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In order to replace all of the “inorganic” nitrogen fertilizer that we currently apply in industrial farming and use more “organic” methods – namely using cow manure as fertilizer, we would need an extra 7 billion cattle grazing on an estimated 30 billion acres of pastureland.

Yes, the impacts on land use and climate would be positive if “we” all ate a little less beef, but the land use and climate impacts of moving to 100% organic vegetarianism would be disastrous.  That’s just a glimpse of the inconsistency of the organic farming movement – more coming later.

As I’ve asked before, does a plant know the difference between one nitrogen atom and another? Does it know if one came out of the air via natural gas powered factories, or whether one came out of the rear of a cow?

4 Responses to “Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Organic Farming Edition”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Come on, man! You’re just a shill for Big-Farma! 😉

  2. Harry says:

    Our problem when we had cows and grew their feed was that there never was enough manure. If we could have avoided buying fertilizer, we would have.

    You may be interested in how fertilizer is used when one plants corn. It is important to put the fertilizer 3″ to about 8″ from the seed; otherwise, the corn will not be able to use it. I mention this beacuse so-called “non-point” pollution is a big concern of the people who regulate our lives and want farmers not to use fertilizer not derived organically. They think all that fertilizer leaches out of the soil and flows into the Chesapeake. They know nothing about planting corn.

    To be sure, spreading manure over the ground has its environmental problems if handled improperly, and it is important to plow it under as soon as possible. Many farmers today store manure in liquid form during the winter, spread it in the spring, and plow it in.

    But not every farmer has that system. We didn’t, and, assuming the ground was frozen enough not to get stuck, we would spread it on a level field. We never deliberately spread it in a place where it would wash away. It was valuable, after all.

    I don’t think any plant cares about the source of nitrogen, potash, etc.

    Of course one has to be judicious in using herbicides and pesticides. They are expensive, and nobody in his right mind wants to ruin the soil. We hardly ever used pesticides anyway, but we did use herbicides to kill weeds in corn fields. We never sprayed anything on something a cow might eat, however, and this image cultivated by the enviro-organic people of cows munching on sprayed pasture or sprayed hay is nuts.

    I never had a problem drinking our own milk, or anybody’s milk once it is pasteurized. Good milk is not the result of cows eating organic feed, but rather a function of how healthy your cows are and how cleanly you handle it from the time it is milked to the time it is bottled and stored in a cool place until it is drunk. (Pasteurization kills microorganisms, but if milk is poorly handled, you have many microorganisms that have been excreting other stuff. I can taste the difference between good milk and bad.

    Some people favor organic milk (my daughter, for example), and I think some of it may be better-tasting; but I think the better taste has to do with overall better care in herd health and cleanliness than it does because the cow ate a piece of organically-grown alfalfa. Cows are discriminating about what they eat and drink: they hate chlorinated municipal water, for example.

    I liked Speedmaster’s terse comment. “Big Farma” would be a great handle to use on the internet, or, even better on the CB.

  3. Harry says:

    I just reread your final question regarding emissions from the rear end of cows, and have to correct a common misconception.

    Anyone who has spent signifigant time in the back walk behind cows knows that cows do not pass gas, as horses, dogs, cats, and humans do. Cows expel all sorts of stuff, but their gas eminates through their mouths, while they are chewing their cud.

    One of the greatest adventures for a cow is to escape from her pasture into a cornfield, where she will eat and eat and eat, and if left alone will become bloated. Either the vet or the brave farmer will pierce her stomach with a trochar; I was never faced with such a dire situation, but my father was once.

    This is not to say that cows do not produce methane by other means. Your basic cow flop in the meadow produces methane, CH4, which because of its volatility combines with oxygen to produce water and carbon dioxide. Take my word for it that the air in a pasture is better than it is anywhere inside the Beltway.

  4. Harry says:

    But what if Obama decreed there would be another seven billion more cattle, on another 30 billion acres? Wouldn’t that make me richer, like Al Gore with his solar panels? I’d like about $1.2 billion of “green seed money” to buy some cows, plant some carbon credits, sell some securities, buy a G-5, plant some trees to get more carbon credits, etc.,etc. They want manure, no problem.

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