PART ONE

Overview



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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS PART ONE Overview

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS This page in the original is blank.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS 1 The U.S. Department of Agriculture Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture Charles E. Hess Significant progress has been made in the past 5 years in the acceptance of the concept of sustainable agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) programs, the Leopold Center at Iowa State University (Ames), a long-term ecological research program at Michigan State University (East Lansing), and a state-wide sustainable agriculture program in California are examples. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, recognized one aspect of progress when he said, “Even USDA is uttering the ‘O' word [organic] and not choking.” Overall, today's agriculture is being challenged to operate in an environmentally responsible fashion while at the same time continuing to produce abundant supplies of food and fiber both economically and profitably. The scientific community is responding positively and assertively to the challenge. There is increasing interest in the development and adoption of sustainable land use systems for two very basic reasons: (1) a need to bring about fundamental improvements in the global environment, and (2) an everexpanding need to provide economically produced food and fiber for a growing world population. Through technology, the United States has developed an efficient, highly productive food and fiber system that is the envy of the world. Of all the people in the world, consumers in the United States currently spend the lowest percentage of their incomes on food—an incredible 11.8 percent. It is now recognized, however, that current technology has had some costs that were not fully anticipated at the time of its introduction. Scientists are

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS looking more closely at its possible social, environmental, and health impacts. Clearly, the issues—both perceived and real—that are raised by current technology must be addressed. THE USDA APPROACH TO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE The term sustainable agriculture means different things to different people. The term itself is not important. What is important is that farmers around the country are closing their conventional farming cookbooks and carefully crafting new recipes for what might be called “smart and considerate farming. ” Rather than providing yet another definition, this chapter provides a look at the approach used at USDA. It is the department's responsibility to provide farmers with a range of options that can best fit their economic and environmental situations. The choices range from the optimal use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other off-farm purchases in conjunction with the best management practices, to operations that actively seek to minimize their off-farm purchases and emphasize crop rotation, integration of livestock and crop production, and mechanical or biological weed control. The thing that they have in common is integrated resource management—a systems management approach that looks at the farm as a whole. To some, this seems a return to the 1930s and “low-tech” production methods. This is not at all the basis of sustainable agriculture, however. It does not mean a return to hoes, hard labor, and low output. Low input is not an exactly appropriate term because it carries the wrong connotation, that something can be achieved for nothing. In fact, the preferred designation is sustainable agriculture. This means the use of the very best technology in a balanced, well-managed, and environmentally responsible system. It relies on skilled management, scientific know-how, and on-farm resources. It should be stressed again that the emphasis is not to eliminate the use of important chemicals and fertilizers. In many instances, such chemicals and fertilizers are absolutely necessary to the farmer. The emphasis is, however, to seek ways to reduce their use and increase their effectiveness to improve and maintain environmental and economic sustainability. The appropriate measure of a system's productivity and efficiency is not how much it produces but, rather, the relative value of what it produces compared with what went into producing it. Environmental impacts must now be included in the cost-benefit equation; this has not always been considered. Contributions will be needed from all the agricultural sciences to develop sustainability models with sound management practices and techniques for food and fiber production systems.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS The Road Ahead It must be made absolutely clear that those involved in the U.S. agriculture system care about the environment. It is one of USDA 's top priorities, and this is certainly evident in the proposals in the 1990 farm bill and the 1991 federal budget (both of which are discussed below). Agriculture has always tried to be a careful steward of the nation 's land and water resources, but that effort is now receiving renewed emphasis. For example, an excellent summary of data, case studies, and recommendations was presented in Alternative Agriculture (National Research Council, 1989a), which has received a great deal of attention. Since its publication, many people have commended the National Research Council for producing such a comprehensive assessment at such a critical time. Other readers, however, say that it overstates the economic feasibility and the benefits of adopting alternative agriculture practices. The principles laid out in that report are well worth thoughtful study and can point the way to change. A recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News (March 