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Report: "Future Farming" Practices Work for VA

October 12, 2011

RESTON, Va. - From soybeans to tobacco, Virginia has a long and rich agricultural history of providing food and contributing to the state's economy. A new report offers ways to help farmers save money and increase their output while also helping the environment.

For many Virginia farmers, says Eliav Bitan, a National Wildlife Federation agriculture adviser who co-authored the report, nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Watershed is a big concern. He says a practice called "cover cropping" is a viable solution.

"A cover crop is just another crop that's planted during the fallow period, and that crop will grow. It'll soak up any of those extra nutrients, it'll die and it'll return those nutrients to the soil, so the farmer can use those nutrients next year."

Planting cover crops at a time when the ground would otherwise be bare will also help stop soil erosion and keep nutrients on the farm instead of in the Chesapeake, Bitan says. The report compiles case studies from seven successful farmers and ranchers around the nation.

Bitan says organic produce is gaining in popularity with consumers, and organic farming practices can be more profitable for farmers.

"A farmer can benefit on the bottom line by reducing their fertilizer costs or their herbicide costs, the same time as wildlife can benefit, the same time as the water quality can benefit."

The report says organic farming practices also require 60 percent less energy use compared with traditional farming methods.

The report, "Future Friendly Farming: Seven Agricultural Practices to Sustain People and the Environment," is online at

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA