Tag Archives: agricultural

Agriculture Associated with Central US Cooling Trend, Crop Growth

“Human activity has caused a significant long-term cooling trend (-0.35°C between the 1940s and 2009) and higher rainfall totals via the mechanism of “agricultural intensification” – a photosynthesis-associated increase in the air’s water vapor or humidity levels due to an explosive (400%) increase in crop production and yield since the 1940s.” click here

Agricultural Compounds and Birth Defects Revisited

Reviews of this type are published every so often to draw attention to a problem that has been studied for many years from several different perspectives. Such studies can paint an alarming picture. But closer scrutiny usually reveals methodological limitations that call into question the validity of the findings. So the outcome is usually a recommendation for more research.

Brender JD, Weyer PJ. Agricultural Compounds in Water and Birth Defects. Current Environmental Health Reports. 2016 Mar 23.

Agricultural compounds have been detected in drinking water, some of which are teratogens in animal models. The most commonly detected agricultural compounds in drinking water include nitrate, atrazine, and desethylatrazine. Arsenic can also be an agricultural contaminant, although arsenic often originates from geologic sources. Nitrate has been the most studied agricultural compound in relation to prenatal exposure and birth defects. In several case-control studies published since 2000, women giving birth to babies with neural tube defects, oral clefts, and limb deficiencies were more likely than control mothers to be exposed to higher concentrations of drinking water nitrate during pregnancy. Higher concentrations of atrazine in drinking water have been associated with abdominal defects, gastroschisis, and other defects. Elevated arsenic in drinking water has also been associated with birth defects. Since these compounds often occur as mixtures, it is suggested that future research focus on the impact of mixtures, such as nitrate and atrazine, on birth defects.

Review of Solarvoltaic Water Pumping System Technology

Chandel SS, Nagaraju Naik M, Chandel R. Review of solar photovoltaic water pumping system technology for irrigation and community drinking water supplies. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews. Sep2015, Vol. 49, p1084-1099.

The deficit in electricity and high diesel costs affects the pumping requirements of community water supplies and irrigation; so using solar energy for water pumping is a promising alternative to conventional electricity and diesel based pumping systems. Solar water pumping is based on photovoltaic (PV) technology that converts solar energy into electrical energy to run a DC or AC motor based water pump. The main objective of the study is to present a comprehensive literature review of solar pumping technology, evaluate the economic viability, identify research gaps and impediments in the widespread propagation of solar water pumping systems and technology. The study focuses on update on solar water pumping technology, performance analysis, optimum sizing, degradation of PV generator supplying power to pump, economic and environmental aspects and advances in PV materials and efficiency improvements. An update on the current state of research and utilization of solar water pumping technology is presented. Factors affecting performance of PV water pumping system, degradation of PV modules and efficiency improving techniques of PV water pumping systems are identified. Solar water pumping is found to be economically viable in comparison to electricity or diesel based systems for irrigation and water supplies in rural, urban and remote regions. The investment payback for some PV water pumping systems is found to be 4–6 years. The recent Indian incentives for PV pumping and policy initiatives for the promotion of solar water pumping in developing countries are also discussed. Potential follow-up research areas are also identified.

Alum Sludge Reuse in Agricultural Applications

Dassanayake KB, Jayasinghe GY, Surapaneni A, Hetherington C. A review on alum sludge reuse with special reference to agricultural applications and future challenges. Waste Management (New York, N.Y.) 2015 Feb 2

Alum salts are commonly used in the water industry to promote coagulation in the production of clean drinking water, which results in the generation and accumulation of ‘waste’ by-product ‘alum sludge’ in large volumes. Effective and efficient management of alum sludge in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner remains a significant social and environmental concern with ever increasing demand for potable water as a result of rapidly escalating world population and urban expansion. Various intensive practices have been employed to reuse the alum sludge in an attempt to figure out how to fill the gap between successful drinking water treatment process and environmentally friendly alum sludge management for over the years. This paper primarily aimed at comprehensive review of the existing literature on alum sludge characteristics, its environmental concerns and their potential utilization, especially in agricultural and horticultural sectors leading to update our recent state of knowledge and formulate a compendium of present and past developments. Different types of alum sludge utilizations in various fields were recognized and examined. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential risks of alum sludge reuse options with particular reference to agriculture were highlighted and knowledge gaps were identified. Research priorities and future challenges that will support in the development of effective alum sludge management practices in agriculture with multi-prong strategies were discussed.

