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Regenerative Agriculture Podcast
47 minutes | 7 days ago
Episode #69: Jason Hobson
Jason Hobson is one of the initial Regenerative Agriculture Consultants at AEA, working alongside John Kempf in the early years and becoming the Chief Executive Officer in 2015. Jason joined AEA in 2011 and quickly became the lead consultant for larger scale operations, building relationships with distributors and other partners along the way. He gained his knowledge of soil fertility and plant nutrition through hands-on experience, developing a passion for agronomy and regenerative practices that fuels him today. Throughout their conversation, Jason and John discuss: How one Wendell Berry book would change Jason’s career path forever. AEA’s approach to nutrient and crop management, how it differed from conventional wisdom. Highlights from the last decade of working together: organizational victories and new agronomic discoveries Jason’s thoughts on the “layering of silver bullet solutions” and how farms can degrade in search of a cure. Common themes among growers and organizations that have seen success while working with AEA. The fallacy of nitrogen and other limiting factors for healthy crops.
66 minutes | 18 days ago
Episode #68: Alvin Peachey
Alvin Peachey is an Amish organic dairy farmer from central Pennsylvania. Over the course of more than a decade, Alvin has grown his operation to 90 100% grass-fed cows on 92 acres, implementing regenerative practices that flips the script of the status quo for dairy farmers. In this thought provoking and practical conversation, Alvin and John discuss: Alvin’s background as a dairy farmer starting with only 25 cows and 10 replacements. The difference between rotational grazing and management-intensive grazing. How Alvin tracks and manages his cost of production and how his economic models diverge from the mainstream. Unique approaches to creating balanced and diverse nutritional profiles, not just in grazable forages, but also in stored winter feeds. Important considerations for maximizing sugars and proteins in baleage. The genetic and structural qualities Alvin looks for in dairy cows. Alvin’s thoughts and observations on the financial future of dairy farming. “For the crop production acres, we have no budget on fertilizer… because we have unlimited potential, so why would we have a budget? Right?” -Alvin Peachey
99 minutes | a month ago
Episode #67: Jesse Frost
Jesse Frost is the Co-Owner of Rough Draft Farmstead in central Kentucky and host of the No-Till Market Garden Podcast. Jesse’s rich background in researching and experimenting with no-till practices lead to his first book, “The Living Soil Handbook: The No-Till Grower’s Guide to Ecological Market Gardening,” which will be published this summer. Throughout their conversation John and Jesse discuss: How Jesse got his start as a farmer and how a mission to uncover regenerative techniques lead to a promising career in market gardening. The economic opportunities surrounding market gardening, including the positive impact of collaboration and Jesse’s thoughts on land ownership. The best way to strategize and implement a direct-to-consumers business model. Two management styles that work for no-till growers on a smaller scale: Jesse’s thought on the basic cover crop model and the deep compost mulch system An overview of the four different types of compost: inoculating compost, fertilizing compost, nutritional compost, and mulching compost. The current state of the average farmer’s psyche and the power of relationships and community building. Jesse’s current intercropping practices and how they are implemented for pest and disease control. Pre-order Jesse’s book here: https://www.notillgrowers.com/livingsoilhandbook/d9z5gkf1bbnhu0w5xxb3trngiqhwgo Check out “The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm: Human-Scale Methods for Intensive Commercial Production and Ecological Health” by Daniel Mays here: https://www.frithfarm.net/book.html
58 minutes | 2 months ago
Episode #66: Jon Stika
Jon Stika is an agronomist and former soil health instructor with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Officially retiring in 2015, Jon now spends his time as environmental consultant for those looking to gain insight on the biological systems of agriculture. Jon is also the author of “A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health,” which was published in 2016, yet continues to have an impact on agricultural thought leaders around the globe. Throughout their conversation, Jon and John discuss: Jon’s realization that soil is not a chemical system, but a biological one. The impact of using synthetic fertilizers for several decades and how this has “sidelined” the true biology of our fields. What it means to be energy inefficient and the impact on mainstream agricultural systems and practices. Jon’s 15-year journey to a regenerative approach; how rapid implementation and economics can inspire other growers to transition to integrating biological methodologies. The differences between building soil from the foundational bedrock versus the act of regenerating soil. Jon’s belief in the power of educating beyond the growers, working with lenders, banks, agronomists, and landowners to help them understand and support the transition to regenerative agriculture. How models used in mainstream agriculture—and even sustainable agriculture—operate on a foundation of “dysfunctional soil.” Pick up a copy of Jon’s book, “A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health,” today! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30084638-a-soil-owner-s-manual