5, 1990) contains a good analysis of the issues involved, and the Board on Agriculture of the National Research Council will soon provide a response to some of the comments that Alternative Agriculture has generated. In fact, some of the reactions miss the point of that report. It was never intended to prove that one kind of agriculture is superior to another but, rather, to help provide an understanding of the kinds of agriculture systems being used on U.S. farms and ranches and to encourage research not only to determine the most environmentally and economically beneficial kinds of farming but to guide development as well. The current scarcity of hard evidence on either side of the issue can only invite unfounded and unhelpful assertions. The Need for Hard Data There must be an effort to gain more hard data so that informed decisions can be made based on science rather than on emotion. It is human nature to want to know everything without having to wait for it. People want to know immediately what does and does not work and why. These kinds of questions take time to answer, and time is needed to gather the evidence that will eventually lead to conclusions. CONSTRUCTIVE APPROACHES THAT ARE UNDER WAY The following are six concrete examples of current research. Under the President's Initiative on Water Quality, research will help to provide a better sense of real versus perceived progress on the issue of water quality. This initiative will determine what agricultural practices

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS adversely affect water quality and then develop alternatives to them. The Cooperative Extension Service and the Soil Conservation Service will extend the existing knowledge of the best management practices. On February 9, 1990, USDA announced the establishment of eight water quality demonstration projects to show new ways to minimize the effects of agricultural nutrients and pesticides on water quality. The Soil Conservation Service and Extension Service will provide joint leadership for the on-farm demonstration projects. Five USDA agencies have committed $3.3 million to the projects in 1990. The projects are located in California, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. In the 1990 field season, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service will test a cost-sharing program for reducing chemical use. The trial program is designed to encourage the adoption of integrated pest and fertilizer management practices. It will be limited to 20 farms in each of five counties per state in all 50 states. Participants must enroll at least 40 acres of small grains, forage, hay, or row crops and follow a written integrated crop management plan that seeks to reduce pesticide or fertilizer use by at least 20 percent. Research in integrated pest management will also be continued. Integrated pest management is the study of biological controls and management practices that aid in the more precise use of pesticides and in judicious reductions in the amounts that are used. The goal is to avoid adverse effects on the environment and beneficial organisms. Yet, at the same time, care must be taken so that, in the enthusiasm to remove toxic compounds, conditions are not created in which naturally occurring toxic substances (such as aflatoxins) are able to increase. In July 1989, R. Dean Plowman, administrator of USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and I participated in the dedication of a new $11.9 million soil tilth laboratory on the Iowa State University campus. This laboratory will study the effects of a variety of agricultural practices on soil structure, organic matter, microorganisms, and movement of nutrients. The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center at the National Agricultural Library is another way that the transfer of knowledge is being increased. As part of the team working with sustainable agriculture, this information center focuses human expertise on the specialized subject area of sustainable agriculture. This center inventories and coordinates data from many sources and plays an important role in meeting the information needs of researchers and producers. The Roles of Universities and Farmers Universities will play a vital role in the future of sustainable agriculture.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS In the endeavor to create management systems that combine knowledge from a variety of areas, universities will want to create internal mechanisms to facilitate multidisciplinary approaches to research. It takes cooperative interactions among members of many disciplines for the development of stable systems. The widespread awareness of the need for economical and environmentally sound ways of farming has not always been matched by the availability of reliable and practical information on what, in fact, can be done. Innovative farmers and researchers have generated considerable new information, but it has not always been shared with and tested by others to the extent that it should. Extension certainly has an historic and very current role in meeting this need. A group called the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has as its goal “profitable and environmentally sound farming—pure and simple. It's got to sustain the land, the soil, the people, the communities, and the pocket-book.” This group places strong emphasis on action. Its members are involved in a number of demonstration projects that pair customary practices with alternative methods. For instance, ridge-till farmers have compared chemical weed control with nonchemical weed control in soybean and corn demonstration projects. In 11 soybean field trials in 1989, participating PFI farmers applied no herbicides and substituted nonchemical weed control such as cultivation. They saved an average of $11.12 an acre on cultivation and labor costs as well as on the cost of the herbicides, which had already been reduced to a small, economical level. In five corn crop trials that same year, PFI farmers saved $7.00 an acre by using little or no herbicides. Yields were not affected in either case. New ways of sharing such information must continue to be examined. Every ounce of careful management and efficient technology that can be mustered is needed to continue to maintain competitiveness in a tough global marketplace and, at the same time, to have an environmentally sensitive agriculture system. THE NEED FOR A PROACTIVE EFFORT It is essential that policymakers, researchers, and farmers join together to take an assertive, proactive approach in dealing with environmental issues. To say that there are no problems or that public concern is completely the product of misinformation is not a productive approach, neither for the future of agriculture nor for the restoration of public confidence. The public is growing more and more concerned about the impact of agriculture on the environment, particularly its potential effect on water quality. There are recent data that give some credence to that fear. A U.S.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS Geological Survey report (1989) showed that in a sampling of surface water in 10 midwestern states, 90 percent of the samples showed the presence of some agricultural chemicals. The issue is not limited to the United States. In England, there are suits pending against water companies citing the high levels of nitrogen in drinking water, and legislation is being proposed that would regulate the amount of fertilizer an English farmer can use. The legislation proposes that the amount be based on the nitrate content of the region's well water. If such restrictive legislation is to be avoided in the United States, a positive response to these issues must be made. It is time to be proactive rather than defensive. To do otherwise is to invite legislation and regulation that may remove farmers' decision-making powers and constrain their flexibility in adapting management practices that best fit each farming situation. LEGISLATIVE AND FUNDING INITIATIVES Farm Bill Emerging environmental concerns were strongly reflected in the Food Security Act of 1985. I predict that they will be even more strongly present in the current debates over farm legislation. The proposals of the farm bill should be mentioned here because one of its three basic goals is to deal with environmental concerns. The administration is seeking an assertive role in shaping the nation's sustainable agriculture policy in the years to come. The 1990 farm bill will go far in this direction. The bill proposes the enhancement of resource stewardship of U.S. farmers by giving them greater flexibility in their planting, crop use, crop rotation, and marketing; incentives to change their resource use in environmentally sensitive areas; and lastly, greater research and technical assistance—especially in farming in an environmentally aware way. In the 1990 farm bill, the administration encourages changes in commodity programs to ensure that the farmers who participate in those programs will not be penalized for adopting sustainable agriculture practices. Currently, commodity programs reward farmers for growing as much of the program crop as they can on their eligible base acres. They would lose that base, and, therefore, future price support payments, if they used it to grow rotation crops, even though those crops could increase environmental and economic sustainability. The administration 's flexibility proposals would allow farmers to incorporate rotation crops without having to make that sacrifice. Request for LISA Funding In addition, the administration has requested $4.45 million for USDA 's

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS LISA research and education program in 1991. Furthermore, if Congress funds the proposed $100 million Initiative for Research on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (see National Research Council, 1989b), another $1 million would be expected to be added to USDA's support for sustainable agriculture research. LISA is highly favored by some because it provides opportunities for users of the research to have direct input into the decision-making process of selecting the projects that should be funded. Unfortunately, it has sometimes engendered skepticism as well as enthusiastic support —in part, because it differs from traditional research and education. For example, some people are suspicious of the results of studies that put farmers and others in the middle of the research and education process. The purpose of USDA's LISA program is to help develop and disseminate to farmers practical, reliable information on sustainable farming practices. Now in its third year, the program has supported up to 90 projects ranging from experimental research to the development of educational materials. Most of the projects reviewed in this volume have been funded partially by the LISA program. The benefits of this effort include more than information for farmers. The program is a catalyst. It is helping to stimulate sustainable agriculture research and education in many universities and other research organizations. The LISA program is just a start, however. For one thing, it is currently limited to farm-level research and education. As noted by the National Research Council (1989b), very little research is being done on what implications the adoption of sustainable agriculture might have for the structure of agriculture, environmental quality, and rural communities, as well as for national and global food production. This is not to say that people should ignore the question: How can the world have a clean environment and enough to eat? The pervasive negativism is that the world cannot have both and, therefore, that LISA is a false hope. Regrettably, that conclusion overlooks the other side of the equation, namely, what will be the outcome for future generations if continued reliance is placed on highly specialized, capital-intensive, chemical-intensive ways of farming? Thoughtful research is needed on this fundamental issue. Commitment to Research The ability to offer the farmer a broad range of practices and to tap the full potential of technology depends on a reservoir of knowledge in the basic sciences essential to agriculture. Fortunately, Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter has a deep appreciation for the role of research, and

