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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Fertilizer' Category


15
Nov

Synthetic Fertilizers and Pesticides Make Plants Less Attractive to Bumblebees, Research Shows

(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2022) Spraying a flowering plant with synthetic fertilizers makes it less attractive to bumblebees, according to research published this month in PNAS Nexus.  “A big issue is thus—agrochemical application can distort floral cues and modify behaviour in pollinators like bees,” said study author Ellard Hunting, PhD, of the University of Bristol, UK. The findings underscore the limited understanding that proponents of chemical agriculture have for the complex processes that food production relies upon and reinforce calls for a broad scale transition to regenerative, organic farming practices. Scientists began with the knowledge that spray applications of various agrichemicals affect the visitation patterns of bumblebees and other pollinators through a range of different processes. Past research finds that notorious bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides not only kill bees outright, but also result in a range of complex damage, including their ability to impede bees’ olfactory senses and adversely affect their vision and flying ability. Other chemicals like glyphosate weaken bees’ ability to distinguish between colors.   A growing area of research is investigating the ways in which pollinators use static electric fields surrounding flowers to find food sources. A 2013 study found that bumblebees use floral electrical fields to discriminate […]

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06
Sep

Ending Fossil Fuel-Based Pesticides and Fertilizers Central to National Forum and Legislation

(Beyond Pesticides, September 6, 2022) Beyond Pesticides is holding its National Forum series, Health, Biodiversity, and Climate: A Path for a Livable Future, beginning on September 15. The National Pesticide Forum has undergone tremendous change in the format, giving participants easier access to timely, bite-sized, and provocative learning experiences and empowering action to fuel change. This year, it focuses on meeting the health, biodiversity, and climate crises with a path for a livable future. We examine both the existential problems associated with current public health and environmental crises and chart a course for a future that solves these urgent problems—public health threats, biodiversity collapse, and the climate emergency. The first seminar launches September 15, the second on October 12, and a third will be announced for November. Register for free! The Forum will address both the science that defines the problems associated with the threats and the solutions, some of which are contained in legislation such as the Zero Food Waste Act and the Compost Act. Two ways of helping to reduce agricultural carbon emissions and reduce hunger are addressed in these two bills—by maximizing the amount of food that is eaten and ensuring that food waste is composted to build soil […]

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10
Aug

Cover Cropping Techniques Increase Organic Farm Sustainability

(Beyond Pesticides, August 10, 2022) Cover crops added in-between rows of organic corn while they are still growing can provide a range of benefits that improve a farm’s sustainability and lowers its impact on the surrounding environment, according to a study published in Agronomy Journal by scientists at Pennsylvania State University. “The use of cover crops in organic grain systems has many potential benefits,” says study coauthor Sarah Isbell, PhD. “These include improvements in soil quality, increased nutrient retention, prevention of erosion, and suppression of weeds. In organic systems where synthetic inputs are not used, cover crops can be managed to reduce nitrate leaching through soils and supply nitrogen to cash crops.” As demand for organic products continues to increase, and more and more farmers are embracing the organic mantra of “continuous improvement,” research like the present study is critical to the development of new efficiencies and ecologically sustainable practices. Scientists set out to understand the best method for planting cover crops under organic corn grown for grain or silage (fed to cattle and other animals). Determining a planting time for corn cover crops is difficult because corn is often harvested late in the fall, leaving little time for a […]

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15
Apr

Beyond Pesticides Makes Science-based Case that It Is Imperative to Phase Out Pesticides in a Decade

The organic solutions to problems highlighted in the latest issue of Pesticides and You—based on the importance of healthy ecosystems and public health protection—are within reach, and the data creates an imperative for action now that phases out pesticides within a decade, while ensuring food productivity, resilient land management, and safe food, air, and water. (Beyond Pesticides, April 15, 2022) The current issue of Pesticides and You, RETROSPECTIVE 2021: A Call to Urgent Action, is a look at a year of science, policy, and advocacy that informs both the existential problems that the U.S. and the world are facing due to toxic pesticide dependency, and solutions that can be adopted now. The information in this issue captures the body of science that empowers action at the local, state, and federal level, and provides a framework for challenging toxic pesticide use and putting alternatives in place. The issue finds that 2021 was a pivotal year in both defining the problem and advancing the solution. This year in review is divided into nine sections that provide an accounting of scientific findings documenting serious pesticide-induced health and environmental effects, disproportionate risk to people of color and those with preexisting conditions, regulatory failures, at the same time […]