76 minutes | 2 months ago
Episode #65: Jay Fuhrer
Jay Fuhrer is a Conservationist & veteran Soil Health Specialist from the Natural Resources Conservation Services, located out of Bismarck, North Dakota. With over 4 decades of experience, Jay’s work has been critical to the widespread implementation of regenerative agriculture across the globe. Of his many contributions, Jay is most known for developing the 5 Soil Health Principles: establishing soil armor, minimizing soil disturbance, continuing live plant and root presence, and integrating livestock grazing systems. Throughout their conversation, Jay and John discuss: Jay’s early years at the NRCS, and his desire to move forward with agriculture’s best interest at heart. The story of how Jay and his colleagues started a 150-acre demonstration farm with a focus on natural resource education. Examples of new research and discoveries being made at Menoken Farm, including the implications of water hydrology systems and the power of encouraging soil biology. Jay’s observations from conducting Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis and measuring infiltration rates over the years. Assisting growers by “starting with the geology” and how Jay’s soil recommendations are rooted in the history of the land. Proper livestock integration and the benefits of diversity when it comes to grazing. The shortcomings of agricultural system labels and Jay’s reasoning for working with growers of all backgrounds. Jay’s concerns with shrinking native range land in the Dakotas and why he believes it is an ecosystem that we should maintain into the future.
50 minutes | 3 months ago
Episode #64: Ben Taylor-Davies
Ben Taylor-Davies is a farmer and regenerative agriculture consultant from the United Kingdom. Ben was a conventional agronomist until his wife persuaded him to apply for an award through the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust which enables farmers to travel and learn agricultural methods from around the globe. This ignited Ben’s passion for regenerative agriculture and discovering better ways to treat soils, crops, and livestock. Ben currently shares his stories, both personal and professional, on his website RegenBen.com. He is also currently finalizing his first book, “MORE-ON: How to get off the UK agriculture’s treadmill of input farming.” Throughout their conversation, Ben and John discuss: How the Nuffield scholarship program allowed Ben to broaden his views on successful ways to farm from around the globe. The current management practices being implemented on Ben’s 500-acre farm in the UK and how these practices have evolved over the years. Ben’s “three free things” (sunlight/energy, precipitation, and carbon dioxide) and why they should be priority number one for all growers. Perspectives on carbon dioxide delivery and how farmers can improve their CO2 supply. The vast diversity of soil types and climates found within the UK. The UK’s current mainstream agricultural methods and financial shortcomings of managing an ecosystem through high input costs. John and Ben discuss their recommended reading lists for growers. Check out Ben’s website at www.regenben.com! For more information on his latest book, go to https://www.regenben.com/about/the-book/
44 minutes | 3 months ago
Episode #63: Cannon Michael
Cannon Michael is a 6th generation family farmer in California’s Central Valley. When Cannon first started working at the Bowles Farming Company, it was a broad-acre row crop operation, focused on cotton, barley, and alfalfa. After 15 years of overhauling the farm’s management practices, Bowles now incorporates both organic and conventional methods as he raises a vast array of vegetable crops: tomatoes; watermelons; garlic; onions; herbs; and many more. Throughout their conversation John and Cannon discuss: The major changes over the 160-year history of Cannon’s family farm, as well as the current scope and scale of his growing operation. What it means to be a grower in California: The culture of innovation, interacting with a rigorous business climate, strict regulations, and interest in promoting fair practices for people and the environment. A prediction around agriculture’s decentralized, technology-driven future and how it will impact growers. The power of branding partners, communication, and the advantages of telling your story to end consumers. How bandwidth and a fluctuating environment can lead to significant limitations on operational efficiencies.
51 minutes | 5 months ago
Taking Charge Of Your Farm’s Future With Jay Hill
Jay Hill is a conventional farmer and agricultural visionary from the American Southwest. Jay is a new breed of American farmer, focused on reinvigorating the industry through a new perspective on what is possible for large-scale growers. Through his social media presence and weekly podcast, Jay is calling on farmers across the globe to abandon their old ways of operating and take back the role of “business owner” from outdated intermediaries. Throughout their conversation, John and Jay discuss: How Jay’s growing operation has evolved over the years to be less resource exhaustive. Why farmers need to position themselves as both marketers and business owners Jay’s transition from “Price Taker” to “Price Maker,” and how partnerships in processing give growers more control over their operation. The public perception of American farmers and what needs to be done change the narrative. Strategies to incentivize growing a more nutritious and agronomically beneficial product, and the role of the federal government in this process.
