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  • Author or Editor: George Bird x
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USDA is responsible for SARE (formerly LISA). Sustainable agriculture is defined in the 1990 Farm Bill as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having site-specific application that will, over the long-term: satisfy human food and fiber needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends; make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole. Sustainable agriculture is a rapidly emerging concept and social movement. SARE is funded at $6.7 million annually, and managed through regional councils composed of farmers and ranchers, and representatives of non-profit private, agribusiness, government and academic organizations. The councils develop policy, allocate resources and organize oversight protocols. SARE projects place emphasis on whole farm, on-farm resource, economic, environmental, and quality of life issues.

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A field study was conducted to evaluate fumigant alternatives for methyl bromide (MB). Iodomethane (IM), chloropicrin (CP), 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), metham sodium (MS), and MB in various combinations were applied to a sandy soil field site in Sept. 2002. Some treatments were tarped. Plant injury, plant growth, fresh weight, and dry weight were evaluated for seven ornamental species: cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus ‘Blue Globe’), common lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’), hosta (Hosta ‘Twilight PP14040’), silvermound artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’), shasta daisy (Leucanthemum ×superbum ‘Snow Lady’), and thread leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’). Weed control was evaluated in Apr. 2003, July 2003, and May 2004. All treatments gave almost complete control of all annual weeds, except for IM 50% + CP 50% (200 lb/acre, tarped) and MS (75 gal/acre, 1:4 water, not tarped), which did not give adequate control of common chickweed (Stellaria media), mouseear cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), or common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). None of the treatments caused visual injury to any crop species. Treatments did not affect plant size in Nov. 2003. However, some treatments resulted in larger thread leaf coreopsis and silvermound artemisia plants in May 2004. There was no difference in dry weight at harvest between treatments for all species.

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Designing and implementing more productive, nutrient-efficient, and environmentally sound orchard management systems requires a better understanding of plant and soil responses to more biologically driven management practices. This study explored the effect of orchard floor and N management on soil organic C and N, populations of nematodes, NO3 leaching, and yields in tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L. `Montmorency') production. A baseline conventional orchard system consisting of an herbicide-treated tree row and a full rate of N fertilizer was compared to two modified-conventional and ten alternative orchard floor and N management systems. Living ground cover and the use of mulch with or without composted manure increased total C and the active C and N pools in the soil. For instance, supplemental mulch or mulch applied using a side-delivery mower increased soil C by >20% above the conventional baseline. The size of the active C pool increased 45% and 60% with the use of the species mix 2 ground cover and compost, respectively. Increases in the active N pool ranged from a low of 25% in the soils using mulch or a ground cover mix to a high of 60% when compost was used. As a result, the ability of these soils to provide N to growing plants was enhanced. Total soil N increased in the treatment using natural weeds as ground cover and the full rate of N fertilizer. It is likely that weeds were able to convert significant amounts of fertilizer N into organic forms. Increasing the active C and N pools stimulates microbial activity, and may favor populations of nonplant parasitic nematodes over plant parasitic species. Using a trunk-to-trunk cover crop mix under the cherry trees reduced NO3 leaching by >90% compared to a conventional, herbicide treated soil, even when N fertilizer was used at full rate. Nitrate leaching also dramatically diminished when N fertilizer was fertigated at a reduced rate or when compost was used as N source. Alternative orchard floor and N management did not reduce yields when compared to the baseline conventional treatment.

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