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31
Mar

Traditionally-Produced Compost Improves Soil, Outperforms Synthetic Chemical Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, March 31, 2022) Composts produced using traditional ecological knowledge create healthier, more fertile soil than industrial, chemical-based fertilizers, according to the findings of a recent study published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation. As the dangers posed by industrial agriculture become increasingly apparent, organic and traditional practices show a time-tested path toward a sustainable farming future. According to study author Seema Sharma, PhD, “The research was already there because the ancient people did their research long ago,” she said to EOS. “But when it comes to the scientific community, you need research that is in a peer-reviewed journal and then finally verified.” The study focuses its comparison within the Kachchh district, a semi-arid farming area of Western India that experiences erratic rainfall and has higher salt levels in its soils than much of the rest of the country. Twenty farms were chosen based on their fertilizer management practices, split between farmers employing traditional composting techniques and those using chemical fertilizers. For the chemical farms, an initial application of animal-based manure was applied, and synthetic sources of nitrogen (urea) and phosphorus (ammonium phosphate) were then spread as a top dressing at a rate of roughly 60kg (132lbs)/ha approximately 20 days […]

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14
Mar

Proposals Challenge Organic Integrity; Take Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2022) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is receiving written comments from the public through April 1. This precedes the upcoming public hearing on April 19 and 21—concerning how organic food is produced. Written comments must be submitted through Regulations.gov. For details on the all the issues of importance to organic integrity, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage. The NOSB is responsible for guiding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its administration of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), including the materials allowed to be used in organic production and handling. The role of the NOSB is especially important as we depend on organic production to protect our ecosystem, mitigate climate change, and enhance our health The NOSB plays an important role in bringing the views of organic producers and consumers to bear on USDA, which is not always in sync with organic principles. There are many important issues on the NOSB agenda this Spring. For a complete discussion, see Keeping Organic Strong and the Spring 2022 issues page. Here are some high priority issues for us: Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) is a quaternary ammonium compound (quat or QAC) that is being petitioned for […]

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02
Mar

Sewage Sludge Creates a “Safe Haven” for Covid Viral Particles, Placing Public Health at Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2022) Covid (SARS-CoV-2) is being detected in wastewater, sludge, and biosolids, providing a “safe haven” for the virus and creating a health risk for wastewater workers and farmers. Published in Geoscience Frontiers, an international team of researchers systematically reviewed the available literature on the prevalence of pandemic coronavirus in wastewater in order to better determine risks to workers and public health. The timely review comes as many communities and states are reevaluating their use reclaimed human effluent due to a range of toxic contaminants, including per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Researchers found 20 articles from published literature that met the criteria for their review. Each of three environmental materials –wastewater effluent, sludge, and biosolids were analyzed for the presence of Covid. Effluent is the liquid that remains after a sewage treatment process, sludge is organic matter separated from effluent, and biosolids are the fully processed product that is then often applied to farm fields. Of the three materials, sludge contained the highest prevalence of covid RNA, followed by biosolids and then effluent, according to modeling of the data employed by researchers. Covid amounts were found to be related to the number of infected individuals living within […]

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27
Jan

Manatees in Florida Seriously Threatened from Pollution, Pesticides, and Other Human-Induced Stressors

