Author: Bill Spiegel
Let’s begin with a pop quiz.
Two similar fields are on either side of a rural road in Any County, USA. One field has been conventionally farmed for years, with two fall-tillage passes, followed by one in the spring prior to planting. The other field has been no-tilled for two decades. The farmer began planting diverse blends of cover crops four years ago and recently began grazing cattle on those cover crops. Which field will produce more grain?
The answer is, it depends. With normal rainfall and without adverse weather conditions, the odds are good that both fields will yield similarly.
In a year of weather extremes – too little or too much rain, high temperatures or low – odds are good that the no-till and cover-cropped field will produce more consistent yields.
The reason is resiliency. After all, that’s what soil health is all about.
Farm trends come and go, but perhaps nothing has gathered momentum like the subject of soil health. The United Nations General Assembly even declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. Unlike most trends, though, soil health has staying power. That’s because farmers and landowners find that adopting sound soil health practices boosts soil biology and increases soil organic matter. This, in turn, improves the soil’s ability to consistently produce a crop regardless of weather extremes.
Mother Nature has built soil communities over thousands of years. Soil teems with life. A handful of soil contains more living creatures than the world has people.