Using a biological approach to restoring soil function

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Farmers that are looking to find the balance between a lower cost of production and better nutrient placement while maintaining the health of their soils may consider a strip-tillage system.Many thoughts and ideas about this type if farming were shared in early August at The National Strip-Tillage Conference in Bloomington, Illinois.“Farmers need to understand ecological principals and how to make their soil function properly, using biological approaches before we use a physical and chemical approach to restore soil function,” said Ray Archuleta, NRCS regional soil health specialist. “It’s not about strip-till, it’s not about no-till and it’s not about conventional-till, but it’s about understanding the whole ecosystem processes and how the soil works and how the soil wants to be approached to stimulate nutrient cycling, water cycling and solar energy capturing to help reduce inputs and enhance soil function.”A paradigm has been formed in recent years where farmers look at their soils from a chemical and physical perspective. Archuleta is hoping to reshape that paradigm so farmers see themselves as more of an ecological producer than a strip-till producer.“The current paradigm we have is wrong, dysfunctional and has caused a lot of major problems and has caused many producers to go broke,” Archuleta said. “The end results of relying on petroleum-based inputs are uncleaned water, massive erosion, no ecosystem restoration and we are paying dearly with weeds that don’t respond to certain chemicals, losing biodiversity for pollinators and contributing to climate issues because of too many acres of bare soils.”Dale Buendorf, who farms in Albert Lea, Minnesota, was one of the attendees of this year’s National Strip-Tillage Conference and he said he got the message from Archuleta about growers replicating what Mother Nature does.“Healthy soil doesn’t want to be disturbed, it wants to be covered,” Buendorf said. “One of his other points was that everything is connected. The soil without plants, bugs, bacteria and fungi is just geology, so we have a living, breathing thing out there to work with and he sees that integrating living cover crops into our production systems in agriculture as a great way to mimic what nature is trying to do out there.”Those types of results can be realized in a strip-till system that minimally disturbs the soil, unlike a more invasive broad acre tillage practice. Another benefit to strip till is placing nutrients directly in a fertility zone, while leaving a good majority of the soil alone.“This will be our 8th year of using strip-tillage on our 1,800-acre farm and we have really seen some great improvements in soil structure and consistency across the field,” Buendorf said. “We’ve dabbled in some cover crops, but as I head back home after this year’s conference I’m beginning to think that more cover crops are the way to go.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *