The soil environments on the high- and low-input sites I'm assuming will be
significantly different. If not, they should be.
But I don't think it is really valid to compare high- and low-input
treatments on a site that has been managed conventionally up until the
first year of the trial. The improvements in soil quality (disease
suppression, water holding capacity, nutrient cycling, etc.) on farms that
are sustainably managed (longer rotations, cover crops, etc.) don't kick in
that quickly. And it's the response of the different genetics to these
different soil environments that is the big question in my mind.
Similarly, it seems strange to me to manage crops conventionally in fields
that have a long history of sustainable management. If you set up
randomized and replicated plots in a sustainably managed field where you've
just killed a nice cover crop without herbicides, are you going to go back
in and use herbicides and sidedress N on the conventional plots? Doesn't
Guess I see two different big-picture questions that farmers might want
1. "What are the best genetics to use in my fields where the quality of my
soil has been slipping and I don't feel like I have any alternative to
conventional rotations and practices?"
2. "Since I've found ways to improve the quality of my soil through
rotations, cover crops etc., should I still be using commercial hybrids or
are there other genetics that would perform better (economically) in my
Is there anyone out there who has worked closely with long term trials of
conventional vs. sustainable management, such as the Rodale farming systems
trial or others, that could share what they found about response of
whatever hybrids or OP varieties they used vs. the different levels of soil
quality in their plots?
I hope that some practical and useful info for farmers comes out of this
discussion. Let's keep refining it.
1,000 Ways to Sustainable Farming
Sustainable Farming Connection
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