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© 2020 TIME USA, LLC. But converting grassland into other land use can have a significant impact on carbon storage and carbon release. The Congressional Research Service reports that these programs often have demand from farmers that far exceeds the monies that Congress makes available. What do we mean by the term grassland agriculture? National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have noted, “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry”, Healthy Soils and Rangelands Solution Act, Planning Failures: The Costly Risks of Ignoring Climate Change, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237823417_Grazing_affects_methanotroph_activity_and_diversity_in_an_alpine_meadow_soil, Masks: What the Science Says, and What Lies Ahead. For either cool-season or warm-season perennial grasses, seeding into soybean stubble with a grassland drill will be reasonably simple. Farmland—especially American farmland—is great for producing food that supports human beings. Compared with other regions, producers in the Northern Plains were more likely to convert grassland to cropland or retain land in crops rather than returning it to grass. With increasing climate impacts, time is of the essence. California Congressman Jared Huffman introduced the Healthy Soils and Rangelands Solution Act, which would establish a competitive grant program for activities that store carbon in the soil, including management of grazing lands. Unfortunately, funding for such programs has fallen flat over the last many number of years. Corn and soybean fields are increasingly encroaching into the Prairie Pothole region of the Dakotas and Minnesota, the most important breeding habitat for waterfowl in North America. Earlier this year, USDA released its “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry” framework, which includes grasslands protection principles such as conservation of sensitive lands and grazing lands. Policies designed to protect sensitive ecosystems such as grasslands ought to be prioritized in a responsible, comprehensive manner. Both of those issues almost defeat the purpose of the provision. The soil gave nourishment and a safe place for seeds to develop. The first map has “shurbland” instead of shrubland. People like to banter around statements like it takes 2000 gallons to make a pound of beef without any understanding of what those numbers mean. They found that during the period of 2008-2012, large swaths of new ground were “cultivated” or plowed and planted to annual crops for the first time. So, although policies have tried to help protect grasslands and strengthen agricultural resilience to climate change, there is a lot more work to be done. When industrial critiques are made of extensive systems to promote intensive ones, these critiques do not account for any mitigation of GHG’s from either carbon sequestration or methane oxidation. All rights reserved. (With the exception of the billions upon billions of dollars worth of market-distorting subsidies that are part of the agriculture sector. Supply and demand–it’s Econ 101 at its purest. By permanently conserving grassland that otherwise would have been converted into alternative use, substantial emissions of carbon may be avoided. A bit of history to close: the infamous, expensive, and painfully detrimental Dust Bowl of the 1930s resulted from a confluence of climate and economic drivers. Since the development of the steel plow much of these grasslands have been converted to agricultural lands because of their rich so (If you want to better understand the human impact, I recommend Timothy Egan’s excellent book The Worst Hard Time or Ken Burns’ documentary mini-series The Dust Bowl). Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture. In fact, this extends the pattern of cropland establishment in the U.S., since most of today’s Corn Belt replaced grasslands and prairies. (And it’s not just a problem for the U.S. While drought shows how temperate grasslands can be affected by climate, the biome's conversion to farmland shows the role humans play in influencing it. Methanotrophs: the potential biological sink to mitigate the global methane load. But poor agricultural practices can ruin soil … Source: National Climate Assessment. The order for the report was couched in the 2008 Farm Bill. Why Messing With Your Body Clock May Make You Sick, Remember That? Among the list of considerations is soil erosion. Most of this land was in the center of the United States—the Great Plains states and western stretches of the Corn Belt. If a farmer wants to increase the amount of grain they produce, he really only has a couple of options. Given a similar intersection of climate and economic factors at present, scientists now speculate that we could be headed for another Dust Bowl. Grassland conversion in Iowa was concentrated on less suitable land, likely reflecting a relative lack of higher quality land available for growing more corn and soybeans. Researchers from South Dakota State University crunched the numbers and found that 1.3 million acres of grassland in disappeared between 2006 and 2011 in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. GM’s Environmental About-Face – Political Expedience or Real Leadership? Map 1. Support from UCS members make work like this possible. These three US Department of Agriculture maps, which trace irrigated crops, line up oh-so well with those that are replacing grasslands. Maps 5, 6, 7. The conversion of grassland into production cropland or other land development can rapidly decrease soil carbon stocks as a result of soil disturbance and removal of permanent vegetation. The formation of natural grasslands occurred over millions of years as plants and animals grew, died and decomposed into a soil that was largely undisturbed. Whole Food Blues: Why Organic Agriculture May Not Be So Sustainable, The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production, Critters So Ugly They Have to Mate With Themselves, Go to Sleep! A replicated study from 1992 to 1994 in the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that foraging brown hares Lepus europaeus generally avoided farms and areas of farms that had been converted from arable crops to Environmentally Sensitive Area grasslands. Ruminants, especially cattle (particularly beef cattle), have gotten a bad rap for their effects on climate, water, land and health. Grasslands provide protection against floods and droughts, have the potential to store carbon in the soil, and in turn, help increase overall climate stability. 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