76 minutes | 6 months ago
Reversing Soil Degradation with Dwayne Beck
Dr. Dwayne Beck is well known for being one of the pioneers of no-till agriculture in central South Dakota and across the High Plains. For more than three decades, Dr. Beck has been creating comprehensive systems for both irrigated and dryland crop production throughout the region, educating growers on the power of crop rotation, diversity, and other regenerative practices. He currently serves as the Research Manager at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, a non-profit made up of farmers committed to sustainable land practices. On today’s episode, John and Dwayne discuss: Dwayne’s background and his earlier work assisting local growers with their irrigation systems The continuing decline of the Ogallala Aquifer and how water infiltration can be improved by implementing no-till agricultural practices. Addressing the often-overlooked aspects of irrigation, such as percolation and water delivery, and how it affects soil health. Dwayne’s observations on lake bottom soils, the power of macropores, and the prevalence of summer fallowing in the High Plains. Utilizing de-percolation strategies to maintain proper nutrient levels in your soil. Using competition, sanitation, and rotation to control weeds, diseases and insects. Dwayne’s historical research on nutrient cycling and fertilizer placement. Dwayne offers up a broader historical perspective on how agriculture, human nature, and mother nature work together. A discussion on why moving to no-till options for all crops including potatoes, carrots and sugar beets are engineering and genetics problems. The shared vision, but much different methods, between regenerative agriculture vs. organic agriculture.
63 minutes | 7 months ago
Updating Soil Analysis to Consider Microbial Influence with Rick Haney
Rick Haney is a renowned researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the creator of the Haney Soil Analysis, an innovative extraction procedure to assess overall soil health and plant mineral availability. Today, John sits down with Rick to hear his story and discuss a future of agriculture centered around agronomic realities and biological processes. Throughout the episode, John and Rick cover a wide array of topics: The journey Rick took to discover an improved system for analyzing soil health, eventually leading to the development of his namesake soil assay. How Rick’s work and an emphasis on data can help growers save an average of $20 per acre in nitrogen applications. Over-fertilization and what soil respiration says about the fertility of a field. Rick’s battle with calibrations and the industry’s collective leaps in agronomic understanding since the 60’s. The work of Dr. Richard Mulvaney, namely the Illinois Soil Test, and how it compares to Haney’s soil nitrogen report. The shortcomings of mainstream agronomic research and the power of “listening to nature.” The importance of using water and biological activity as the gauge of soil mineral release rather than acids and extractants to judge soil mineral content. Why many growers are routinely able to reduce Nitrogen and Phosphorus inputs. The importance of looking at real yields rather than soil test data as the sign of a well-functioning fertility program. The power of embracing new developments in ag research and the future of in-field sensors.
67 minutes | 8 months ago
Rebuilding Rural Economies with Ancient Grain and Regenerative Practices with Bob Quinn
Bob Quinn is a 30-plus year veteran of Regenerative Organic practices and founder of Kamut International, an organization devoted to high quality Khorasan wheat and sustainable agricultural practices. After receiving his PhD in plant biochemistry from UC-Davis, Bob returned home to work on his family’s wheat and cattle ranch just outside of Big Sandy, Montana. In the mid 80’s, the farm became his “laboratory” as Bob began implementing regenerative organic systems long before they rose to prominence. The Quinn’s began planting a Khorasan wheat they would call “Kamut”—an ancient Egyptian word for “wheat”—which would end up seeing a lot of success with whole grain bakeries in Southern California. “My business philosophy is start small and build on your success. I don't have a big pile of money, so I can't go out and just try big experiments, so I try small experiments. If they're successful, then I build on those. And that's what we did, we started with a half an acre [of Kamut®] which was all that seed that we had in 1988—30 years later, we are contracting with 250 organic regenerative farmers in Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan for over 100,000 acres of this stuff.” Kamut® is a distant relative to the modern wheat crop that is known for its unique flavor and health benefits. Ancient Grains like Kamut® see much lower yield potential than modern wheat, which over time lead some manufacturers to mix Kamut® with lower quality grains. In an attempt to protect the quality of the grain and the end consumer, Bob decided to trademark the grain, guaranteeing an unhybridized, unmodified, and organic product for their growing list of customers—in fact today, a staggering 75% of their grain goes to Italy. During the episode, Bob goes into detail about how improved testing equipment led to a surprising discovery about minute glyphosate levels in their crops. Kamut International has been organic since its inception, but at one point almost a third of their farmers were sending grain that tested slightly higher than ten parts