Dull as dirt??? Hardly. Dirt – or more accurately, soil – is far from dull. As a farmer, I know soil is the most important part of our farm. Every decision my husband and I make about our farm’s soil has to answer “yes” to the question, “will this make our soil better?” Better soil is healthier and more productive.
Healthy, more productive soil is what regenerative agriculture is all about. Regenerative agriculture is a broad term for the methods that increase the natural health and biodiversity of soil. These methods can reduce pollution, greenhouse gasses and soil erosion.
With regenerative agriculture, we seek to have all the parts of an ecosystem working at their optimal levels. Soil is teaming with billions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that are the foundation of an elegant, symbiotic ecosystem. As farmers, it is our job to help that ecosystem grow and flourish. We use different ways to help that ecosystem thrive. Some of the things we do include:
(1) No tilling. The soil is not broken up through tillage by a plow, disc or other tillage tool between crops, providing better water infiltration and air spaces for all those microbes.
(2) Soil sampling and testing to provide optimal nutrition to the growing plants, which in turn feed the microbes.
(3) Fertilizer testing and analysis to know what nutrients the fertilizer is providing.
(4) Planting cover crops such as radishes, turnips, crimson clover or a host of other crops that are not generally harvested but are allowed to grow and protect the soil from erosion by wind and rain. These plants also provide root mass for the billions of microbes to utilize.
(5) Using livestock to help cycle the nutrients from crops and cover crops back into the soil for the microbes.
These concepts are not new to farming, but recent emphasis on regenerative agriculture has brought them to the forefront as management practices. Each farm and each soil is unique, so as a farmer my job is to find the right combination of management practices to build and regenerate healthy soils. Healthy soil with billions of living microbes in it is certainly not“as dull as dirt.” Always enjoy your food, and base your food choices on facts, not fear.
Recently, I listened to a podcast from Michele Payn as she visited with Steve Tucker who farms in southwest Nebraska using the regenerative agriculture practices.
You can listen to the podcast at the link below: