Man Who Wrote the Book on Regenerative Agriculture Says Conservation is the Fifth Ag RevolutionMon, 05 Feb 2018 15:16:05 CST
According to Dr. David Montgomery, author and professor at the University of Washington who spoke to farmers during the 22nd Annual No-Till on the Plains Winter Conference, our soils around the world have been severely degraded due to conventional agricultural practices. In a recent interview with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn, Montgomery says soil degradation has taken on two forms in modern times.
“One, is the erosion and loss of soil itself, like what happened in the Dust Bowl for example,” Montgomery explained. “But also, in terms of degraded soil organic matter - the carbon that’s in the soil. You can think of it as food for the microbes that actually help build soil fertility.”
Listen to Dr. David Montgomery and Carson Horn speak about how regenerative agriculture can reverse the effects of soil degradation, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
Montgomery says in North America, about half of our soil organic matter has been degraded, averaged across the United States. Globally, he says, it is about the same. Not only is that a devastating amount to have lost, it is also continuing to be lost at an alarming rate.
“The pace of global soil degradation at present, shows we’re losing 0.3 percent of our agricultural land capacity globally each year,” he said. “That sounds like a small number, but you play that out over the next 100 years and we’d be on track to lose a third of our agricultural productive capacity while we’re on track to raise our population by 50 percent. Those numbers are working against each other.”
To get out in front of this scenario before it gets out of control, Montgomery says conservation farming techniques will not only help to keep further degradation from happening, it could potentially reverse the process. Montgomery is the author of a study in which he travelled the world visiting farmers who have implemented regenerative farming practices on their operations. He says he found a “winning recipe” which can be utilized on farms to regenerate soil health and bring life back to the local subterranean ecosystem. The recipe for success that he found was comprised of three elements: ditching the plow for no-till farming, planting cover crops and keeping the ground covered at all times, and adding diversity to crop rotations.
“Farmers who I met had adopted all three of these principles and tailored it to their own environment,” he said. “They were able to cultivate the beneficial life in the soil, rebuild their organic matter and thereby greatly reduce their fertilizer use, their pesticide use and they even reduced their diesel use. Those cost savings resulted in great net profit, because it didn’t have an adverse impact on yields.”
Montgomery says yield, indeed, were able to be maintained if not increased. His research and experiences have led him to believe that the industry may be headed for a turning point, where conservation and regenerative agriculture is the focus.
“We’re at the cusp of a fifth agricultural revolution - one that’s really rooted in promoting soil health,” he concluded. “The hope is that by rethinking practices through the lens of soil health, we can actually turn around the long-term degradation that society has done through. If we can turn that around it would be truly revolutionary.”
Learn more about Montgomery's research and published works, by visiting his website at www.Dig2Grow.com.
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