per billion in glyphosate. Bob was astounded when he discovered that glyphosate is so prevalent in American agriculture that trace amounts can be found in the rain during the growing season. Since this discovery, Kamut International has overhauled their testing protocols and mitigated trace glyphosate levels whenever possible. Whether you are the buyer, the manufacturer, or the consumer, Bob believes in a “everybody wins” approach to business. He believes his impact and scale was achieved by paying farmers more, so he prides himself in the ability to implement economic incentives anywhere he can. Bob recalls in his conversation with John that almost 30 years ago, he began offering three times the amount of the commodity wheat price for Kamut® wheat, which proved to be a very effective business move. Today, that incentive has grown to five times the commodity price. Bob’s expertise goes way beyond wheat, for a farmer located in the Upper Great Plains he has an unlikely variety of successfully growing dryland produce. Throughout the episode, Bob goes into detail about how this production came to be and how regenerative organic practices allow him to grow things like watermelon and summer squash in Montana. Bob and John also discuss nutritional value of ancient grains, how the western diet has led to a jump in autoimmune disorders, and the concerning rise of glyphosate levels in our food. Bob also tells the story of how his company accidentally came upon creating cooking oil in the search to create a better diesel fuel.
79 minutes | 8 months ago
Facilitating Large Scale Transitions to Regenerative Agriculture with Terry McCosker
In our latest episode, John sits down with one of Australia’s most recognized thought leaders in Regenerative Agriculture, Dr. Terry McCosker. Over the course of three decades, Terry has worked with about 10,000 Australian farmers—a staggering 10% of all farmland on the continent—coaching them through an agricultural approach that emphasizes both soil nutrition & pasture ecology. Terry currently serves as the director of RCS, an Australian agriculture consulting firm, but his career started at an early age when he had the opportunity to work on an Australian cattle station. Driven by a fearless pursuit of excellence, Terry found that most of the problems that faced the cattle station, as well as other operations across the country, stemmed from an outdated reductionist view of farming. As he continued his research, which included traveling to farms across the globe, he saw firsthand the power of holistic practices and their effects on livestock. Terry began challenging the paradigms of conventional farming and what he observed were results like an increase in livestock reproduction and mortality rates. Throughout the episode, John and Terry discuss the work of Stan Parsons and Allan Savory, the importance of cell grazing alongside other regenerative practices, the proper strategies farmers use to approach succession planning, and the fascinating future potential of carbon sequestration. “A client of mine once said that he thought he was a livestock producer. And then he came to one of our programs and went away thinking that he was a grass producer. And then over time, as he's learned more and more, he now believes he's a soil manager. If you understand that you're a soil manager, the production and the economics of your farm will actually look after itself…to be truly regenerative, a farmer needs to understand that they are a part of the ecosystem, not apart from it.” -Dr. Terry McCosker
80 minutes | 9 months ago
In Defense of Biological Systems with Robert Linderman
In our latest episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews plant pathology veteran & agricultural visionary, Dr. Robert Linderman, discussing the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi and other bio-control agents that protect crops from soil-borne pathogens. After receiving his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from U.C. Berkley in 1967, Robert would spend the next 40-plus years contributing pivotal research findings to the USDA and other agricultural organizations. During his time with the USDA, Robert was introduced to a colleague who was fascinated by the power of mycorrhizal fungi and their ability to keep pathogens at bay. Their conversation ignited Robert’s pursuit to understand mycorrhizae symbiosis. Throughout the episode, John and Robert discuss the benefits of building up antagonistic organisms in the soil to create a disease suppressive environment, allowing crops to thrive. In addition to other educated approaches to battling pathogens in your soil, Robert also takes listeners into a deep dive of the Ashburner System, telling the story of how one Australian avocado grower utilized a mycorrhizal fungi strategy—without even knowing it—to suppress phytophthora outbreak across his orchard. “Farms, whether they're seeding or transplanting or planting bulbs or whatever, need to treat that material where the infection is going to happen…to have something there waiting for the pathogen when it tries to get into the plant is the best chance. It's like immunizing a child for infections that might come. You build up some kind of resistance and the resistance is in a biological form.” -Linderman Robert and John also discuss the thoughtful inoculation of propagules, mycorrhizal fungi’s effect on photosynthesis, concerns about single factor analysis found in agricultural research, and the true price of the “instant gratification” chemical fix.