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS President Bush has indicated that “investing in the future for a better America” is one of his major commitments. This commitment was obvious when the president presented his budget to the Congress. He announced a $100 million Initiative for Research on Agriculture, Food and the Environment, with $50 million to be added annually in the subsequent years to reach at least $300 million, and possibly $500 million. This USDA initiative is based on the National Research Council report Investing in Agriculture: A Proposal to Strengthen the Agricultural, Food, and Environmental System (National Research Council, 1989b). The president has proposed the following levels of funding for the first year in four major areas: plant systems, $50 million; animal systems, $30 million; natural resources and the environment, $15 million; and nutrition, food quality, and health, $5 million. The $15 million for natural resources and the environment does not seem like a significant investment, but nearly one-third of the USDA science and education budget of $1.3 billion is related to the environment. Also, other areas in the budget are directly related to the goal of a sustainable agriculture system. For example, $15 million is proposed for the plant genome study. The goal is to determine those genes that regulate agriculturally important traits, such as disease and insect resistance. There is also a department-wide water quality initiative with proposed funding of $207 million (an increase of $52 million) and a global change initiative with funding of $47.4 million (up from $21.2 million in 1990). The first challenge was to get the initiative into the budget. Now, perhaps an even tougher challenge is to get it through the Congress. This is where the administration needs help and support. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget is watching carefully to see whether the administration can get the initiative passed by the Congress unimpaired by ear-marking of funds for special interest purposes. It is clearly in the best interest of everyone to resist the urge to carve up the initiative. It would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. CONCLUSION The quest for agricultural sustainability in the United States and abroad bears more than a casual resemblance to the astonishing events that have been taking place in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere around the world. Both phenomena have caught some by surprise but have captured the imagination of everyone. The similarities do not stop there. The pursuit of an environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture system, no less than the drive for freedom, involves a deep questioning of the status quo and an intense commit-

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS ment to help build a better world in the future. Both the search for sustainability and the parting of the Iron Curtain have been brewing for decades, and they are now bursting forth. I applaud the participants of the workshop on which this volume is based for making an effort to tell others about the important work that is being done and to join in learning about the information provided by this research. Agriculture in the United States is facing major challenges, some of which may appear to be in conflict. On one hand, agriculture needs to be highly efficient and internationally competitive in order to be economically viable. On the other hand, it needs a system of production that is environmentally sensitive and sustainable and whose products are viewed as safe. Both goals are achievable. Sustainable agriculture is a direction that makes remarkable sense for farmers and for the rest of U.S. society. It is a direction that must be faced with a spirit of openness and willingness to change for the better. REFERENCES National Research Council. 1989a. Alternative Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. National Research Council. 1989b. Investing in Research: A Proposal to Strengthen the Agricultural, Food, and Environmental System. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. U.S. Geological Survey. 1989. Reconnaissance for triazine herbicides in surface waters in agricultural areas of the upper midwestern United States. October 26. Unpublished.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS FIGURE 5-5 Average return to land, labor, and management for three alternative rotations and production systems. C, corn; Sb, soybeans; O, oats; M, hay. Source: Nashua Chemical/Organic Demonstration Project, Iowa State University, Ames, Outlying Research Centers reports. input, and labor. Machinery expenses are estimated based on Iowa State University Extension Service data for every operation for each crop. The input costs are for the amount used and are estimated by using unpublished average price lists. Manure is charged at spreading costs. Labor is for the fieldwork time only, which is charged at $6/hour. Figure 5-5 shows the preliminary findings of the average returns to land and management both for the rotation system and corn alone. No land or overhead charges were subtracted because these were constant across all systems. Yearly average prices were used in the calculations. The average corn yields were 138, 119, and 98 bushels/acre for corn after