Report 2-16-21

Snow over the past weekend was sure welcome. We still need more to catch up, because it generally, it takes 10 inches of snow to get one inch of precipitation, but with temperatures in the mid thirties in the valleys of southwest Colorado for most of the day on Saturday, the water content may have been closer to 5 or 6 to one. Let it snow!

The amount of snow pack in the mountains is important to everyone who lives in the southwest. While excess mountain snow can lead springtime flooding in low lying areas, not enough snow stored in mountain snow packs cause short supplies of irrigation and domestic water during the summer and fall. In the western U.S., 85% of freshwater runoff originates as snowmelt. The snow pack is monitored by USDA National Conservation Service Snotel Sites, satellites and scientific observations, but more data is needed. Community Snow Observations, funded by NASA Earth Science Division, involves citizen scientists who like to travel in the back country of the western U.S. during the winter, and are willing to make snow depth reading in areas that are not covered by other scientific observations. More information is available at communitysnowobs.org.

Factory produced meat products continue to enter the market place. The latest arrival is a 3-d printed ribeye steak manufactured by Aleph Farms, based in Israel. As the number of these plant-based meat substitutes grows, livestock producer’s are becoming more concerned about competition in the market place. Aleph Farms describes itself as a company that’s a pioneer in growing real meat directly from cow cells under controlled conditions, using a fraction of the resources required for raising an entire animal for meat.” The U.S. beef industry is countering these claims by funding research and life-cycle assessments that shows beef has a positive environmental story to tell, while the Beef Quality Assurance program promotes animal care and well-being. According to research cited by the Animal Ag Alliance, the modern U.S. beef industry uses 19% less feed, 12% less water, 33% less land and has a 16% lower carbon footprint compared to beef production in the 1970’s.

A listener recently sent me a link to a new eight-part British Broad Casting series called Follow the Food, that looks into the into the question of food security by exploring the ways that farmers, scientists, engineers, fishermen, inventors, and others around the world are working to ensure that everyone is fed. Each half-hour episode focuses on a different aspects of agriculture, from farming techniques to artificial intelligence to gene editing and more. Text of the series can be found on the Internet by searching for BBC Follow the food series.

Analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency found that agriculture accounts for 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, behind transportation at 28%, electricity generation at 27%, and industry at 22%. The largest producers of greenhouse gas in agriculture come from livestock, agricultural soils and rice production. Methane gas produced by cattle and livestock manure management account for about half of agriculture’s share of emissions, while management of agricultural soils through fertilizer application, irrigation and soil drainage account for the remainder.

Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote, “To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.”

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