Farmers and ranchers seeking to learn more about profitable and practical agricultural systems will find a wealth of ideas from the 2006/07 SARE Highlights, a free publication now available from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
The 2006/07 Highlights publication features 12 of the most innovative research projects funded by SARE, which awards grants to promote farming and ranching systems that are profitable, environmentally-sound and good for people and communities.
"SARE's best projects include careful research that culminates in practical extension education to farmers, ranchers and those who work with them," says CSREES Administrator Colien Hefferan.
In New York, a mentoring program paired experienced graziers with farmers in the Finger Lakes region to improve pastured livestock systems. The program helped 100 farmers achieve such goals as improving fencing and lanes or converting crop fields to productive pasture on 5,500 acres in the environmentally sensitive area.
"Our goal was to curb erosion [into the lakes], but also to sustain small and medium-sized farms," says Richard Winnett, coordinator of the Finger Lakes Resource Conservation and Development Council. The program "just exploded because we recruited good people to be our grazing advocates and develop plans for individual operations."
In Idaho, a researcher who showcased the strategies of successful potato growers prompted 25 farmers to try new conservation measures to manage pests and maximize returns with less fertilizer. His efforts mean that 110,000 acres, one-fourth of the state's potato production, are managed with conservation-oriented strategies.
"Too many growers have a recipe approach to farming based on what worked last year, regardless of the situation," says Bryan Hopkins, a potato cropping specialist at the University of Idaho. "The crux of the issue is basing it on site-specific needs."
Among other highlighted projects:
- In Wisconsin, a farming couple that raises lambs and goats attracted new, loyal customers from the nearby population of Mexican and Somali immigrants, partly by arranging for custom-slaughter practices. In their busiest month, they sell 500 goats and lambs at $100 each.
- Re-using water from shrimp ponds to irrigate olive trees saves water and supplies fertilizer, according to research at the University of Arizona.
- In Florida, researchers devised a simple, non-chemical bait to lure a pest of honeybees away from hives, protecting an industry that produces 17 million pounds of honey annually.
The 2006/07 report is the latest of a series of publications that shed light on some of the most creative research funded by SARE. For a copy, go to www.sare.org/publications/highlights.htm or contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 301 504-5236.