January 23, 2015
This month, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has unveiled this free search engine tool for USDA and peer reviewed agriculture-related research publications. Their digital collection features 40,000 full-text articles from the USDA as well as 300,000 citations available to the public at no charge. While Phase I consists of documents from 2002-2012, Phase II to be released later in the year will contain the remainder of NAL’s records.
This new release is only one of NAL’s many tools to make accessing agriculture research easier for farmers and scientists. The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) specializes in information pertaining to sustainable food systems including ecologic pest management, aquaculture, building soil, on-farm renewable energy, and much more. Founded in 1985, AFSIC is perfect for a farmer looking to move towards more sustainable practices with practical guides and tools. Stemming from the Low-Input Sustainable Agriculture (LISA) program that eventually became Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), AFSIC was one of the first USDA programs to focus on sustainable and organic agriculture.
Another recent release from the NAL is the digitalization of century-old documents forming the Organic Roots Collection. Originating from a time before pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, these documents are rich with information on conservation techniques and organic farming. Searching through the 800+ digital documents, information about beekeeping, the importance of cover cropping and crop rotation, and early techniques for pest management are available in plenty. (Editor’s note: If you have trouble loading the documents try switching browsers.) At a time when organics are trending across the country, these resources are excellent for farmers interested in using century-old techniques to grow more nutritious and less fossil-fuel intensive foods while simultaneously building their soil to increase productivity for future harvests.
Last but not least, the NAL also hosts the Start2Farm.gov website that includes a database of resources and programs for beginning farmers, including insights into finding financing and services. The site was funded by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, an NSAC developed and championed farm bill program that is currently open for project applications.
Started in the 19th century and named the National Agriculture Library in the 1960s, the NAL, physically located in Beltsville, Maryland, is a great online resource. Use it!