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Report: Sustainable Ag Benefits NC Farmers, Environment

October 12, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Feeding people and protecting the environment are two aims that don't have to be at odds on North Carolina farms. Farmers now have seven recommendations for increasing production, reducing costs and minimizing negative environmental impact.

A new "Future Friendly Farming" report by the National Wildlife Federation explains how farmers can use sustainable practices and benefit economically. Ryan Stockwell, a report co-author, grows low-till corn on his farm, a practice he says reduces the need for machinery and benefits the soil.

"My corn stands just as tall and just as thick as my neighbor's corn. Big difference for me is the time factor. I was able to save myself four or five passes across the field."

Another recommendation in the report is "anaerobic digestion," the use of manure to generate electricity. The power can then be sold and the remaining waste used for fertilizer. The practice is of particular interest to North Carolina, with its large number of pig and chicken farms.

Report co-author Eliav Bitan says the recommendations contradict a commonly held misconception that sustainable farming practices reduce productivity and profit.

"That's not true. Using some of these newer, more innovative farming practices, we can actually have an economic benefit for our farmers."

Another recommendation in the report is the use of cover crops, which are planted specifically to increase soil health and reduce the need for fertilizer and herbicides.

The report is online at nwf.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC