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‘Soil My Undies’ Challenge Has Farmers Burying Underwear In Their Fields

Across North America, farmers are burying tighty-whities in their fields.

Author: Dan Nosowitz | Published: July 9, 2018

Started by the Farmers Guild in California, the Soil Your Undies Challenge is a test designed to show the power and importance of healthy soil.

The Challenge is easy: Simply bury a pair of 100 percent cotton underwear—generally white briefs have been the garment of choice—in your farm, garden, or pasture. Two months later, dig them up and inspect and document the changes.

Healthy soil contains all sorts of bacteria, earthworms, fungi, and other little organisms that like to eat organic matter, like, just for example, cotton underwear. In two months, underwear buried in healthy soil will be completely eaten through, leaving little but an elastic waistband.

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Soil Farmers: How A Renewed Focus On The Land Is Building More Resilient Farms

Author: Brian Kaufenberg | Published: June 26, 2018

Peter Allen wants to bury a fence.

Tucked within the rolling landscape of the driftless region, on a farm outside of Viola, Wisconsin, a barbed wire fence runs along the spine of a ridge separating a strip of pasture from the valley below. The noticeable three-foot drop between the fence and the field is the result of years of soil washing away while the field was being used as conventional cropland.

“When we got here, this soil was in really bad shape; it hardly grew anything and there was no topsoil left, it was all just sand subsoil,” Peter Allen recalls in a January 2018 episode of the television show “Outdoor Wisconsin.” “So we immediately brought the animals in, […] planted about 30 different species of native prairie grasses and flowers and then a bunch of trees in rows, and then we ran chickens here behind them. And now, just two years later, this is some of the best forage we have on the farm, right where we ran the chickens through.”

As Allen’s animals—cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens—graze the forage, they return nutrients and organic matter to the land, slowly rebuilding what’s been lost—adding between a quarter of an inch to an inch of soil per year, he says, and slowly restoring the savannah ecosystem once native to the area, a mix of trees and prairie. The livestock are key to this process, providing the cornerstone to a farming system that now yields perennial fruits and nuts, annual crops like corn, and pastured beef, pork, and chicken.

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To Realize Land’s True Value, We Need to Invest In It Wisely

Authors: Lulu Zhang and Kai Schwärzel | Published: June 19, 2018

It takes 200-400 years to form one centimeter of soil, while the estimated rate of soil erosion is 100 times greater than soil formation. Where erosion is prevalent, the rate of soil loss reaches 4 mm per year (FAO 2015); 70% of drylands suffer from land degradation in varying degrees (Gibbs and Salmon 2015). While global population grows rapidly, land is finite in quantity.

With an annual financial loss of US$400 billion due to soil erosion from arable lands, as estimated by the FAO-led Global Soil Partnership, investing in sustainable land management and practices such as restoring degraded land can recover soil health and enhance soil functions and land productivity to provide critical ecological and economic benefits for human needs. Goal 15 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly outlines the international community’s resolve to halt and reverse land degradation.

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Soil Biodiversity and Soil Organic Carbon: Why Should Nations Invest in It to Keep Drylands Alive?

Author: Graciela Metternicht | Published: June 18, 2018

The 2018 World Day to Combat Desertification calls to reflect on the true value of land and the need to invest in it; healthy soils are central to sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development increases the demand on soils to provide food, water and energy security, protect biodiversity, and mitigate climate change, increasing the centrality of soils in global environmental and development politics. SDG target 15.3, on Land Degradation Neutrality, reflects the growing awareness that land, and by extension soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon, is both a natural resource and a public good that underpins wider sustainable development.

Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) and soil biodiversity are key to the multifunctionality of a landscape, and the reason why strengthening investment and legislation in sustainable land management is considered to be central to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Farmers Can Save the Planet Before They Destroy It, Australian Climate Scientist Says

Author: Amy Bickel | Published: May 29, 2018

In a room full of regenerative agriculture faithfuls, Australian climate scientist and microbiologist Walter Jehne started the conversation.

Will farmers save the planet before they destroy it?

How the future plays out depends on how well the industry understands, respects and regenerates soils, he said.

Healthy biosystems across the world’s farmland provide stable hydrology, weather, economy and communities, he said during the annual Fuller Field School in Emporia last month. But the current picture of feeding a swelling population with limited resources isn’t rosy.

Jehne noted the growing extremes in global weather patterns, such as droughts, floods and wildfires. Moreover, he said, farmers have borrowed money on the concept to produce as much as they can from the land they have.

“It is really the unpredictability of growing a crop and the gamble of “will I have the season as expected to let me grow that crop, harvest that crop and avoid the diseases on that crop,” said Jehne, who is also the director of Healthy Soils Australia.

KEEP READING ON HIGH PLAINS JOURNAL

Can Organic Soil Help Mitigate Climate Change?

Author: Ana-Christina Gaeta | Published: May 2018

study published in the journal Advances in Agronomy released findings about the powerful role that organic soil may play in combating climate change.

A collaboration between the National Soil Project at Northeastern University and The Organic Center sought out to compare the carbon sequestering potential of both organic and conventional farming. The study engaged more than 1,000 farmers from across the United States. Organic farmers provided 659 organic soil samples from 39 different states. Conventional farmers provided 728 conventional soil samples from 48 states for testing. The team measured the humic substance of the samples, which is essentially a mixture of naturally occurring decaying organic matter which nurtures the soil. Humic substances are made up of fulvic and humic acids. According to Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs of The Organic Center, the study “looked at humic substances, which are one of the best measures of long-term carbon sequestration in the soils because they resist degradation and can remain in the soil for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years.”

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Manitoba Farmers Embrace Regenerative Agriculture

Author: Robert Arnason | Published: May 17, 2018

About three years ago Brooks White had an “aha” moment that changed his life, or at the very least, changed how he views farming.

White was browsing on the internet when he came across a phrase that he hadn’t heard before: regenerative agriculture.

Suddenly, everything made sense.

“I saw that and (said), ‘that’s it, that’s what we want to do.’ ”

Brooks and his wife, Jen, farm near Lyleton, Man., in the extreme southwest corner of the province.

They operate a bison and grain farm called Borderland Agriculture, so named because of the proximity to the Saskatchewan and North Dakota borders.

They raise around 600 bison and have a land base of 7,500 acres with 5,000 acres dedicated to annual crops.

Brooks was raised on the same farm, but Jen grew up in Minot, N.D.

They met because Jen’s mother married a farmer from the Lyleton area. In 2001, Jen was visiting her in Lyleton when someone invited her to a social.

“I said, ‘what’s a social?’ ” Jen recalled.

She drove up from Minot for the event and was introduced to Brooks. By 2004 they were married.

They now have two children: Sawyer, 7, and Piper, 4.

Jen may have grown up in the city but she now understands the perks of the farm lifestyle.

“I like the flexibility and just being able to be with your family. Everybody is together.”

KEEP READING ON THE WESTERN PRODUCER

Producer Gail Fuller Offers 8 Lessons From His Career in Cover Crops

Author: Amy Bickel | Published: May 22, 2018

Unlike his conventional counterparts, Gail Fuller doesn’t focus on maximizing yields.

The Emporia, Kansas, farmer thinks differently than the age-old mantra that, with 10 billion people expected on the plant by mid-century, farmers must feed the world.

“I’m sorry if you are buying into that crock,” Fuller says bluntly.

Instead, Fuller made the decision to base his profitability and success on the health of his soil.

“Soil is life and life is soil,” he said to a crowd at his annual Fuller Field School in Emporia last month. “We have 60 years of topsoil left and that was as of 2012. If we continue this current production model, we might not be able to feed the world by 2050 because we might not have all the soil left to do it.”

Lessons from Gail

Fuller started the school seven years ago to educate others about regenerative ag, a concept growing across rural America. He wants his soil healthy and full of life—from microorganisms like nematodes, protozoa and mycorrhizal fungi working unseen below the earth to the beneficial insects and livestock above.

KEEP READING ON HIGH PLAINS JOURNAL

Twenty-Six Years Later: How One Kansas Farmer Became a Convert and Saved His Soil

Author: Amy Bickel | Published: May 21, 2018

Joe Swanson’s turning point came in 1991.

The Rice County, Kansas farmer had just bought a Plains Plow, with 30-inch sweeps and a shank in the middle. It was designed to undercut weeds while leaving residue on his fields.

The field looked beautiful the day he worked it. That changed overnight.

“We had a 3- to 4-inch downpour,” he said. “I drove by that field the next day and every furrow, every 30 inches, had washed out about 6 to 10 inches, however deep I ran that shank. It made me sick.”

He realized his erosion issues would continue if he kept tilling.

“I said, that is it. We’ve been no-till ever since.”

On a May morning, Swanson stood in that same field that converted him 26 years ago, talking to a group of farmers during a No-Till on the Plains field day. His mission is to eliminate erosion and rebuild soil health.

The journey, he said, hasn’t been easy. But Swanson sees changes across his fields. He uses fewer inputs. His soils are healthier.

KEEP READING ON HIGH PLAINS JOURNAL

Grow Life in the Soil

The need is critical to grow more life in the soil, and it starts by treating it as you would your own body.

Author: Raylene Nickel | Published: May 16, 2018

Soil is filled with living, breathing, hardworking creatures – it’s a natural commodity more important than any cash crop. When soil is alive, it’s teaming with macro- and microorganisms, ranging the gamut from highly visible beetles and worms to microscopic viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Each of these soil citizens provides a service to the healthful functioning of the broader community.

Having lots of healthy and diverse organisms in the soil creates a self-sufficient cropping system that becomes less dependent upon synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The system itself produces fertility for robust plant growth, resistance to pests, and water-stable soil aggregates that enhance soil porosity to permit rapid water infiltration and to resist erosion.

In a nutshell, such a system produces resilient crops. In today’s uncertainty of climate, the need for plant resilience is growing more urgent by the day.

KEEP READING ON SUCCESSFUL FARMING