Nebraska

Can Cover Crops Help Farmers Cut Back On Fertilizer?

Jan 18, 2016
Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media) / Harvest Public Media

By some estimates, producing our food consumes about a fifth of the nation’s energy supply. It takes a lot of diesel to move tractors and semis around the farm, and electricity to pump water and dry grain. But some farmers are trying to cut back on the coal and gas they use and make our food system more energy efficient.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Wheat is one of the world’s staple foods and a big crop on the Great Plains, but it has been left in the dust. A corn farmer can grow 44 percent more bushels per acre than 30 years ago, but only 16 percent more wheat. That’s led many farmers to make a switch.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Earlier this year, Des Moines, Iowa, made news when the city announced it would sue farmers in a legal battle over fertilizer. The city’s water supply from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers often surpasses the legal limit for nitrates (10 mg/L), which commonly appear in water contaminated by runoff from farm fields.

Too many nitrates are a health hazard, particularly for infants whose blood can lose its ability to absorb oxygen. So nitrates must be reduced or removed, but cleaning nitrates from the city’s water is a huge expense. When nitrate levels rise above the safe drinking water limit, Des Moines fires up a filtering system that costs thousands of dollars to operate each day.

Colorado's Wet Spring Brought Downriver Changes For The Platte

Oct 14, 2015
Peter Stegen / Platte Basin Timelapse

Wet spring and summer rains soaked much of the High Plains in 2015. The Platte River, which runs through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska before emptying into the Missouri River, saw historic flooding.

"We were, at the beginning of this year, looking at a really large project this fall as far as clearing bars in the river," said Andrew Pierson, the conservation director at Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, Nebraska. "The high flow that we had, both volume and duration of flows, did 80 percent of that work for us."

Like other conservation groups on the central Platte, Audubon routinely clears vegetation from the river channel to improve habitat for cranes and other species. All the water though scoured tons of vegetation from the river channel. Now, the newly-created swath of flat, bare sandbars and braided river channels will make an ideal wildlife habitat.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

Americans have a big appetite for everything meat. We smoke it, grill it, slice it, and chop it.

The typical American puts away around 200 pounds [.pdf] of beef, pork, and poultry every year . That's true in many of the wealthiest countries. But developing countries are showing a growing appetite for meat.

"Globally there have been very strong increases in livestock product demand," said Thomas Hertel, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. "Most of those increases have been in the poorest countries and the (most) populous countries of the world. China and India for example."

Satisfying that demand sets up one of the biggest challenges for agriculture over the next few decades.

Farm Income Falling, Putting The Rural Economy On Edge

Sep 14, 2015
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the Midwest are facing a situation they haven’t seen in years. Grain prices are down. After some of the most lucrative growing seasons they’ve ever seen, some producers could lose money on this year’s crop. That could slow down the rural economy.

According to forecasts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this corn crop is worth about $7.1 billion less than last year. Receipts for soybeans will also be down $3.4 billion. The agency is predicting the largest single-year drop in farm income since 1983.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

A federal lawsuit that alleges Greeley-based meatpacking company JBS USA engaged in wide-scale discrimination against Muslim employees is heading to trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer denied the company’s request for summary judgment in a case that stems back to 2008 when the company’s Greeley beef plant fired Somali Muslim employees who were requesting breaks be scheduled to coincide with prayer time during Ramadan, a month of the Islamic calendar that requires daytime fasting and prayer.

Rodeo Bullfighters Do More Than Just Clown Around

Jun 25, 2015
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

Rodeo season is getting into full swing and at most rodeos, bull riding is the main event.

But when the bull ride ends, the work begins for rodeo bullfighters, and a young bullfighter is making a name in the business by putting himself in the middle of the action.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Michelle Kreifels knows she's different from her siblings. The 51-year-old is the fifth of seven children, and was born with an intellectual disability.

"You're different, too," Michelle tells her younger brother Patrick, 48, during their StoryCorps interview in Omaha, Neb. Patrick and their sister Marlene are Michelle's legal guardians.

"And how am I different?" Patrick asks.

"Gay," Michelle says.

Photo by Dave Allen/NIWA / Courtesy of NCAR

June is the start of outdoor recreation season for many Coloradans, and it also marks the start of the peak season for powerful storms and lightning. Colorado's infamous weather unpredictability can suddenly bring afternoon hikes, picnics or games to a quick end.

It's nighttime weather, though, that has atmospheric scientists' attention. They'll be spending six weeks in the Great Plains, trying to figure out the mystery of thunderstorms that form at night. The results could help meteorologists better predict these sometimes damaging storms.

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