I have crouched over rain-soaked fields in the spring and made ball, after ball, after ball of soil in my hand. I have rolled these packed clumps around, dropped them on the ground, and then once more, just to be sure, during monsoon spells of utter inundation and concluded---“Nope, too wet to work these fields.” Why should I or any other farmer care whether a packed handful of wet mud is indeed, packed and mud? How will the future of our food systems be shaped by farmer knowledge and treatment of fields today? The answer is: soil health. The structure, integrity, and potential of our agricultural soil is paramount to the health of our collective growth as a society.
Soil health refers to the tilth, water holding capacity, compaction rate, and both nutrient content and ability to share those nutrients with plant life. Soil health means robust microbial activity and the long-term ability to support crop production, livestock graze, browse, or forage, and surrounding bioregion vitality. By treating soil as one of our most prized commodities—water sources, forests, fields, and local fauna also benefit as pieces of an interdependent system. Our soil is also our cradle within the food production cycle. We cannot incubate successful farms without solid platforms for growing nutrient dense farm products. There is no substitute for a diverse, biologically sound growing medium. Soil health begins with research, education, and dissemination of best practices to farmers young and old alike.
Research universities, organization, and on-farm demonstrations yield tremendous insight into sustainably managed soil health. Let’s look at cover-cropping as one example (as just one of many sustainable soil health improvement techniques). As farms trial various cover-cropping combinations aimed at equally various goals (tillage radish to remediate compaction, buckwheat to mine for phosphorous, winter rye to assist with organic matter) crucial research is also being executed. The results of these trials amount to hugely important educational opportunities for the entire national and global sustainable agricultural community. As we improve our methods of results transmission, such as the work of NCAT, we are creating a fibrous root system capable of tapping into the soil health of many farms in scattered and unique locations.
All content posted on this site belong to their respectable owners. Each author holds all copyrights, and all rights are reserved to the holder.