49 minutes | 9 months ago
Building Soil While Cash Cropping with Loran Steinlage
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Loran Steinlage of Flolo Farms in Iowa. They discuss his experience in relay cropping, interseeding, cover crops, and controlled traffic farming. Loran grows grain crops for seed, has implemented youth programs on the farm, and has experimented with 60-inch corn. Listen for practical advice from a current grain farmer. Loran grew up planning to be a livestock farmer like his father, but was hit by a semi at the age of 14, causing him to change his plans. Today Loran grows corn, beans, wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, sunflowers, and oats. Typically, they do relay cropping and interseeding, though this year they have not been able to do relay cropping due to a freeze in May of their cereal crops. In 2006 Loran began interseeding while his whole farm was corn on corn. Through interseeding, he found his way into cover crops and relay cropping. In the fall there are cereal crops such as winter wheat, rye, spring malt barley, or oats. Loran watches for stand quality, sometimes rolling over into corn if the stands aren’t good enough. Otherwise, he sows soybeans at the normal time. Loran uses a 30-inch planter to give more room for the combine. In July winter wheat is harvested, then cereal rye, then malt barley. If there is a window with good weather, they add buckwheat and harvest it and the soybean crop together. Loran’s method has long been to focus on seed quality for economic viability. Uniform emergence is the key that ensures all the heads mature at the same time for a high-quality harvest. Once cereal crops dry and re-wet, germination quality goes down, so they try to harvest the cereal as it dries. For a few years, they were making $7-$8 per bushel on malt barley. Food grade wheat can earn a $2-$3 premium, but with grain cleaners the value can be almost doubled. Loran receives a minimum of $10 for cereal rye seed. He utilizes controlled traffic and stays on the tramlines to avoid creating compaction or driving on the crop. Controlled traffic has great results in a field, but it requires more forethought and careful management to be successful so it has not been widely adopted. Even if there’s a small yield loss, Loran avoids straying from the tramlines as much as possible. About 5 or 10 farmers participated in a tramline study with Bob Recker, with only Loran interseeding cover crops. The extra biomass in the tramlines was very valuable, and a 60-inch gap provided extremely high quality cover crops. Bob Recker did further testing of his “barcode plot” and saw that the 60-inch gap was significantly better than the 30-inch gap for cover crop production. This year, he plans to relay cereal crops into standing 60-inch corn, which in his experience has yielded equivalent or better to 30-inch corn. He attributes some of that to having a precise planter. He also questions if yield should be the ultimate goal. Loran believes growers around him who sacrifice some yield for grazing days can attain 2-3 months of grazing instead of one, which can substantially lower feed costs. Loran believes kids belong in agriculture today, and that it isn’t happening enough. He believes in self-education and the importance of allowing kids to learn on-farm, rather than going off to college. In pursuit of this goal, Loran’s started a 4-H program on his farm and increased field days. Having the children working with soil scientists can inspire them so they want to enter the field, and he’s seen some success stories already. He thinks that more people need to step out of the way and let young people take their place. Loran sees the future of agriculture being focused on niche markets. He wants people to build an operation to fill voids in the market, rather than taking other people’s ideas and trying to make them fit their operation. He would change government intervention in agriculture if he could. If inherent risk was returned to farming, he believes competition and innovation would return. He also wants people to learn more about practices used after the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and to combine those with current knowledge to improve fertility and soil health. Resources:The Steinlage Way Loran Steinlage on Twitter Growing Crops 365 Days a Year - Loran Steinlage Corn Maverick: Cracking the Mystery of 60-Inch Rows Jill Clapperton, Rhizoterra
67 minutes | 10 months ago
The Fallacy of Mainstream Potassium and Nitrogen Fertilization with Richard Mulvaney
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Professor Richard Mulvaney from the University of Illinois. Dr. Mulvaney is a prolific soil fertility scientist and researcher with many published papers relating to nitrogen and potassium uptake in crops. His work with Dr. Saeed Khan led to the development of the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT). John and Dr. Mulvaney discuss nitrogen uptake in crops, how soil should provide most of the needed nitrogen, and the fallacy that applying nitrogen builds soil organic matter. He also describes the “potassium paradox”, how significant amounts of potassium are available from the soil, and the damaging cycle that is created when applying potash. Nitrogen Fertilization (00:00:53)Dr. Mulvaney began working in soil fertility in the 1980s with a focus on minimizing nitrogen fertilizer loss to increase crop uptake, specifically in regard to the isotope N-15. In collaboration with Dr. Saeed Khan in the 1990s, he found evidence that in some cases, fertilizer nitrogen on corn has no statistically significant response. At the time, most soil scientists were operating with the assumption that the optimal amount of fertilizer nitrogen is found by multiplying 1.2 times an expected yield goal, then deducting nitrogen credits such as a previous legume. In a project in Illinois studying on-farm plots, around 33 of 75 studied sites showed no significant response to fertilizer nitrogen, a finding inconsistent with the 1.2 method. The unfertilized yields, or check yields, were very high and not significantly increased with an application of nitrogen. Thus, Dr. Mulvaney hypothesized that the 1.2 calculation might not be as reliable as previously thought. Dr. Khan and Dr. Mulvaney conducted research to determine the difference between plots used in that study that were responsive and those that were unresponsive to fertilizer nitrogen applications. His wife noted that while soil scientists understand how carbon in plants is heterogeneous and decomposes at different rates, they assume that nitrogen is all the same. Examining the differences within nitrogen forms made clear that the plants at the non-responsive sites had sufficient levels of nitrogen available from the soil and so did not need nitrogen fertilizer applications. Using diffusion on the soil samples from the same study, they found that non-responsive soils were consistently testing higher in amino sugar nitrogen. The prevailing thought at the time was that fertilizer is the primary source of nitrogen for crop uptake, especially for corn. However, Mulvaney’s and Khan’s data shows that at least two thirds of the nitrogen in the crop at harvest is supplied from the soils, rather than from applied fertilizer nitrogen. In soils with higher amounts of amino sugar nitrogen, applications of fertilizer nitrogen are a waste of money because most or all of the nitrogen is supplied by the soil. It follows that measured soil nitrogen is only correlated with crop response to applied nitrogen when soil tests measure amino sugar nitrogen. The 1.2 method was developed from research trials on static plots. These corn plots received the same fertilizer treatments each year. On the unfertilized plots, corn used the nutrients from the soil with no nitrogen fertilizer added. Microbes will also use nitrogen from the soil to break down crop residues, depleting the following crop of nitrogen and depressing yields. The depletion of nitrogen resulting in depressed yields on the unfertilized plots makes the fertilizer effect appear more dramatic in comparison. Because the 1.2 method is based on static plots, it and its related assumptions are invalid when applied to farmer fields. Similarly, the assumption that one-third of the nitrogen will come from the soil is incorrect. In reality, two-thirds of the nitrogen is supplied from soils and only one third or less comes from fertilizer. These misconceptions have misled growers on the importance of nitrogen applications. Because soil is the primary source of nitrogen for crop uptake, soils should be tested to determine how much nitrogen fertilizer should be applied. Dr. Mulvaney and Dr. Khan developed the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT) to estimate the amino sugar fraction for variable-rate nitrogen application recommendations. A former student of Dr. Mulvaney runs the lab at Cropsmith, where the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test is available. Expansion on Amino Sugar Nitrogen (00:24:15)Amino sugars are an organic form of nitrogen produced by microbial activity. They occur in microbial cell walls, spores, and in chitin. The bacterial cell walls are more decomposable. Nitrogen shows up in asparagine and glutamine, essential amino acids, which contain one nitrogen atom each in the amino group and the amide group, which is prone to break down. It is estimated that 5-10% of soil organic nitrogen is in the form of amino sugars, but Dr. Mulvaney believes it is likely higher. Amino sugar nitrogen, more specifically referred to as alkali hydrolyzable nitrogen, will also increase with more soil biological activity. Manured soils have higher levels of it, and thus have a diminished need for synthetic fertilizer nitrogen. Although his lab has not studied cover crops directly, he believes having active plants in the soil will increase microbial activity and thus the amino sugar nitrogen. The Morrow Plots, located at the University of Illinois and established in 1876, are the oldest continuous research plots in North America. They are static plots with three rotations, continuous corn, corn-soybean, and corn-oats-hay. In his research, Dr. Khan noticed that the continuous corn plots were not as healthy and had lower yields than the corn-oats-hay plots, even though the continuous corn plots received significantly more nitrogen fertilizer. The results of the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test were lower on the continuous corn plots, which shows that synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is not necessarily building soil organic matter. Research comparing samples from 1955, 1967, and 2005 showed decreases in organic matter on the fertilized subplots. Dr. Mulvaney explains that the fertilizer actually “burned” organic matter. Carbon metabolism requires nitrogen, in a ratio of about 7 carbon to 1 nitrogen, so microbes can only access carbon from crop residue with nitrogen availability. When the microbes have too much nitrogen, they burn off the excess carbon as carbon