Recent debate withregard to the content of SANET... makes me nostalgic...
back in 1994 when I first subscribed to SANET the content was very
different... the list particupants were mostly academics and some
farmers...I was farming at the
time and was thrilled to discover a venue for getting answers
to practical farming questions that popped into my head while I was
out in my fields... certainly a few of you recall those days and
my many posts... thank you if you were one of the many who responded...
I also subscribed to the graze-list soon after sanet and was very
impressed with the practical discussion between innovative farmers and
researchers... I haven't been subscribed to the graze-list for several
years now and definitely miss the daily contributions by F. Owen and other
farmers... and researchers such as Dr. Ann Clarke...
I am sure that the graze-list has also evolved and perhaps someday I will
be involved in rotation grazing again and will resubscribe...
SANET once was more practical in its orientation and will be again if
subscribers choose to post down-to-earth farming related questions and
Withregard to recent discussion of no-till let me throw out a few
No-till/direct drilling is a planting technique that has been adopted by
many farmers because it reduces the amount of labor, time, diesel fuel...
invested in cropping a piece of land... No-till planting facilitates
the current trend towards cash grain farmers renting more
and more land that is farther and farther away from their home farms...
No-till planting allows farmers to visit their fields once or twice to
plant/spray and under ideal circumstances come back only once more to
harvest... the cash
grain farmers that I am working with in MD that farm thousands of acres
could not possibly work so many acres without no-till planting...
During an intial interview, several of the farmers that are
participating in my soil quality research have made a point of
themselves from farmers that are merely no-till planters... they have told
me that that they are no-till/never-till farmers... not merely no-till
planters... They use no-till systems that include restricted traffic patterns,
appropriate rotations, appropriate variety selection, cover crops, contour
I am analyzing soil from Steve Groffs farm... cover crops and crop
rotation are atleast as important to his system as the use of a no-till
A 1980s U of MD mimeo describing no-till corn production lists the
planting of a winter covercrop as one of the ingredients of no-till
production...it doesn't say use a cover crop if you want to be
an environmentalist... it says spring planting into a killed winter
covercrop is part of the no-till weed control, moisture management,
nutrient management system...
There has been extensive investigation of the beneficial changes in soil
ecology that tend to occur as tillage intensity is reduced/eliminated...
A fundamental question however does not seem to have been answered
Where are the examples of long-term no-till systems that have
reached new equilibriums with elevated levels of organic matter, aggregate
stability, continuity of macroporosity, activity of micro and macro soil
fauna...etc.. and thus require lower fertility inputs then tilled systems
or young aggrading no-till systems ?
LionKuntz' recent posts have contained some interesting ideas... but I
think think his/her style and lack of accuracy in describing some
soil ecology/plant physiology/farm finance concepts (e.g. Magnesium not
Molybdenum is the central atom in chlorphyll molecules, sundried tomatoes
don't sell for $250/lb, hundreds of tons/acre of compost are an environmental
hazard) has obscured some of the practical soil ecology concepts that are
applicable to all farming system that are trying to cost effectively
sustain soil productivity.
Healthy soil will perform functions such as nutrient cycling,
bioturbation (biological tillage), suppression of soilborne pests
and diseases, filtration and storage of water, preservation of biodiversity...
that are replaced to varying degrees by mechanical tillage, pesticides,
fertilizers, irrigation... in industrial model agricultural systems...
There are several excellent review articles on the functions performed by
organisms in healthy soil ecosystems...
I recommend "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in Soil" by L.
Brussard et al. in Ambio Vol.
26 No. 8 Dec 1997.
and "Let the soil work for us" by E.T. Elliot and D.C. Coleman in
Ecological Bulletins, No. 39
I also recommend the articles contained within Dr. Elaine Inghams web site
If LionKuntz has a system such as the one he/she proposes in current
operation, lets hear more about it...
I am lucky to have my families 15 acre homestead to use for many
agricultural/foodsystem experiments... one that I have tried each fall for
the last several years is only eating food grown on my families land... as
I embark on this falls dietary experiment, I encourage LionKuntz to join
me... we can compare experiences in a couple months...
To those of you out there that want more practical discussion.. start
throwing out some practical questions... lists of questions like
the one posted by Dale Wilson are perhaps too monumental for busy people
to tackle all at once...
In addition to the already posed question about long term no-till
fertility management... perhaps list members have some insights on what
appears to be a real developing committment to sustainable ag, by corn belt land
I just read today that Matt Liebman and Laura Merrick are headed to Iowa
State (from the U of Maine)...Rhonda Janke headed out to K. State from
Rodale a couple years ago... my committe member German Bolero just left
for the U of Illinois where he joins sustag proponents such as Michelle
Well... its late...
Good night to all !
U of MD, Soil quality research
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