Running Dry: The Future of the Ogallala Aquifer

by Alex Stanek, Political Science major

In the Great Plains region of the United States, one source provides water “nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States” (USDA). Unfortunately for farmers in the region, this water source is being overused and rapidly depleted, with groundwater levels in some areas dropping as much as 150 feet.

In an attempt to preserve this important resource, the federal government has stepped in and started the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, through the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service. This program was established to provide “technical and financial assistance to selected agricultural producers to help them implement conservation practices needed on their operations” (USDA).

So far, the results have been promising, but not enough to reverse the overuse. Since the program was started in 2011, the NRCS has invested $66 million in financial assistance. This money has helped more than 1,500 agricultural producers on 325,000 acres use less water, reducing water withdrawals by at least 1.5 million acre-feet (USDA). Put another way, that’s a whopping 489 billion gallons of water left in the ground for future generations.

While the problems the Ogallala faces are difficult, efforts to reduce water usage can be successful. Through programs like the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, hopefully we can reduce water usage in the region, and preserve the precious resource for future farmers.

Learn more –

www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/initiatives/?cid=stelprdb1048809

www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ogallala-aquifer/

Alex Stanek is a senior at The Ohio State University, where he studies Political Science. When he’s not studying for his next exam, you can find him reading the news or watching soccer.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Climate Change Denialism

by John Grusenmeyer, Sustainable Plant Systems-Agronomy major

Climate change is a highly politicized issue that cuts straight across party lines. The political fighting and animosity between the camps of those for and against the idea of climate change is overwhelming and disappointing. Americans need to stop this ridiculous fight and focus on what is happening in the world:

  1. Close to 1.6 million people in China die every year from the effects of excessive smog- that is 4,400 people every day!1
  2. The top ten warmest years on record: 2014, 2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2007. 2
  3. A few facts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature3:
    1. At threat of extinction are:
      1. 1 out of 8 birds
      2. 1 out of 4 mammals
      3. 1 out of 4 conifers
      4. 1 out of 3 amphibians
      5. 6 out of 7 marine turtles
    2. 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost
    3. 75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited
    4. 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction

Whatever your political views, shouldn’t we work towards a more sustainable future? What kind of planet do we want to leave our children who will live on a planet with an additional 3-4 billion people?

And from another angle, regardless of whether or not we caused it, the planet’s climate WILL change. The Earth’s climate has been changing since its formation. The question is, can we adapt to the changes?

If we work together, we can adapt in an ever changing world and work towards a sustainable future where we live in a way that sustains both ourselves and the plants and animals that we depend on.

So America, shall we keep having a pointless fight or have a debate over something real and tangible that we can do to work towards a peaceful and sustainable world?

  1. www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/asia/study-links-polluted-air-in-china-to-1-6-million-deaths-a-year.html?_r=0
  2. climate.nasa.gov/blog/2224
  3. www.globalissues.org/article/171/loss-of-biodiversity-and-extinctions

John Grusenmeyer is a junior at The Ohio State University studying agronomy. Growing up on a farm in Miami County, Ohio sparked his interest in agriculture. After graduation, he hopes to use his education to volunteer with an organization where he can help reduce poverty and hunger through agricultural improvements.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Ikea Brings Mini-Hydroponic Systems to the Home Kitchen

Andrzej Czarniecki – Sustainable Plant Systems: Horticulture & Crop Production major

Have you always been interested in growing your own fresh vegetables and herbs right in your kitchen? Well now it will be possible with Ikea’s new home mini hydroponic system.

With these home systems you will be able to grow large plants in a smaller confined area, due to the amount of oxygen the root system receives. The water and nutrients are directly brought to the root system of the plant. With hydroponics, you are capable of growing much larger plants compared to that of a soil grown plant.

KRYDDA/VÄXER series was developed with the help of the Swedish University of Agriculture.  The system comes with: seeds, lightning, nutrients and a germination chamber for your seedlings. Unfortunately this product is only available in the U.K., but hopefully we will be seeing this product coming to the U.S. soon.

Here is a great video showing how the easy the system is to set up and start growing right in your house!

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Even a greenhouse cannot protect your cucumbers

by Matthew Lowe, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Photo: Sally Miller, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Photo: Sally Miller, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Pseudoperonospora cubensis, downy mildew, will attack your cucumbers even under the protective glass of a greenhouse. This water mold can cause devastating yield losses in cucumber plants and can even spread to plants such as pumpkins and squash.

Symptoms

The older leaves are the first to show signs of disease pressure. The tops of the leaves will show yellow spots. The undersides of these spots may have mold growth under certain conditions. These yellow spots will eventually turn into brown, necrotic spots on the leaves which will merge together stopping photosynthesis in that leaf causing the reduction in yield.

Disease Cycle

Downy mildew is an obligate parasite requiring a living host at all times therefore it cannot overwinter. To spread its inoculum, downy mildew produces oospores to be spread by wind.

The disease makes its way into greenhouses through air vents. The spores can travel many miles in wind currents so even if downy mildew is killed off due to lack of hosts over winter, it can still return.

The disease is a wet mold so it requires a moist environment to thrive. The best temperatures for infection are 16°C to 22°C. The spores will land on the wet plant and enter through the stomates. Spores are spread even more by human interactions.

Management Strategies

One of the simplest strategies is greenhouse environment management. Keeping humidity down and allowing for good air flow is key.

Make sure watering is necessary as overwatering will increase outbreak potential. Also, keep tools clean and remove infected plants immediately to reduce the chances for spreading.

Spraying fungicides at the first sign of infection can be another good control but it is more expensive than other control methods. Remember to alternate fungicides to prevent the development of resistance.

For more information, go to: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/09-013w.htm

About Matthew Lowe
I am a Sustainable Plant Systems major with a specialization in Agronomy at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. I earned my Associate of Science Degree in Agronomy from The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute (OSU ATI) in the spring of 2015.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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