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2022) Wildlife officials in Florida have resorted to supplementing starving manatees with cabbage and lettuce in an attempt to keep their rapidly dwindling populations alive. Massive Red Tides exacerbated by runoff from urban and agricultural pollution have directly killed off dozens of manatees over the last several years, but the indirect effects of these harmful algae blooms have been most catastrophic, resulting in significant loss of the seagrass beds upon which manatees rely. While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced plans to spend $481 million on water quality improvement projects, conservationists note that the funds are primarily directed toward point source wastewater treatment, and more is needed to address nonpoint source herbicide and fertilizer runoff from agricultural, and urban and suburban yards. Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, can live as long as 60 years old, weigh up to 1,200 lbs, and have no natural predators within their range. The biggest threat to these peaceful marine mammals is human activity and environmental stressors. Unfortunately, the former is well-known to exacerbate the latter. Humans harm manatees primarily through boat strikes, but the animals can also die from eating or becoming entangled in fishing equipment, […]

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06
Oct

Monoculture Agriculture Leads to Poor Soil Health

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2021) Agricultural soils under monoculture cropping systems are not as healthy as soils with diverse plantings, finds research recently published in the journal Agrosystems, Geosciences and Environment. Soil and soil quality are declining rapidly in the United States and around the world, with recent data indicating that the U.S. Corn Belt has lost 35% of its topsoil. Advocates say it is critical that the response to this problem focus on practices that conserve and improve the soil health by building organic matter and healthy microbial populations. “Understanding the management practices that lead to healthier soils will allow farmers to grow the same crops while reducing costly chemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) and protecting the environment,” said study coauthor Lori Phillips, PhD. To investigate disparities in soil health between cropping systems, researchers analyzed a long-term cropping system that includes 18 years of continuously grown soy, corn, and perennial grasses. Each cropping system was evaluated for its bacterial and fungal population, as well as a test called CNPS, which measures the enzymes produced by microbes specifically related to the soil’s carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur cycles. Researchers indicate that these measurements create “a holistic measure of biological activity,” […]

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27
Aug

Maui Prohibits Toxic Pesticides and Fertilizers on County Land, Allows Only Organic-Compatible Materials

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2021) On August 24, as reported by The Maui News, the Maui (Hawai’i) County Council approved legislation that will stop use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers in county land management practices, allowing only those materials permitted under federal organic law. The approach set out in the bill is the creation of a comprehensive list of such materials that will be either allowed or prohibited for use, as the legislation indicates, on “any County highway, drainageway, sidewalk, right-of-way, park, building, community center, or other facility.” This decision comes on the heels of years of grassroots work and advocacy, including that of Beyond Pesticides Director of Hawai’i Organic Land Management Program Autumn Ness. The legislation (CR 21-56), which passed with a vote of 8–0 (with one member excused), will regulate pesticide and fertilizer use on county properties broadly, but will not affect property managed by the state or private owners, county agricultural parks, or county property used for agricultural purposes. The new ordinance will take effect for most county parcels one year from the August 24 approval date; the effective date for Maui’s War Memorial Stadium Complex and Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Baseball Stadium is two years from approval, and for the […]

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23
Jul

Report Finds True Cost of Food in 2019 Was $2.1 Trillion in Adverse Health, Environmental, and Other Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, July 23, 2021) The Rockefeller Foundation has just published a report, True Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the U.S. Food System, which identifies the real-but-under-recognized downsides of the U.S. food system. The report notes that, for all its reputed bounty, the food system “comes with hidden costs — to our health, to our climate,” and to the many people who make sure that food reaches the population. The report calls for a true accounting of the costs of food in the U.S. Beyond Pesticides welcomes the broad framework of the report, but notes that a true accounting would necessarily include the costs of the externalities of conventional agriculture, including those related to pesticides: the costs of pollution and its cleanup (when that even happens), of lost pollination and biodiversity, of lost productivity from illness, and of health care costs related to pesticide use. Remarkably, for all its repetition of deleterious impacts on climate, biodiversity, and health, the report barely mentions either pesticides’ roles in causing such impacts, or the clear solution to so many of the negatives in the food system — organic, regenerative agriculture. The report’s economic analysis applies a true cost accounting (TCA) […]