dioxide rather than building soil organic matter. Additionally, conventional fertilizers have an oxidizing effect on soil microbial communities and stimulate respiration, which releases carbon from the soil as carbon dioxide. Dr. Mulvaney notes that William Albrecht published a paper in 1938 in a handbook from the USDA where he stated that adequate nitrogen is needed to build organic matter. Later that year, Albrecht published an article in the Soil Science Society of America Proceedings based on results which showed that unfertilized plots had gained organic matter while fertilized plots had lost it. Albrecht never again said adequate nitrogen is needed. Potassium Paradox (0:43:40)Dr. Mulvaney worked with Dr. Khan, an expert on potassium, to write papers on the potassium paradox. He was doing soil testing for potassium on the South Farm at Illinois, testing from the surface plow layer to about seven inches into the soil. The unfertilized plots increased in their average potassium levels, leading to the realization that the soil was releasing potassium. There are about 40,000 pounds of potassium per acre in just the top six inches of many Midwestern soils. A review of numerous potassium studies showed that there is no significant yield increase from potash fertilization. Clay layers, mostly found in the subsoil rather than the plow layer, hold significant quantities of potassium. When the plant roots reach those lower levels, they find large quantities of potassium that they extract with the biological functions of the root system. Because potassium is a major plant cation, there are high levels of soluble potassium carbonate in crop residue. Salts are leached from crop residue during rainfall, resulting in most of the potassium in a corn crop returning to the soil and making potassium fertilization unnecessary. Potassium is also fixed in the clay due to its size, leading to high potassium retention in clay layers with sufficient moisture. These factors lead to sufficient potassium levels in the soil. A German researcher, Mengel, performed a greenhouse study where he removed the clay fraction from soil, and potassium uptake was still high. This led to the idea that potassium in the clay layers is unavailable to plants, but Dr. Mulvaney disagrees. He finds that the plants are able to make the potassium available by producing acids. Soil testers measure the exchangeable potassium in soils, and do not measure the non-exchangeable and mineral potassium. This means that they will underestimate the available potassium and will recommend potassium fertilization, though it may not be necessary. As further evidence that potassium fertilization is typically unnecessary, Dr. Mulvaney refers to Cyril Hopkins, a 20th-century soil scientist, who claimed that potassium is not a necessary input because the soil already contains enough. The potassium paradox is based on the fact that applying potash to soil makes potassium less available by collapsing the clay layers. To demonstrate, Dr. Mulvaney tells a story about a fertilizer dealer who applied potassium to soils that had tested low for potassium. When they re-tested the field, the potassium levels were even lower. They assumed they had the wrong field, re-applied potassium on the same field, and again found lower potassium levels afterward. Thus, applying potassium can worsen potassium deficiency. Dr. Mulvaney advises growers to use the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test or another simil
44 minutes | 10 months ago
Microbial Communities for Carbon Sequestration with David Johnson
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Dr. David Johnson, a New Mexico State University research scientist, Adjunct Professor for the College of Agriculture at Chico State, and Faculty Affiliate for the Center for Regenerative Agriculture. His research clearly outlines the importance of managing the ratio between fungal and bacterial populations in the soil for plant productivity and carbon sequestration. During his research on the salinity of manure compost, Dr. Johnson and his wife, Hui-Chun Su, developed the BEAM Soil Compost Bioreactor which develops compost with high fungal populations. John and Dr. Johnson discuss carbon cycling and the capacity of biology to sequester carbon and build soil organic matter. The conversation provides a fascinating look at the role of carbon dioxide in agriculture and the environment, how the ratio of fungal to bacterial populations in the soil are key to carbon cycling, and the methodology growers can employ to actively increase soil organic matter while decreasing costs. Carbon Sequestration (00:02:00)Dr. Johnson explains that high concentrations of carbon dioxide are problematic due to the impact on the climate, increasing the global temperature, rather than the impact of CO2 on plants, which like high concentrations of carbon. Due to those effects, carbon sequestration must be part of sustainable agriculture. John mentions that he has seen organic matter gains in the fields of half a percentage point per year, a very rapid improvement. Dr. Johnson believes that rate is possible, but only with cattle or other grazers in the system. In his experiments based solely on biology, he sees a little over a quarter of a percentage point per year increase in soil organic matter, or 10 tons of carbon per hectare. The Microbial Community (00:08:00) In order to realize these significant results in building soil organic matter, Dr. Johnson says the microbial community must be balanced. The microbes cycle