Midwest farmers dig deep to invest in soil
Published: August 4, 2018
Category: Regenerative Agriculture, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
Today’s vegetables have far less nutritional value than those of 70 years ago—and the answer lies in their depleted soil. Midwestern farmers are owning the problem, stoking a soil health movement through use of cover crops, no-till practices and less fertilizer use.
Cover crops keep soil in place and contribute to organic matter, attracting microorganisms and nutrients. Less fertilizer minimizes farm runoff—excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers feed algae, causing toxic algal bloom in major lakes and hypoxia in coastal waters. Healthy soils retain more moisture, lower the temperature, and recycle more carbon and release less, minimizing climate impact.
Introduction of synthetic fertilizers and subsequent monocropping further damaged depleted soil. “We’ve reached a tipping point, in terms of awareness and experimentation…we simply need more farmers to start doing [practices like cover crops],” said Harold van Es of Cornell University.
Nick Goeser directs the Soil Health Partnership that facilitates economic assessments to incentivize steps to improve soil and farmers’ pocketbooks. In Indiana, the number of growers using cover crops has quintupled in five years. Indiana farmer Mike Starkey started with no-tilling and embraced cover crops; during the 2012 drought, his yields were double the rest of the county. Farmers are learning that if they take care of the land, it will take care of them.
Soil health labels might be on the horizon, another metric consumers would like to access.
Source: USA Today
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