Friday, January 30, 2015


The alternative agriculture conferences this year are very much about cover crops.  The practice of using a cover crop after or with the main crop and then harvesting, grazing it or letting it go back to the soil is understood to promote soil health, making it less susceptible to erosion, compaction, weediness and so forth.  Many of the cover crops farmers are planting are complex mixtures of grasses, grains, legumes, beans, including both warm season and cool season plants.  The beneficial aspects of the cover crops in addition to the reduced primary tillage and exposure to sun and wind for the soil appears to center around the maintenance of living roots in the ground, even in winter.  Perennial plants overwinter, of course, and those roots continue to live, benefiting the soil life twelve months every year, as opposed to annual cropping, done extensively in conventional agriculture, which leaves the soil microbes to starve during the non growing season.  It is, if you think about it, how nature "farms".


Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Today I went to hear a report on the results of a cover crop demonstration grant the farm was a part of.  For the first time ever in my four decades of farming I saw soil test results reported out partly in terms of the respiration measured coming from the sample of soil.  This, of course, is an attempt to assess the microbial activity in the soil, with the understanding that the more the soil teems with life, the more fertile it will be, the less it will compact and erode and the easier it will be to work with.  In the larger sense, it is an attempt to apply wisdom as well as science and experience to the farming of the land.  There is hope for us yet!