I hope this message finds Dryland No-Tiller subscribers well — or as well as can be expected — during this time of national emergency and with an important growing season ahead.
Through all of this, I’ve learned once again to be grateful for what I have and grateful my loved ones. I’ve been moved by the acts of unselfishness and courage being shown by our U.S. citizens and, especially, first responders such as police officers, firefighters and health workers. We are a country that loves our freedoms and it’s a gut-wrenching experience to have them taken away.
Yesterday was Earth Day, and it got me thinking again about our food supply system and that we’re very lucky to be living in a country where that is secure. Undoubtedly, conservation practices such as no-till, soil cover and diverse crops have helped many growers become more efficient and profitable.
In recognition of Earth Day as we reflect on the environmental health of our planet, here are some facts to consider:
• It can take up to 1,000 years to produce just an inch of soil.
• 33% of the Earth’s soils are already degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.
• The equivalent of one soccer pitch of soil is eroded every five seconds, the United Nations says.
• Estimated rates of accelerated soil erosion on arable or intensively grazed lands are 100-1,000 times higher than natural erosion rates.
• Soil erosion can lead up to 50% loss in crop yields.
• The economic cost of soil degradation for the European Union is estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of euros annually, the U.S. says.
Here is a link that will take you to some well-thought-out fact sheets from the NRCS about the components of soil health. Print them out, keep them somewhere in your truck and hand them out to a neighboring farmer, landlord, or anyone interested in no-tilling and soil health.
I’d also like to invite you to read a piece from Jeff Mitchell, director of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation center in California and vegetable crops specialist for University of California Extension. He shares some of the work that is going on to save productive soils in his state for the common good.
Rather than just planting trees, plant a seed!s