Carbonomics: Opening a Carbon Currency Exchange Within a No-Till Soil Ecosystem

Crop diversity and biological activity in a cover-cropped farming system ensures healthy interactions between plants, roots and soil organisms, says Keith Berns.

Pictured Above: COVER ECONOMY. Keith (left) and Brian Berns no-till 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland cash crops near Bladen, Neb. They also co-own Green Cover Seed, a cover crop seed provider. Keith has recently coined the term Carbonomics to explain the important role cover crops play in a healthy soil ecosystem

Likening a healthy, robust industrial economy to the types of biological activities taking place underground in a no-till, cover-cropped farming system isn’t a stretch of the imagination, says Keith Berns.

“Just as we understand economics because we live in an economy, we need to better understand our soil economy — and not just in dollars and cents on how much grain we’re hauling to town,” he says.

Keith is a former teacher who, along with brother Brian, no-till 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas, sunflowers, oats, barley and buckwheat near Bladen, Neb. They also co-own Green Cover Seed, a cover crop seed provider established in 2009.

Berns believes in the premise that since land invariably is your largest investment, it must be protected. And with a no-till system that incorporates a diverse selection of cover crops, his land is always covered by crop residue, protected from wind and water erosion, while the soil builds organic matter and structure.

He controls weeds through an integrated program of diverse crop rotations and the efficient use of chemicals.

“We’re still learning, but we are trying to get more diverse, which is one of the keys to…

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Mark mcneely1

Mark McNeely

Mark McNeely is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. His previous experience includes 25 years in industrial engine journalism and marketing. Mark holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin.

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