Certified Educator John King recently wrote an article titled “How farming will change under water taxes” for the NZ Farmer website about how farmers in this century need to not only focus on nutrient and feed budgeting but also understand how their practices influence soil function. (See fun fact at end of blog.)
The greater the soil function, the higher the productivity which can increase animal performance as well. Additionally high soil function results in greater root depth which leads to better water infiltration–an added benefit regardless of whether you are dealing with flood or drought. As John points out, every pound of soil carbon can hold at least a gallon of water. The more carbon, the more water can be stored.
John also quotes the research of agresearch scientist Nicole Schon who says earthworms can lift pasture production by 10%, but other studies show this could be significantly higher, as much as 50%. This incorporation of dung into the soil profile by the earthworms (or dung beetles) can reduce fertilizer needs significantly.
Soil health is directly influenced by grazing practices that reduce overgrazing and give adequate recovery to perennial grasses so their roots can feed the soil organisms and tap into minerals within the soil profile as well as the moisture.
On the cropping front, cover crops are also being noted as critical for in this article titled “Healthy soil absorbs huge rains, halts erosion” on the Corn + Soybean Digest website. Four photos show the power of covered ground to handle the 4-inch rains that fell on the Kimble Farm near Chicago, Illinois. The comparison between the Kimble’s no-till cover crop fields versus the adjacent tilled and bare ground demonstrates once again that regenerative agriculture can make a huge difference in addressing weather challenges.
To learn more about how Holistic Management helps build healthy soil, visit HMI’s Soil and Conservation Page.
FUN FACT: An acre of soil at 1% organic matter measured to one foot deep contains almost 20,000 pounds of carbon–enough to capture 20,000 gallons of water/acre (perhaps more). This amount is approximately what one inch rains yields.
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