Ag Resources > Sustainable Farming

Remote Solar Water Pumps

A guide to choosing a solar water pump for remote (off-grid) applications has been published by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. See the pdf by clicking here Determining the Optimum Solar Water Pumping System for Domestic Use, Livestock Watering or Irrigation

For this guide, agricultural engineer Brian Vick and colleagues drew on the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory's 31 years of testing stand-alone water pumps. The laboratory is located near Bushland, Texas..

Weeds of Nebraska

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture's weed book is available from the Department of Ag office in Lincoln. This hardbound book contains detailed descriptions of 396 weeds, each with color photographs. It includes close-up photos of weed flowers and key identification characteristics. It can be purchased directly from the Department of Ag office in Lincoln for a cost or to order, write the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, PO Box 94756, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call (402) 471-2341. Delivery will take 2 to 3 weeks.

Small Farm Resources Project (SFRP)

Cover crops, windbreaks, terraces, rotations, composting. These are some of the practices that over 20 farm families experimented with ten years ago to provide, conserve, or cycle crop nutrients. These families participated in the Small Farm Resources Project (SFRP) to try and increase their yields, reduce their costs, improve their soils, and retain management control of their farms.

Earl Fish tried corn windbreaks in his soybean fields to reduce soil water loss caused by hot summer winds. He found a 4-5% increase in bean yields in a dry year but no advantage in a wet year. Gary Young created narrow strips of corn and soybeans throughout the whole field that provided both windbreak and fertilization benefits. Several families tried cover crops to reduce water loss, control off-season erosion, and provide soil nitrogen. These trials included rye, turnips, triticale, several legumes, and other crops. The cooperators saw slight increases in crop yields and definite successes and failures with different cover crops. Many of them decided to experiment with cover crops beyond the life of the SFRP.

Some of the SFRP cooperators have made improvements to their ideas since the project ended. Bill Kleinschmit cut his fertilizer costs and increased crop yields by using composted dairy manure. He modified a hay windrower in 1983 to turn and windrow the compost. In 1993 he redesigned the compost-turner and, with a special USDA grant, built a more powerful and reliable machine for only $5000. The project concluded that, "...these families have become more confident in their own decision-making. In turn, they have gained a new enthusiasm for farming and are more convinced than ever of the soundness and sustainability of their way of farming - small, diversified, and conservation-oriented.... These farms survived and prospered in contradiction to conventional agricultural theory." 

Their approaches might help your farm to prosper as well. Individual practice results or the total SFRP report are available from the Center for Rural Affairs. Contact them at

Return to Resistance: Breeding Crops to Reduce Pesticide Dependence

by Raoul A. Robinson, explains how groups of farmers can work together to breed crops with effective, durable resistance to all locally important pests and diseases. Dr. Robinson analyzes crop breeding's successes and shortcomings, and explains the new techniques of breeding food crops with this inherited immunity - technically termed "horizontal resistance". Properly used, horizontal resistance could provide us with a largely pest-free agriculture, one which is largely pesticide-free as well. 

To order, call: 1-800-235-7177.

The Soul of Soil: A Guide to Ecological Soil Management

by Grace Gershuny and Joe Smillie, provides a practical introduction to managing soil for long-term productivity. It is a handbook of useful guidelines to help make sound management decisions based on ecological principles, with minimal reliance on "off-farm" fertilizers. The authors describe good management of soil organic matter and humus to achieve long-lasting soil fertility. These methods include the use of green manures, crop rotations, on-farm composting, and mineral fertilizers. The Soul of Soil includes many tables, a glossary, lists of resource groups and organizations, and a bibliography. Contact: agACCESS at: (916) 756-7177; Fax: (916) 756-7188.

Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Web Site

Now you can access the latest information on sustainable agriculture at a new, user-friendly web site maintained by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). This informative web site features on-line books and a database of more than 1,000 research projects funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. It is located at:

Steel in the Field: A Farmer's Guide to Weed Management Tools

Shows how today's implements and techniques can handle weeds while reducing - or eliminating - herbicides. The 128-page book presents what farmers and researchers have learned in the past 20 years about cutting weed-control costs through improved cultivation tools, cover crops and crop rotations. To order contact: Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405-0082. Please include mailing address, daytime phone number and reference number MP091197.

Sustainable Farm Lease

A tool for landowners and tenants who want to craft farmland leases that encourage soil conservation and sustainability. This tool was created by the Drake Agricultural Law Center in cooperation with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, provides a variety of landowner resources for sustainable farm leasing.

Sustainable Farm Lease Toolbox

The Color of Food Network

The Color of Food network is a place to share powerful models of farm and food initiatives led by communities of color; an opportunity to show our power in numbers in the food movement; and a tool to repaint the picture of food and agriculture for people of color. The Color of Food Network

On-Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production

Roger Rainville is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing costs on his farm near Alburgh, Vermont. He’s currently producing biodiesel for about $1.70 a gallon. That savings, and his profit margin, are going to be even greater if energy and fuel prices continue to rise as they have recently. Rainville first got interested in oilseed production when University of Vermont Extension approached him about growing canola seed on his farm. Initially, Rainville thought the canola could provide a good source of feed (canola meal) for his cows, with oil production simply a side-benefit. Over several years, however, Rainville’s thinking was transformed as he realized the potential for producing his own biodiesel. As shown in this video, Rainville has developed expertise in production, harvesting, processing and storage of canola (and sunflower) oil, as well as the technical aspects of converting that oil into biodiesel fuel for use on the farm. Rainville cautions that farmers should try out oilseed and biofuel production on a small scale first, before making any major changes or investments in equipment. Watch the video and learn more to see if biodiesel production might be adapted to your farm or ranch system.

Rethinking Biogas

This webinar explores the potential for this renewable energy resource to grow by examining biogas sources, conversion technologies, and outputs together with energy policies needed to support them. With appropriate policy and deployment, biogas can become a substantial source of energy in the Midwest. Rethinking Biogas: An Emerging Energy Source in the Midwest

Management for bumblebees - How farmers can bring back the buzz

Bumblebees are a crucial insect group for pollination of vegetables, fruit, oilseeds, legumes and fodder crops. Maintaining healthy bumblebee populations means that bees and other pollinators can quickly respond to the presence of mass flowering crops – an ‘on call’ service. Farmers can play a key role in reversing this loss through management of flower-rich areas to provide nectar and pollen sources and bumblebee nest habitats. A habitat network providing continuity and diversity of flowers is required from April to September. Bumblebees respond very quickly to improvement in food sources. Pollen sources are particularly important. Helping bumblebees will help a wide range of other invertebrates including honeybees, solitary bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects such as hoverflies, ladybirds and ground beetles. Integrating profitable farming and bumblebee conservation will improve the public perception of farming. Management for the Bumblebees

Backpack Sprayer Videos: Learn to Use Sprayers More Efficiently

Learn how to better use modified backpack sprayers to save time and money, and improve safety, by watching the 7 videos created by Rutgers Research Farm. This may be a helpful resource for small, organic and urban farmers, both beginning and experienced. Watch the videos here.

Sustainable Agriculture: Basic Principles and Concept Overview

What is sustainable agriculture? What does it mean for farmers, ranchers and communities? How does it relate to my role as an educator or researcher? Now you can answer those questions and more, using this informative and readable online course. Basic principles and concept overview.