Over these past two weeks, COP26, or the Conference of the Parties, held its 26th annual meeting. Also known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26 is where nations, indigenous peoples, organizations, and individuals meet to negotiate and discuss how to best mitigate climate change. Conversations such as these, from the local to the global level, are at the center of an ongoing climate crisis.
With a world-wide commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, the connections between our local and regional food systems to global climate change are becoming increasingly apparent. As agriculture drives almost 20% of global carbon emissions, investing in agricultural research to reduce these emissions is even more necessary to mitigating the climate crisis.
At Wolfe’s Neck Center, they are implementing regenerative agriculture principles across their farm and through their research initiatives. Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services through practices such as managed grazing by livestock, cover crops, no-till, and crop diversity. Practices like these can build soil health and help the soil to sequester more carbon, acting as a huge carbon sink and mitigating emissions.
With a mission to transform our relationship with farming and food for a healthier planet, they are committed to propelling the conversation around agriculture’s role in climate change into the national discourse, and to being a leader in driving solutions. They are transforming into a hub for soil health and climate research, demonstration, and education for producers and the public with the intention of inspiring action and innovation.
As the climate crisis continues, it demands those of us in agriculture to take action and find solutions. Wolfe’s Neck Center is extending their focus into the future, using on-site research with clear data to pave the way. Through centering regenerative agriculture principles, they are committed to using this knowledge to further inform environmental and agricultural advances for farmers and researchers.
Research at Wolfe’s Neck Center
Coast, Cows, Consumer (C3), originally known as Bovine Burp Busters (B3), is a $3 million grant from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. The project allows Wolfe’s Neck Center researchers, in collaboration with scientists from Bigelow Laboratory, to use Wolfe’s Neck Center’s herd to study the effect of Maine seaweed in a cow’s diet and its potential for methane emissions reduction. In addition to Bigelow Lab and WNC, this collaborative effort is also in partnership with researchers at Colby College and University of Vermont, as well as through testing with the dairy herd at the University of New Hampshire.
Crop Diversity on Livestock Farms
The Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant is funding a study that will demonstrate methods for increasing pasture and hay land productivity and soil health through low and no-till establishment of forage crops. Their Northeast pastures are dominated by cool-season grass species that struggle to thrive in the hot and dry summer months and lead to low feed quality for dairy cows. The solution may be in more weather resilient warm season forages. These are often more drought tolerant and grow rapidly in the summer months, in turn providing high quality feed all year and improved soil health. This grant will be used to assess how warm-season annuals (yearly plants that grow best at warmer temperatures) could be integrated into Northeast dairy grazing systems to provide quality forage for livestock year-round. Learn more about the grant here.
In the last week of October, OpenTEAM leadership met at Wolfe’s Neck Center to reflect on current collaborative approaches, discuss potential opportunities for increased training and certification in soil health tools, and begin to develop a strategy for scaling.
OpenTEAM began in 2019 in partnership with Wolfe’s Neck Center, Stonyfield, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and USDA’s LandPKS to provide community support for agriculture and soil health through interoperable tools for land stewards. With the goal of democratizing access to agricultural knowledge across the food system, OpenTEAM believes agriculture should be considered a public science in order to progress farming forward.
OpenTEAM offers field-level carbon measurement, digital management records, remote sensing, predictive analytics, and input and economic management decision support in a connected technology toolkit that supports adaptive soil health management for farms of all scales, geographies and production systems. Healthier soils mean more carbon sequestration. Since the initial launch, OpenTEAM has grown into a larger collaborative of farmers, ranchers, scientists, researchers, technologists, farm service providers, and food companies who are not only co-creating equitable toolkits for all land stewards, but are tackling complex problems such as ecosystem services markets and agricultural data management and sovereignty.