soybeans, corn after corn, and corn after meadow, respectively. The average returns with corn in the rotation were $120, $78, and $117 from corn after soybeans, corn after corn, and corn after meadow, respectively (Figure 5-5). However, when the returns for the entire rotation system were calculated, continuous corn earned about the same as the C-O-M rotation, but the C-Sb rotation earned more than the continuous corn or C-O-M rotation did. Another observation from this project was the relative comparison between C-C and C-O-M. Without government program benefits or premium prices for organic produce, there was essentially no difference in the returns from these two systems. Not all of the benefits from rotation were reflected in annual net returns, however. Reduced use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and lower erosion rates can yield long-term benefits in terms of water quality, the environment, and human health.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS The nonmonetary benefits between the systems have not been examined thus far. One area of consideration in sustainable agriculture is energy use. It is an issue in both the source and amount used. Commercial fertilizers (especially nitrogen) and pesticides also require energy for their production and use. Figure 5-6 presents one view of energy use in this demonstration project. The energy produced is measured by its value as animal feed. The energy consumed is for machinery operation on the farm plus the energy required for use in the production of inputs. Very few differences were found in the total energy value of feed produced by the three systems. Energy consumption, however, varied significantly. The greatest factor in energy use was fertilizer. Over three-fourths of the energy used for C-C and C-Sb rotations was fertilizer. It takes approximately 1 gallon of a diesel fuel equivalent of energy to produce 4 pounds of nitrogen. Three general conclusions can be drawn from this particular study. The C-Sb rotation produced the highest average returns, and the C-O-M rotation was a viable alternative. The C-C and C-Sb rotation systems, however, were more vulnerable to external shocks, especially in energy prices. Rodale Conversion Project in Kutztown, Pennsylvania This project is operated and supported by the Rodale Research Center. Its original purpose was to estimate the impact of the starting crop of a rotation when converting to an organic system. The Rodale Research Center uses the term low input to describe their study; pesticides or commercial FIGURE 5-6 Energy balance from chemical organic demonstration project, 1978 to 1989. Values are average British thermal unit (Btu) equivalents (in millions). C, corn; Sb, soybeans; O, oats; M, hay. Source: Nashua Research Farm, Iowa State University, Ames.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS fertilizers were not used in two of three systems that were evaluated. This study was similar to the Iowa chemical and organic production system demonstration project discussed above. The conversion project examined three alternative production systems with three alternative starting crops. Each system and starting crop was replicated eight times on 20-by-300-foot plots (Duffy et al., 1989). The first system used no chemicals or commercial fertilizers. Animal manure was used to supplement soil fertility. The rotation was small grain-hay-corn-soybeans-corn silage. The three starting crops were small grain, corn, and corn silage. The second system in the project did not use chemicals, commercial fertilizers, or animal manure. The rotation was small grain-corn-small grain-corn-soybean. A legume was planted with the small grain and plowed under to help augment soil fertility needs. The three starting crops were small grain, soybeans, and corn. The third system followed a conventional chemical and fertilizer program and used the standard recommendations of The Pennsylvania State University (University Park). This system followed a corn-corn-soybean-corn-soybean rotation. The choice of the starting crop had a major effect on returns over the first rotation cycle. Row crops require more pest management and soil nutrients. Without the rotational benefits for soil fertility and pest management provided by previous legume crops, returns were greatly reduced when the conversion rotation was started with corn. This finding has implications for farmers. It means that if they are going to use a rotation-based system, then pest management and fertility needs must be augmented in the initial years of the conversion. The second major conclusion in the Rodale study was that returns for the organic system with manure and the conventional system were not significantly different. Both systems, however, produced significantly higher returns than those of the organic cash grain system without manure. Farming Systems Project in Central Iowa A third farming system project is the Iowa State Farming Systems Project (Duffy, 1988, 1989a; Honeyman et al., 1989). This 5-year project started in 1987 on the Allee Research Farm near Newell, Iowa, in Buena Vista County. The three alternative systems examined in this study are based on the level of management used. The first system is low management with very little field information to determine pest management or fertility needs. Pesticides and fertilizers are applied on a routine basis. There are two low-management rotations: continuous corn and corn-soybeans. The second system is a high-management system that uses pest scouting,

