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Diversifying Crops and Livestock Saves Soil While Boosting Profitability

Gail Fuller learned it takes more than no-till to see a change in soil health, and since losing his crop insurance, he’s no longer focused on chasing yields for commodities, but building healthy soil for healthy foods.

Gail Fuller has always been driven by erosion.        

He decided to give no-till a try not long after he began farming full-time in the 1980s, because he hated seeing soil leave his farm in Emporia, Kan., where slopes range from 1-5%.

“But I failed pretty miserably,” he says.

It would be another decade before Fuller attempted no-till again, but the second time around he was adamant about making it work. And he did. With 2,000-2,500 acres at the time, he transitioned it all to no-till within a year.

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Increasing plant diversity leads to increased insect diversity, which can help cut or eliminate the need for insecticides.
  • Focusing on sequestering carbon is a game-changer because it changes the focus from chasing yield to making systemic improvements. Fix the soil and the dollars will follow.
  • Getting out of the commodities market and focusing on niche marketing opportunities and value-added products can substantially improve profitability.

“I was a little more headstrong about not letting it fail, which probably led me to ask more questions and accept help in the second go-around because I wanted it to succeed so badly,” he says.

He also believes planting technologies played a big part, and he switched from John Deere planters to White around that time.

While he was able to succeed with no-till the second time, he soon realized it wasn’t enough — Fuller was still seeing erosion on his farm, and without tillage, it was even more obvious.

“Sadly the real downside of…

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Laura-allen_c

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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