Purdue Study Airbrushes Out Underlying Differences on “Climate Change”

Opinion polls such as this are political tools of the trade for academics (a paper can be published). Differences in views on an issue (e.g. climate change) are highlighted to marginalize one side or the other. In this case (here), the “farmers” get the slap down when compared to the “scientists”.  The findings are interesting and the paper reads very well. But there is no reason to believe that those respondents placed in the “scientist” category used in this study are any more or better qualified to judge “climate change” than the “farmer” (many of whom are also well-educated). 

Lastly, [Further,] as a along-time observer of the “agricultural community”, I must point out that the paper air brushes out the differences that already exist between individuals and subgroups (aka “stakeholders”) within rural areas. There are those in rural America who are socially liberal politically, like being dependent on big government and/or  being dependent on government funding of their organization, business, or agency (e.g. Solyndra), and see government regulation primarily as a means of driving social change (e.g. a Marixst approach to government). And there are those who have the opposite views – who desire limited government within the US Constitution, have and live by “conservative” values and “religious” convictions, and value independence and freedom. And then there are others (perhaps the majority) who are somewhere in between or a mixture of the two. It is that way now and always will be.

Scientific evidence is not neutral. It must be interpreted. The interpretation is guided if not determined by a person’s presuppositions. (This is not necessarily negative if the presuppositions are reliable.) Equally qualified scientists can make the same observations and collect the same data but have different explanations and come to different conclusions. And this reality will affect if not determine what actions a person or group is willing to accept or actively promote to adapt or mitigate the effects of “climate change.”

We’ve seen in the past the same effort to bifurcate society into “stakeholders” on other federal regulatory issues. (The term “denier” is also fits in here.) An effort might be attempted to bring “stakeholders” together through a regulatory negotiation, FACA committee, or some such dispute resolution effort to negotiate a course of action on mitigation and adaptation. In such a process political “stakeholders” get together (formally or informally) to negotiate what will be. But negotiating science, regulation, and courses of action within such a political environment is, in reality, no better than the approach used by the IPCC, just on a smaller scale.

Lastly, to select and use words without clear definition and meaning to convey or imply a message or argument is simply unintentional manipulation at best, and more often just plain propaganda. Equivocation on key terms such as “climate change” is counter productive. Unfortunately, even this paper suffers from this deficiency.

Linda Stalker Prokopy, Lois Wright Morton, J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., Amber Saylor Mase, Adam Wilke. Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00172.1

Understanding U.S. agricultural stakeholder views about the existence of climate change and its causes is central to developing interventions in support of adaptation and mitigation. Results from surveys conducted with six Midwestern stakeholder groups (corn producers, agricultural advisors, climatologists, Extension educators, and two different cross-disciplinary teams of scientists funded by USDA-NIFA) reveal striking differences. Individuals representing these groups were asked in 2011-2012 to “select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate change.” Three of five answer options included the notion that climate change is occurring but for different reasons (mostly human activities; mostly natural; more or less equally by natural and human activities). The last two options were “there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not” and “climate change is not occurring.” Results reveal that agricultural and climate scientists are more likely to believe that climate change is mostly due to human activities (50 to 67%) than farmers and advisors (8 – 31 12%). Almost a quarter of farmers and agricultural advisors believe the source of climate change is mostly natural causes; and 22-31% state there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether it is occurring or not. This discrepancy in beliefs creates challenges for communicating climate science to agricultural stakeholders in ways that encourage adaptation and mitigation. Results suggest that engagement strategies that reduce threats to worldviews and increase public dialogue could make climate information more relevant to stakeholder groups with different belief structures.


California State University, Fresno: Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update

Important findings of this study include:

  • The estimated potential new water from agricultural water use efficiency is 1.3% of the current amount used by the state’s farmers – about 330,000 acre‐feet per year.
  • Groundwater overdraft of about 2 million acre‐feet per year continues to be a serious problem in certain regions of California because of inconsistent and uncertain surface water supplies.
  • Changes in irrigation practices, such as switching from flood irrigation to drip, have the effect of rerouting flows within a region (or basin), but generally do not create new water outside of the basin.
  • Previous reallocations of agricultural water supplies for environmental purposes represent at least 5% of farm water diversions depending on water year.
  • On‐farm water conservation efforts can affect downstream water distribution patterns, with potential impacts on plants and animals, recreation, as well as human and industrial consumptive uses.

Click here for the full study.

Private well contamination in St. Joseph County (MO)

Ground water contamination in rural areas can result in high concentrations of nitrate and other contaminants in private wells. Consider this example in St. Joseph County….click here. Installation of a sanitary sewer system and treatment plant can alleviate such a situation.