Recently I attended a lecture put on by the Soil Health Partnership. The topic was, well, soil health. I have attended other lectures like this in the past. They are so fascinating as they highlight just how important soil health is to the future of crop production, which impacts our entire planet.
The main speaker grew up on a farm and he and his father employed conventional farming practices, which included heavy tillage. This man went on to work for the NRCS. Through his education and work with the NRCS he gradually learned the impact of different tillage methods. He admitted to the group that he was shocked to learn just how much the tillage practices his father employed all his days farming were actually contributing to devastating erosion.
To demonstrate this impact, he had with him two jars filled with soil. One jar was filled with soil that had been taken from a field in which no-till practices were being used. The other jar was filled with soil from a field that was being heavily tilled. Then, he poured water through a sieve and into each jar of soil. This was to simulate rainfall. The water that was poured into the jar containing soil from the no-till field flowed through the soil easily. The water that was poured into the jar containing soil from the heavily tilled field sat on the surface. After pouring the water into these two separate jars, he continued with his lecture. Within 5 minutes, all the water had infiltrated the no-till soil. When the speaker concluded his lecture, 45 minutes later, the water in the jar with the heavily tilled soil had just barely reached the bottom of the jar.
The point? If that had been a heavy rainfall on a field, instead of water poured into a jar, the water that was not able to infiltrate the soil would have run straight off the top of the field, taking with it who-knows-how-much topsoil.
The speaker said that this demonstration was one of the most powerful illustrations to help farmers understand just how important the decision is to reduce tillage.
It has been reported that in the last century, the state of Iowa has lost half of its topsoil - HALF. That's a lot of topsoil!
Howard Buffet, son of Warren Buffet, has stated that the number one threat to food production in the world today is widespread erosion of topsoil. Reducing tillage is paramount to saving our precious topsoil.
Have a great day, my friends!