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Holistic Management Can Help Keep U.S. from ‘Desertification’

No-tillers can heal grasslands, improve their soils and farm more profitably by increasing livestock numbers and re-examining their management context, says Allan Savory.


Pictured Above: STOP THE MINING. Allan Savory, co-founder of the Savory Institute, says the money coming in agriculture should be a solar dollar, but it’s not. “In almost all of American agriculture, it’s a mineral dollar because we are mining the soil,” he says. “All of agriculture should be producing solar dollars — from green, growing plants on regenerating soils.”

When it comes to threats facing the Earth’s arable lands, a perfect storm is brewing and technology alone won’t be enough to solve it, Allan Savory says.

Rising global populations, increasing use of fossil fuels and poor grazing management are driving problems associated with climate change and causing the “desertification” of the world’s landscapes — in other words, too much bare soil.

The co-founder of the Savory Institute believes desertification is caused by “reductionist management” that works against the web of complexity that includes social, cultural, environmental, and economic factors. 

The biggest problem isn’t with tropical rain forests with guaranteed moisture, where it’s nearly impossible to have large areas of bare ground. It’s in climates with intermittent humidity and dryness in which desertification in the U.S. and world occurs.

Desertification results when the available rainfall becomes less effective, Savory told attendees at the No-till on the Plains Winter Conference last January.

“Effective rainfall is that which falls, soaks into the soil and only leaves it through growing plants, or by flowing through the soil to rivers, wetlands and aquifers,” he says. “Non-effective rainfall runs across the soil surface, leading to…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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