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Posts by Doug Lawrence

Attending to the needs of the soil

February 11, 2013 2_11_13banner

As the world gears-up to meet the needs of feeding nine billion people in 2050, a number of barriers need to be addressed.  Among these barriers are inadequate crop yields, food distribution problems and the potential adverse environmental effects of doubling food production. 

One of the foundational keys to maximizing production...

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SMAP Satellite: Helping to Feed the World

May 03, 2013 5_10_13Banner 530x 530

Agricultural production is driven by weather. More to the point, from Boone County, Iowa, to Sub-Saharan Africa, crop yields depend on the timing and amount of rainfall and, more specifically, soil moisture. It goes without saying that managing for rainfall variability is a challenge for farmers.

Early in my career as...

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Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting

July 16, 2013 7-16-13 Banner

Irrigation efficiency improvement projects have been implemented around the world with the expectation that improved irrigation efficiency would lead to increases in stream flows or groundwater supplies. Instead, the projects have lowered in-stream flows and accelerated declines in groundwater levels.

What has been overlooked is that in many projects, improved irrigation...

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Local partnerships can enhance nutrient stewardship

August 15, 2013 Banner 8-16-13

Improving nutrient management is one of the many challenges facing U.S. agriculture. The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone—which is linked, in part, to nutrient run-off from cropland in the Mississippi River basin—is arguably the most visible agricultural nutrient management challenge.

In 2007 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reassessed Gulf of...

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Infrastructure for 21st Century Agriculture

September 16, 2013 9-17-13 Banner

Precision agriculture integrates information technology and data to improve agricultural production decisions that enhance farm profitability and deliver environmental benefits

Much of the promise of this technology depends on soils information (See PrecisonAg.com article, “Top 5 Tech Trends in Precision Ag for 2012.”) However, the soils information available through USDA’s...

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Feeding 9 billion people ... sustainably

October 15, 2013 10-21-13 Banner

A number of forces are currently shaping and threatening the rural landscape around the world. 

First is continuing population growth. By 2050, the world’s population will grow from 6.8 billion to 9.0 billion, an increase of 32% and equal to about 7 times the size of the current U.S. population. With...

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Opportunity to craft workable policy

December 11, 2013 12-17-13 Banner

Born in conflict—enacted by Congress in 1972 over President Nixon’s veto—the Clean Water Act (CWA) has served for more than four decades as the foundation for protecting water quality in the United States. The Act’s jurisdiction is far reaching, inviting the scrutiny of every sector. The statute itself may have...

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Cracking the code for development of water quality markets

April 01, 2014 4-1-14 Banner

Water quality markets are perhaps the holy grail of environmental policy. It could be the silver bullet that would bring conservatives and liberals together to address water quality problems throughout the United States.

The thought is that if we were able to apply the efficiency of market-based environmental policy to the...

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Investing in sustainability

January 29, 2015 1-30-15 Banner

Most of my career was spent as an economist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). One of the things I dreamed of was harnessing the power of markets to drive conservation on agricultural lands, especially cropland. We had hoped that environmental markets would create revenue opportunities for farmers. However,...

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A Tale of Two Cities

February 16, 2015 2-18-15 Banner

The Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 8, 2015, to issue an intent to sue counties in the Des Moines river and Raccoon river watersheds because of high nitrate levels. The goal of the possible suit is to force Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun counties to...

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The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.