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Farm News & Views - October 19, 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the agency will invest $10 million a new initiative to sample, measure and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program acres to determine how effective the program is at off-setting climate change. Over 20 million acres of farm land are enrolled in the CRP, and the agency wants to determine how well those acres helping to to mitigate the impact of a warming climate by tying up carbon in the soil. Agricultural producers will be asked to help researchers from Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, Alabama A&M University and the non-profit Ducks Unlimited Organization. They will measure soil carbon on over a 1,000 sites around the U.S. enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program that include grasslands, native grass planting, rangelands, woodlands and wetlands.

As the country shifts electricity production from coal, to wind and solar generation, solar panel arrays are are a common sight around cities, on top of parking garages, high rise buildings and on private homes. But they’are also becoming more common in rural areas, where farm ground is being converted from crop or pasture land into fields of solar voltaic panels. Developers of these arrays contend that farmers can make more money converting their fields to large arrays of solar panels then they can producing crops or livestock on the land, so the surrounding residents should be happy to have them. However, many neighbors are often not thrilled by the change, citing glare from the panels, degradation of views, and loss of both the human and livestock food that had been produced on those fields. But a recent Wired Magazine article suggests that research being conducted under a $10 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the University of Arizona is finding ways that solar arrays can enhance food production, even if it doesn’t improve the view for nearby home owners. Researchers have found that using a combination of enclosed greenhouses topped by solar arrays that provide shade for the plants growing beneath them in hot climates improves the production of many food plants. The shade saves water, and makes harvest more comfortable for workers. A link to the article titled “Growing crops under solar panels now there's bright idea” can be found on the Farm News and Views pod cast, at Apple Podcast or Spotify.

For many of us the Fall season and pumpkins go together, whether they’re used for decorations, carved into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween or baked into pies for Thanksgiving. But the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service suggests a few other uses for this oversize orange fruit, which is a member of the Cucurbit family. They suggest that after we cut a pumpkin for pies or jack-o-lantern, we save the seeds and roast and season them for snacks, or roast them with no seasoning to feed to birds. Also, when the jock-o-lanterns have ended their reign of terror on trick or treaters, put the sagging pumpkins into the compost pile to return next season to haunt, er feed the garden.

English 19th century author Douglas William Jerrold wrote “Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest."

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.