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS soil tests, ridge-till, banded herbicide applications, and manure application. This system also has two rotations: continuous corn and corn-soybeans. The third system is also high management, but it has the added goal of low chemical usage. Chemicals are used only in emergency situations. This system follows an oat-meadow-corn silage-rye/soybean-corn rotation. In the fourth year, rye and soybeans are double-cropped by planting rye the previous fall and harvesting it as hay the following spring. Each crop and system is replicated four times on 1.2-acre plots. The choice of materials, the timing of operations, and other management details are determined by a steering committee and by the farmer. Three years of this 5-year project have been completed. Although definitive conclusions cannot be drawn, some tentative findings are emerging. The most important finding thus far is the importance of farm manager performance in farming systems projects. Experiment stations, on-farm experiments, and other single-operator projects typically hold this key factor constant. No matter how many replications are included in the experimental design, there is only one manager. Timeliness, attention to detail, carefulness, and attitude are a few of the essential managerial attributes. Although they are hard to quantify, these skills are extremely important in determining the success or failure of an alternative production system. Another important finding is the success with which additional management information can replace the need for capital. Figure 5-7 shows the decrease in variable costs as more management is added. Figure 5-8 presents the 3-year average return to land and management. As in previously reported studies, no land or overhead charges are included. The high-management, low-chemical system is not described here because of technical difficulties. High management significantly increased returns, especially when a crop rotation (even 2 years) was used. Conclusion The three studies described here show the potential for alternative agriculture production practices. As knowledge increases and available tools increase, production practices and profitability will improve. Results of these studies suggest several areas where further economic consideration must be given. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH Profitability Individual farm profitability is of paramount importance. Understanding of how alternative systems compare must be increased. Similarly, there

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS FIGURE 5-7 Costs of the Iowa State University Farming Systems Project by input category, rotation, and management intensity. LM, low management; HM, high management; C-C, continuous corn; C-Sb, corn-soybean rotation. Source: Farming Systems Project, Iowa State University, Ames, Outlying Research Centers Report 88-31. must be a better appreciation of how pieces or parts of different systems can be combined. Trade-offs exist between chemical, cultural, mechanical, and biological techniques. What are these trade-offs for the individual farmer? There is no one best system for all farms. All farmers are unique, and so is the land that they farm. Many of the innovations in agriculture came about because of the need to overcome natural boundaries. As a consequence, much of the current technological research must be devoted to correcting mistakes from past innovations. Rather than trying to overcome natural limitations, sustainable agriculture uses the land and other natural resources and management to determine the best systems. Societal Costs and Benefits A second area for further consideration is the efficiency of resource use from a societal perspective. As noted above, agriculture production practices can produce unintended social benefits and costs. For sustainable agriculture to be understood, it is critical that these nonmarket impacts be recognized and that an attempt be made to place a value on them. Soil erosion provides the best example of an external cost. Farmers suffer the loss of future productivity because of soil erosion; however, it also creates on-farm and downstream costs. Organic matter and topsoil are lost. Roadway ditches must be cleaned of the topsoil washed from fields.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS Silt accumulates in reservoirs, and recreation areas deteriorate. Fish and other wildlife are impaired or eliminated. Water quality deterioration, increased municipal water treatment costs, and other environmental problems are other examples of unintended external costs. Another often overlooked societal aspect of farm resource use is the quality of rural life. Changes in farm production practices and farming systems have led to a decline in the farm population. These demographic changes affect the health and viability of rural communities. In 1990 there are more part-time farmers, more megafarmers, and fewer middle-sized family farms than in previous decades. Better understanding is needed of how current practices affect food safety, rural communities, environmental quality, and resource use. Farm Family Resources A third area for economic consideration in sustainable agriculture involves the allocation of resources for farm families. It is essential that the appropriate balance be achieved for sustainable agriculture. Labor is a major area for consideration in resource allocation. Too much work for laborers can decrease work quality, while too little work for laborers can affect profitability. To understand the labor constraint, labor availability, the effects on timeliness, labor quality, and the trade-offs between capital and labor must be evaluated. Another farm family resource issue is capital availability—in particular, FIGURE 5-8 Return to land and management, Iowa State University Farming Systems Project. LM, low management; HM, high management; C-C, continuous corn; C-Sb, corn-soybean rotation. Source: Farming Systems Project, Iowa State University, Ames, Outlying Research Centers Report 88-31.