystems services that are not currently marketed," they conclude.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Biological Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Philip Robertson, K. L. Gross, S. K. Hamilton, D. A. Landis, T. M. Schmidt, S. S. Snapp, S. M. Swinton. Farming for Ecosystem Services: An Ecological Approach to Production Agriculture. BioScience, 2014; DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biu037

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Farming for improved ecosystem services seen as economically feasible." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134728.htm>.
American Institute of Biological Sciences. (2014, April 9). Farming for improved ecosystem services seen as economically feasible. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134728.htm
American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Farming for improved ecosystem services seen as economically feasible." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409134728.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins