Sustainability is a buzz word. Consumers often associate the word with very small or organic operations. There are a lot of pieces to true sustainability, but nearly all farmers have the ultimate goal of leaving their farm to their children and grandchildren. In fact, most farmers rank this as a priority over short term profit!
So how are we making that happen? How are modern, large scale farms sustainable? How are farms far away from you suistanble?
I am going to explore what we do here at Uptown Farms over the next several weeks with #SustainabilitySundays!
The picture you are looking at above is showing two of the most exciting technologies on our farm - "no till" production and cover crop usage!
This week, let's look at "no till" farming!
I see comments in online discussions about how farmers today are "too lazy" to plow their fields and just rely on chemical. Let's look at what is actually going on when you see a field that has not been plowed.
For years farmers thought it was necessary and beneficial to till or plow the soil prior to planting. Studies now show us this isn't true and that tillage, especially deep tillage, can really have adverse effects on our soil health as well as the soil organisms that we need for long term productivity.
Plowing can create what is called a "plow pan", which can stop water and root systems from being able to penetrate into the soil profile as effectively as they should.
Newer equipment and GMO technology allows us to maximize the benefit of "no till".
First, it helps on top of the soil. It keeps our soil covered which minimizes weed growth, helps to regulate soil temperature and helps to retain moisture in our soil. We take soil coverage even farther by using cover crops (discussed more next week).
Second, as the corn trash is slowly decomposed by our ever growing earth worm populations, it adds to the organic matter inside the soil profiles. Organic matter (OM) provides food sources for the thousands of microorganisms that we need to exist in our dirt. OM also helps control soil compaction and retain water within the soils!
Plowing does incorporate most of the OM into the soil, but in a much quicker period than the the slower and more natural process allowed by no till.
On top of the corn stubble, you are seeing cereal rye. We do not harvest the rye for a cash crop here, but use it as a cover crop. Our cover crops are planted after harvest and compliment the no till production. They will be terminated either shortly before or after the cash crop (in this case it would have been soybeans) is planted.
To me, there is nothing more exciting than cover crop technology and I will discuss it more in depth next week!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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