The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a science policy and advocacy group. They have reasonable attitudes about some issues. Their recommendations about farming are not so rational. UCS is not the same as the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), although the names are similar at first glance. FAS is also an advocacy group, known for opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation. They’re lefty sorts, not always correct, but they are compassionate and aware of human fallibility. The Union of Concerned Scientists published a blog post in October 2012, updated in March 2013, about rotating crops to increase yields without chemical fertilizers. It is titled, “Crop rotation generates profits without pollution (Or, What Agribusiness doesn’t want you to know!)”.
Chemical fertilizers are unnecessary?
The UCS post begins with the finding that modern farming is not more productive than pre-industrial agriculture. Allegedly, crop rotation and Bronze-Age farming yields the same bountiful harvests as modern methods, with minimal dependence on chemical fertilizers:
Big Ag has worked hard for decades to instill a belief that its chemical-intensive industrial farming methods are more productive than low-input methods. Now a team of researchers has published data showing that more sustainable farming systems can achieve similar or greater yields and profits, despite steep reductions in chemical inputs, the so-called Marsden Farm study.
Mixed cultivation of fauna and flora
Next, the author, let us call her UCS Author explains why encouraging large animals to graze on, around, and in between crops is the key to sustainable farming:
livestock will produce manure…if feed grains and alfalfa are grown for livestock raised on-site or nearby, their manure in turn becomes an asset, fertilizing the crops, improving soil quality, and reducing the fossil fuel needed to transport grain and manufacture synthetic fertilizers.
The Marsden study is credited with these findings. Sounds great! Reintegrate crop cultivation and animal husbandry. Continue reading