Soil Health is a new paradigm in no-till farming, and very evidently a fast-growing grassroots movement that “threatens” to unite all farmers. Attendees at a farm workshop in Carrol, Ohio said they wished the movement will be recognized not only by no-tillers but organic and conventional farmers as well. More than 300 persons converged on David Brandt’s no-till corn, bean and grain farm on April 10 to learn more about cover cropping, air-seeding, and NRCS Soil Health Tools, a new one of which incorporate Solvita CO2-Burst as the biological component. Down-‘n-dirty lessons included soil-clod demos, counting earthworm (and radish) channels penetrating deep into the profile, and watching how to “crush” but, not till, a cover crop for soil improvement.
What’s got participants so excited was “the sense of hope”, according to Jay Fuhrer, Soil Conservationist attending from Bismarck, ND. Hope that USA farm soils so deep in degradation from 50 years of being pushed to massive tillage and soil over-use, can be saved, and returned to economic viability. Some referred to cultivating soil as a form of “tillage alcoholism” and speculated on the step-wise program needed to slowly restore soil tilth. Intense discussion focused on tools versus vision, the need to broaden the dogmatic “no-till” messages so other growers can participate, especially how to invite vegetable and organic growers for whom no-till offers (as yet) few practical solutions.
In Europe long-term rotational-tillage farm plot studies reveal soil health can be steadily improved with the right combination of techniques (see Will Brinton’s grad-school days report on comparing Organic and Conventional farm Systems). While old wisdom is undoubtedly at work (see Woods End’s Green Manuring guidelines from 1989) , growers everywhere need to recognize the new source of inspiration driving farmers to seek practices focused on Soil Health, and applaud Dave Brandt’s motivational message for soil restoration.