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08
Jun

Sewage Sludge Fertilizers Sold at Hardware Stores Found to be Contaminated with PFAS Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2021) Biosolid-based fertilizer products like Milorganite, often sold to consumers as “organic,” are contaminated with dangerous PFAS chemicals, according to a study published by Sierra Club and Ecology Center. Biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, have been found in the past to contain residues of hazardous pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and a range of other toxicants. While the latest news may not be surprising for careful shoppers who have long avoided biosolid fertilizers, none of these risks are relayed to consumers on fertilizer packages. With fertilizer regulations failing the American consumer, it becomes more important than ever to seek out certified organic fertilizer products. Sierra Club and Ecology Center looked at nine fertilizer products, each produced from the sewage sludge of a particular American city. For instance, Milorganite, perhaps the most well-known biosolid sludge fertilizer, is derived from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin sewage treatment system. Other products were derived from locations including Sacramento, CA (Synagro); Tacoma, WA (TAGRO); Madison, GA (Pro Care); Las Vegas, NV (Ecoscraps); Eau Claire, WI (Menards Premium Natural Fertilizer); Jacksonville, FL (Greenedge); North Andover, MA (Earthlife); and Washington, DC (Cured Bloom). As the report notes, many of […]

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17
Nov

Synthetic Fertilizers Accelerate Climate Crisis; The Way We Feed People Conflicts with Stabilizing Climate

(Beyond Pesticides, November 17, 2020) Excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture is driving global nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions higher than any projected scenario, putting the world at greater risk of a climate catastrophe. According to research published by an international team of scientists in the journal Nature, failure to adequately address nitrous oxide emissions has the potential to impede the ability for the world to keep warming below the 2°C target established under the Paris Climate Agreement, necessitating further cuts in other greenhouse gasses. The paper is a clarion call for greater attention to agriculture’s role in generating and mitigating the climate crisis. “The dominant driver of the increase in atmospheric nitrous oxide comes from agriculture, and the growing demand for food and feed for animals will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions,” explains study lead author Hanqin Tian,  PhD, director of the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research at Auburn University in Alabama. “There is a conflict between the way we are feeding people and stabilizing the climate.” Nitrous oxide both damages ozone and warms the atmosphere, as it is roughly 300x better at capturing heat than carbon dioxide. To account for global nitrous oxide emissions, […]

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20
Oct

Take Action: Remove Known Carcinogens from Organic

(Beyond Pesticides, October 20, 2019) USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) should remove nonorganic celery powder from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for use in organic food production. It has been long-established that nitrates and nitrites, used to prevent bacterial growth in processed meats, react with protein to create nitrosamines, which are widely considered to be possible carcinogens. The World Health Organization considers processed meat “a known carcinogen.” Tell NOSB to remove carcinogenic nonorganic celery powder from organic processed meat. For too long the meat industry, including organic processors, have engaged in a form of subterfuge by being able, and in fact required, to label meat preserved with celery powder as “no nitrates or no nitrites added” or “uncured.” The use of conventional celery powder, with amped up applications of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, creates the same functional and biological impacts as synthetic nitrates/nitrates as a meat preservative. The federal laws governing organics are clear. To legally use a synthetic compound, or a natural or agricultural material that is not certified organic, in the production of certified organic product, it must appear on the list of approved substances. And to do so, proposed materials must not damage the environment or […]

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28
Aug

Synthetic Fertilizers Disrupt Carbon-Capturing Ability of Salt Marshes

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2019) Salt marshes, areas of coastal grassland regularly flooded by saltwater, provide a major global service by sequestering and storing carbon in the form of organic matter. However, research finds that nitrate from synthetic fertilizers found in agricultural runoff could change the microbial composition of the salt marshes to encourage organic matter decomposition and, therefore, carbon release versus capture. The study, “Nitrate addition stimulates microbial decomposition of organic matter in salt marsh sediments,” was published in Global Change Biology. Researchers from Massachusetts conducted their study on salt marsh sediments located in Plum Island Sound, MA. They took three core samples from the site, sectioning each one into shallow, mid, and deep sediments. The researchers set out to determine “the role of nitrate as an electron acceptor, and its effect on organic matter decomposition and the associated microbial community in salt marsh sediments.” In sum, they tested soil samples to see how a large amount of available nitrate would impact microbes, and therefore the carbon-sequestering constitution of the soil, versus a plain saltwater control. The results indicate that nitrates stimulate the production of dissolved inorganic carbon, leading to decomposition of organic matter that would otherwise remain stable […]

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06
Mar

Nutrient Runoff, Aquatic Weed Killers, and Florida’s Red Tide Collide in Public Debate

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2019) After a brief hiatus, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is continuing use of aquatic herbicides, including glyphosate, for invasive species management. Public pressure and feedback caused FWC to take a temporary pause from spraying while the commission collected public comment  through public hearings and emails from late January through February. FWC ultimately decided to resume spraying invasive species, and points to its improved integrated management system as reducing overall herbicide use. Glyphosate, one of the 17 aquatic herbicides that FWC uses regularly has sparked opposition from environmentalists and the general public due to its wide usage and known adverse effects. According to FWC data, 12,263 pounds of glyphosate-based herbicides were used on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee in 2017. About 175,000 people have signed North Palm Beach photographer and wildlife advocate Jim Abernathy’s petition titled “Stop The State-Sanctioned Poisoning of Our Lakes and Rivers!”. The petition decries the use of glyphosate to kill invasive aquatic plants and warns of subsequent nutrient pollution caused by decay. An excess of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus) in water bodies contribute to algal blooms. Eutrophication can eventually result in oxygen depletion and thereby decrease biodiversity. FWC denies that the […]

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11
Jul

Regenerative Farms Yield Soil Health and Higher Profits than Chemical-Intensive Operations

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2018) Ecologically-based farming systems contain far fewer pests and generate much higher profits than their conventional, chemical-based counterparts according to research published in the journal PeerJ earlier this year by scientists at South Dakota State University and the Ecdysis Foundation. The study supports calls to reshape the future of agriculture, as ‘regenerative’ farms, which avoid tillage and bare soil, integrate livestock, and foster on-farm diversity. These farms are found to represent an economically viable alternative to overly simplified, pesticide and fertilizer-dependent cropping systems. Given the study’s focus on corn cropping systems, such a shift is possible for thousands of farmers throughout the United States. Researchers looked at roughly 75 fields on 18 farms, measuring the organic matter in the soil, insect pest populations, corn yield as well as profit. Farms using pesticide treatments, which in corn fields is represented primarily by the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds, had 10x higher pest levels than regenerative farms. As noted in the study, pest populations are a function of the biodiversity within the crop field. Biodiveristy increased on regenerative farms not only because farmers sprayed fewer pesticides, but because they also allowed more plants to grow in between rows. More […]

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30
Mar

Chemical-Intensive Farms Singled Out for Excessive Use of “New” Nitrogen Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2018) While conventional farming practices rely primarily on new sources of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to grow crops, organic agriculture conserves nitrogen by using recycled sources, as detailed by new research published by the University of Virginia (UVA) and The Organic Center. Of concern is ‘reactive nitrogen,’ which is nitrogen in a form that will eventually be used by plants (ex. nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrate (NO3–), nitrite (NO2–), ammonia (NH3), and ammonium (NH4+)), rather than benign, non-reactive nitrogen in the form of N2.  “This research is significant and timely because its findings show that many common organic farming practices—like composting and the use of manure fertilization in place of synthetic fertilizers—can recycle reactive nitrogen that is already in the global system rather than introducing new reactive nitrogen into the environment, and thus have a much smaller environmental impact,” said Jessica Shade, PhD of The Organic Center. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California Davis published a study in Science Advances with the finding that regulators in the state drastically underestimate chemical-intensive agriculture’s contribution to nitrogen oxide (NOx) caused air pollution, acid rain, and respiratory illness in the state. While NOx  pollution is usually associated with energy production and […]

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