It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind of running a farm operation. But as winter rapidly approaches and harvest or seeding winds down, you should check out a book that may become required reading for many farmers.
“The Soil Will Save Us,” authored by Kristine Ohlson and released this year, discusses the environmental issues facing our planet — climate change, air and water pollution, food quality and even obesity — and how improving soil health could help solve these seemingly intractable issues.
Ohlson generally concludes that decades of cultivation and intensive agriculture, and a lack of diverse cropping, has caused serious damage to soils.
“An acre of land alongside any American highway probably has more plant species than all of Iowa’s cropped lands put together,” Ohlson writes.
But many no-tillers are finding a sweet spot, she notes, by reducing or eliminating cultivation and implementing cover crops, intensive grazing and other practices.
Growers who’ve adopted these diverse farming systems successfully are finding their peracre cost of production is being reduced.
Ohlson sees a bigger picture as well.
“If only 11% of the world’s cropland improved its soil microorganisms as has been done in test plots, the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil would offset all our current emissions of carbon dioxide,” she says, adding that cultivation practices have reduced soil carbon generally by 50% or more.
In our upcoming edition of No-Till Farmer we’ll have a conversation about that very topic. University of Illinois researcher Ken Olson says no-tilled soils aren’t sequestering as much soil-organic carbon as previous research suggests, but seeding cover crops can help farm ground sequester more carbon than is being lost.
Our magazine will also share a “Top 20 list” of tips for building better no-tilled soils, as told by world-renowned soil scientist Jill Clapperton. We’re also highlighting the latest tools and technologies available for soil testing and mapping that could help you boost yields and reduce expenses.
The United Nations has declared 2015 as the “International Year Of Soils,” and the best way to celebrate this, I think, is by taking a closer look at how your acres and management decisions are paying you back, and if they will pay for future generations.