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS how much the production system has an impact on capital requirements. The farming system must be a compatible match with the farm family 's goals and resources. A final farm family resource issue is managerial skills. Management is crucial in determining the success or failure of a farm. As complexities and options in agriculture increase, farms must consider hiring outside experts, such as those used for pest control scouting. Government Policies Government programs and policies are a fourth general area for economic consideration in sustainable agriculture. Although most agriculture policy attention is focused on the 1990 farm bill, many other government policies and decisions, including environmental and health regulations, have an impact on agriculture. Less obvious, but also important, are the impacts of government monetary and fiscal policies. U.S. agriculture is inextricably intertwined with the national and world economies. Inflation, tax policies, trade barriers, and the value of the U.S. dollar all have an impact on agriculture and influence the profitability of agriculture production practices. A complete discussion of government influence is beyond the scope of this chapter. The conservation compliance provision and the conservation reserve program of the Food Security Act of 1985 are targeted toward protecting U.S. natural resources. The commodity programs, on the other hand, favor the production of certain crops such as corn and wheat. This leads to higher input use and penalizes farmers for adopting sustainable agriculture rotations. Regardless of the program, farmers respond to what they perceive to be in their best interest. Some programs provide unintended incentives or disincentives. For example, the current corn price support program rewards past corn production and encourages its continuation (Duffy and Chase, 1989b). These features mean that the more corn there is in the rotation, the higher the reward. However, the more corn there is in a rotation, the more dependent the farmer is on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Risk Management Risk is one of the most important considerations in sustainable agriculture. Risk can be defined and quantified in many different ways. It occurs anytime there is a less than certain outcome. Many kinds of risk are associated with farming, including price and production risks, worker safety risks, genetic risks, consumption risks, and transportation risks. Farmers must be able to assess the risks of alternative production practices accurately if they are to make informed choices. Everything involves

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS trade-offs, and there is no such thing as a riskless agriculture production system. The goal in sustainable agriculture research and education efforts such as LISA is to understand and reduce the severity of these trade-offs. Macrolevel Impacts The macrolevel effects—those beyond the farm—associated with the widespread adoption of sustainable farming systems should also be considered. In the United States there are regional and distributional questions to be answered. Areas with marginal levels of output could be forced out of production. There are international considerations in sustainable agriculture as well. The United States depends on a positive agriculture trade balance to help with the nation's overall balance of trade. U.S. agriculture is tied to the rest of the world through trade and competition. Alternatives must be thoroughly evaluated. STEPS TOWARD SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE Thus far, this chapter has provided examples of sustainable agriculture research and has discussed the many areas in which more and better information is needed. This section examines some currently available techniques that can move farmers toward sustainable agriculture. First, however, it is interesting to note two findings regarding farmers and sustainable agriculture. In the Iowa Rural Life Poll, farmers identified the extent to which they used 11 different practices to reduce pesticide or fertilizer use. The practices were soil testing, crop rotation, manure application, mechanical cultivations, planting of legumes, self-scouting, professional scouting, pheromone traps, degree days, tillage, and nonconventional products. Most farmers are currently doing some of the sustainable agriculture practices themselves (Lasley et al., 1990). Another study was conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office (1990). In that study, farmers were asked to identify what they perceived to be the barriers to the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices. The top five reasons mentioned by over three-fourths of the farmers contacted were greater management requirements, fear of lower yields, concerns over weed pressure, possibility of lower profits, and the need to maintain base acres. Most farmers are already using some sustainable agriculture practices, indicating that they are thinking about these agricultural issues. The following six management techniques can help farmers begin to move toward a more sustainable agriculture system immediately. Step 1 is recognizing fertilizer and yield benefits from rotations and manures. Many studies have estimated the available nitrogen provided by rotations and manure applications, as well as the impact on crop yields.