By NAWG’s 2019 Spring Intern Megan Myers
On this day, Monday, April 22, 2019, we officially celebrate the 49th Earth Day! The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 and launched what we see currently as the modern-day environmental movement. It was “the brainchild” of Senator Gaylord Nelson and inspired by an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969.
By raising public awareness of pollution, Senator Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight. As a result, we quickly saw an increase in legislative activity around green issues, and thus the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.
Through various conservation and good stewardship practices, wheat growers work to leave their land better than when they received it. Growers have been able to increase resource efficiency while simultaneously producing more bushels per acre. National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the National Wheat Foundation have become active in several projects stressing the wheat farmer’s drive to incorporate healthier practices into their operations.
NAWG is a member to Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, which seeks to create opportunities across the agricultural supply chain to continuously improve productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being.
In 2016, Field to Market released a report highlighting sustainability trends in U.S. commodity crop production from over the past 36 years. According to the report, American wheat farmers have increased resource efficiency in land use, soil conservation, irrigation water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Some additional key points from the Field to Market Report include:
- Soil conservation in wheat production in the US has improved over 30 percent on the Field to Market soil conservation indicator between 1980 and 2015.
- Adoption of conservation tillage practices for wheat have increased since the mid-1990s, with approximately 20 percent reduced or no-till in 1985 increasing to 60 percent in 2015.
- Wheat production in the US improved almost 20 percent on the energy use indicator between 1980 and 2015.
- The irrigation water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emission indicators for wheat production have all improved on a per-bushel basis, with steady or increasing per-acre trends.
Field to Market, also provides growers with what is known as The Fieldprint Calculator. First launched in 2009, The Fieldprint Calculator is an interactive online tool which explores relationships between management practices and outcomes. It helps growers assess corn, wheat, soybean, cotton and rice operations in terms of land use, soil conservation, soil carbon, water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Another example of how wheat farmers are leading in protecting environmental health is the Soil Health Partnership (SHP). The National Wheat Foundation is a member of SHP, which is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health.
Through this partnership, farmers are empowered to manage the risks of implementing practices through farm specific management strategies such as cover crops, reduced tillage, and advanced nutrient management.
To learn more about how wheat growers are committee to sustainability and healthy soil practices, visit https://www.wheatworld.org/
Additionally, for more ways to celebrate Earth Day, visit https://www.epa.gov/earthday!