An Old Topic Getting New Attention
While good soil health practices date back to indigenous cultures, the green revolution shifted the focus away from working within natural systems toward the use of high yielding seed varieties, irrigation, mechanization, fertilizers, and pesticides. We are seeing the unintended consequences of this approach and its limitations, leading many to advocate for these old ways, while bringing in new scientific insight and understanding.
Past land use practices and intensive forms of agriculture that have not focused on good soil management, have led to a tremendous loss of soil organic matter worldwide. These vulnerable soils have less resilience to drought and flooding, and during heavy rainfall events are more prone to soil erosion and runoff, which contribute to water pollution.
But we are now seeing a tremendous awakening in knowledge and practice. Many conservation minded farmers are instituting practices that build organic matter recognizing the biological, physical, and chemical components of the soil. These practices are also recognized by city planners and environmentalists for the many positive ecosystem benefits healthy soils provide. Whether it is better water management or the sequestration of carbon in well-managed soils, there is renewed focus on how we can create policies and programs to support farmers in instituting suites of good soil health practices.
Soil Health Makes for Financial Health
The good news is that these practices can also contribute to a profitable bottom line for producers as well. The American Farmland Trust conducted case studies on farmers using these practices across the country, which show how soil health practices increase farm viability. The two-page case studies focus on corn-soybean production in Illinois and Ohio, almond production in California and a diversified rotation in New York. The featured farmers implemented soil health practices like no-till or strip-till, nutrient management, cover crops, compost, and mulching. These findings show that producers can increase their yield, decrease their risk and input costs, and improve their profits, all while conserving resources on their farms, in their watersheds, and beyond.
OEFFA Conference Special Event on Soil Health and Profitability
We are fortunate to be bringing three of these AFT case study farmers to Ohio (virtually) so that farmers can hear about the practices they are using and how it is affecting their operations. This free half day session “Make More Money by Investing in Soil Health” is part of OEFFA’s 42nd annual Conference and will be held on Wednesday, February 10 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Eastern.
To help Ohio farmers achieve these benefits on their own farms, nationally recognized Ohio no-till farmer David Brandt, cover crop specialist and seed dealer Ann Brandt, and Muskingum County Soil and Water Conservation District Agricultural Resource Specialist Van Slack will share agronomist recommendations on best practices and compare those to their current practices, yields, and profitability per acre using an input worksheet.
You can register for this workshop through February 8 by visiting the OEFFA Conference registration page and selecting the Soil Health and Profitability seminar. Conference registration is not required to attend; however if you plan on only attending the seminar, we ask that you make a small donation to assist us with administrative costs.
Ohio Soil Health Initiative
This is one part of an ongoing process to provide resources, spark discussion, and solicit feedback from farmers. OEFFA has been working with soil scientists, other organizations, farmers, and agencies to talk about how Ohio can do more to support the adoption of these practices so that we can all reap the benefits. This effort, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative (OSHI), will be working to advance legislation in the Ohio General Assembly. If you care about conservation, are working to build soil health, and have feedback for this effort, please contact us today to learn more and inform our work.