Improving Soil Structure Good For Planet And Pocketbook

Brazilian soil scientist touts the benefits of continuous no-till, diverse cropping rotations and cover crops to sequester carbon and improve soil and yields

Soil isn't the bottom line just for farmers, it’s the bottom line for the whole planet, says João Carlos de Moreaes Sá.

There is a very practical “cherry on the cake” in saving the planet, says the soil scientist better known as Juca Sá. Improved soil structure leads to better yields, which puts more money in farmers’ pockets.

Sá is a soil scientist at Brazil’s State University of Ponta Grossa, the first school in Brazil to offer classes, and a major in no-till agronomy.

Keep Soil Active

Sá takes a microscopic view of soil to arrive at a big-picture conclusion: Keeping the soil permanently covered increases carbon sequestration, soil quality and profitability.

Sá’s mantra is that all of the complex biological processes going on beneath the soil surface interact to set the stage for crop productivity. Management determines the degree to which soils are optimized.

A diverse cropping rotation with cover crops is particularly effective.

“Intensification of crop rotation means you never keep the soil resting,” Sá says. “Close the window on periods of rest. It’s best to keep something growing in soil.”

He acknowledges cash crops pay the bills for no-tillers, but he says they should not think of themselves as just soybean, corn or cotton growers.

“We have to introduce other crop species. All of them will produce a result that benefits the main crop,” Sá says.

Combining continuous, living cover crops with a continuous long-term no-till system mimics Mother Nature’s permanent cover and can “restart” the soil…

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Mark Parker

Contributing Editor

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