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS Step 2 is performing accurate soil tests and using the results to improve fertility management. A proper representative sample is absolutely crucial. Too often soil samples are not representative. A good soil sample and test from a reputable laboratory shows many things, including the available phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and the need for lime. Plants need adequate amounts of P and K for efficient production. Plants can utilize P and K from the soil, manure, or other sources. Most Iowa corn farmers follow a P and K application schedule where nutrients are applied in amounts equal to those that the crops remove. While this seems sustainable on the surface, it ignores the P and K that is already available in the soil. Several studies have shown that beyond certain soil test levels, crops do not respond to added P or K (Webb, 1988). Soil acidity affects many aspects of soil microbiology, soil chemistry, and crop physiology. Maintenance of a proper soil pH can enhance the efficiencies of fertilizers and chemicals. Step 3 is evaluating tillage trips and methods. Elimination of unproductive trips can improve profitability and enhance sustainability. Farmers must have a tillage plan for each crop and field. Step 4 is to evaluate alternative production systems. Farmers must continually be receptive to new ideas and techniques. They should look for pieces or parts of systems that can work for their farms. Different economic conditions, different soils, and different managerial skills all indicate the need to continue to search for alternatives. Step 5 is careful evaluation of chemical applications and application techniques. Farmers need to know the chemicals they are using and the trade-offs of using various chemicals. Price is one discriminating factor. Relative efficacy and ability to control particular pest species are also important. The relative toxicities to humans, animals, and beneficial species, as well as persistence in the environment, also vary. Application techniques vary in their costs and efficacies. Banded herbicide applications and the use of strictly mechanical controls (such as cultivation) have been shown to be profitable alternatives to the broadcasting of herbicides in many instances (Iowa State Extension Service, 1987, 1988). Understanding of pest population dynamics and the available alternative techniques must be improved. Pest population monitoring and other integrated pest management techniques have been proven to be effective tools. Step 6 is the adoption of farming practices based on the available resources. The inherent productivity of the land is often omitted from determining the land's highest and best use. For example, spending $20 an acre for weed control costs $0.40 a bushel for a 100-bushel yield and only $0.27 a bushel for a 150-bushel yield. It is essential to stay within the internal

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS resources of the farm and the farmer. Every manager has strengths and weaknesses. The farming system should accentuate the positive. There are other examples of currently available practices that support sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture looks at not only better use of existing technologies but also development of new and better technologies—better in terms of profit, social acceptability, and environmental harmlessness. REFERENCES Duffy, M. 1988. ISU Farming Systems Project 1987 Start-Up Year: Overview. Ames, Iowa: Department of Economics, Iowa State University. Duffy, M. 1989a. ISU Farming Systems Project Observations on 1988 Crop Year. Ames, Iowa: Department of Economics, Iowa State University. Duffy, M. 1989b. Farmers' Attitudes and Opinions Concerning Records and Sustainable Agriculture, Selected Survey Results, Iowa Farm Business Association, 1989. Unpublished paper presented at the Iowa Farm Business Association Executive Workshop. Duffy, M., and C. Chase. 1989a. Costs and Returns Comparison for Chemical Versus Organic Rotations in Northeast Iowa, 1978–1988. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Northeast Iowa Growers Association. Duffy, M., and C. Chase. 1989b. Impacts of the 1985 Food Security Act on Crop Rotations and Fertilizer Use. Staff Paper No. 213. Ames, Iowa: Department of Economics, Iowa State University. Duffy, M., R. Ginder, and S. Nicholson. 1989. An Economic Analysis of the Rodale Conversion Project: Overview. Staff Paper No. 212. Ames, Iowa: Department of Economics, Iowa State University. Honeyman, M., M. Duffy, E. Dilworth, D. Grundman, and D. Shannon. 1989. ISU Farming Systems Project. Report No. ORC88-31. Ames, Iowa: College of Agriculture, Iowa State University. Iowa State Extension Service. 1987. Integrated Farm Management Demonstration Program 1987 Summary Report. Report No. Pm-1305. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Extension Service. Iowa State Extension Service. 1988. Integrated Farm Management Demonstration Program 1988 Progress Report. Report No. Pm-1345. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Extension Service. Lasley, P., and K. Kettner. 1989. Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, 1989 Summary. Report No. Pm-1369. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Extension Service. Lasley, P., M. Duffy, K. Kettner, and C. Chase. 1990. Factors affecting farmers' use of practices to reduce commercial fertilizers and pesticides. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 43(1):132–136. Padgitt, S. 1985. Farming Operations and Practices in Big Spring Basin. Report No. CRD 229. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Extension Service. Padgitt, S. 1987. Monitoring Audience Response to Demonstration Projects. Baseline Report: Audubon County. Report No. CRD 273. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Extension Service.

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE FIELD: A PROCEEDINGS U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1986. Outlook ‘87 Charts. Sixty-Third Annual Agents Outlook Conference. Washington, D.C.: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1989. Agricultural Resources, Situation and Outlook. Publication No. AR13. Washington, D.C.: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. General Accounting Office. 1990. Alternative Agriculture, Federal Incentives and Farmers Opinions. Publication No. U.S. GAOI/PEMD-90-12. Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office. Webb, J. 1988. Phosphorus and Potassium Fertilization. Report No. ORC87-13. Ames, Iowa: Northeast Research Center, Iowa State University.