carbon, improve carbon use efficiency, and create a healthy soil system. Plowing and the use of biocides destroy fungal populations, so those need to be restored in order for soils to function appropriately. John references a slide in one of Dr. Johnson’s presentations comparing fungal to bacterial biomass ratios and the partitioning of the photosynthates. The explanation is based on an experiment with compost made in the BEAM bioreactor, where fungal dominant soils were shown to utilize five times the amount of carbon in the plants than bacterial dominant soils. An average of 11% of carbon captured by a plant goes into the root, shoot, or fruit of the plant in most agricultural systems today, but in a fungal dominant soil, 55% of the captured carbon can be partitioned into the plant rather than into the soil. This can dramatically affect plant productivity and growth. Maximum productivity and carbon capture happen when the fungal to bacterial ratio is one to one, which also causes soil respiration to decrease. There can be increased crop biomass as well as more organic matter in the soil. Dr. Johnson notices that as fungal populations in the soil are restored, farmers are often happier. About 60% of a crop must be left to effectively rebuild the soil even after the soil microbes are in balance, rather than 100% removal. Balanced Systems (00:27:00) Dr. Johnson explains that having the right microbes is a necessary first step towards building soil health, but is not the complete solution. The compost his team uses as an inoculant has over 2,500 species of bacteria and over 400 species of fungi, archaea, viruses, and more. That is a balanced community of varied microbes. The energy flow and carbon flow is also critical, and the photosynthetic rate must be increased. All of those work together to make a much more efficient, restored system. When the soil biology is in balance, the microbes can make the elemental nutrients available for the plant. That takes out the human guesswork of trying to figure out how much of each nutrient is needed. In a corn trial, the amount of applied nitrogen was decreased to 15%, or about 37 lb. per acre, and two lb. of compost per acre were added. The result was a small decrease in productivity in the first year and $80 more an acre in profits. Although only 37 lb. of nitrogen per acre were applied, 261 units of nitrogen were measured in the soil, compared to the control of 256 lb. of nitrogen. The nitrogen was made available from the soil system rather than as a purchased input. Dr. Johnson believes that healthy soil biology leads to a resilient system. He has seen dramatic changes in water absorption and retention when cover crops are used and soil biology is improved. In compacted soil, it took 10 minutes for an inch of water to infiltrate, and it now takes only seconds for that same inch of water. The first 1% increase in soil carbon is associated with a five times increase in the amount of water the soil can hold. Agriculture currently uses 70 to 80% of the freshwater on the planet, but utilizing these methods can double crop productivity and save water. Importance of Observation (00:43:00)Dr. Johnson explains that the information he has discussed so far was not the primary goal of his research. He was seeking a way to compost dairy manure, and his research serendipitously led him to this information. He believes that holding on to traditional methodologies is an obstacle, and that the farming of the future must be based on regular observation and be open to change. Farming for 40 years provides 40 different experiences, so paying close attention is the best way to improve. Resources he recommends include Chico’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture, John Kempf’s blog, Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, Allen Williams, and Will Harris. His final thought for listeners is to look at soils as a living organism, pay close attention to biology, utilize observation, and to transition to a system of regenerative agriculture to rebuild the soils. Dr. Johnson has seen that it’s possible to rebuild soils and that it has the ability to make farming fun again. Resources: Dr. Johnson’s Bio Chico Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems John Kempf’s Blog Gabe Brown’s Ranch Understanding Ag, Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Allen Williams Will Harris Dr. Johnson’s Research Paper “Development of soil microbial communities for promoting sustainability in agriculture and a global carbon fix” Dr. Johnson’s Seminar at Chico State with referenced slide at 23:00
76 minutes | a year ago
Embracing the Connection Between Agriculture and Health with Zach Bush
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Zach Bush MD, an educator and a triple board-certified physician who specializes in internal medicine, endocrinology, and hospice care. Zach brings his understanding of the systemic challenges in pharmaceuticals and farming to non-profits such as Farmer’s Footprint and Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, where he works to create collaborative communities to solve these human and environmental problems. In this episode, John and Zach discuss the challenging problem of glyphosate. Zach describes the research showing the ramifications of this phosphonate compound and provides clear insights into the science of the problem before returning to an optimistic vision of regenerative agriculture as a solution. Glyphosate/Roundup (around 00:02)With Zach’s background in chemotherapy and cancer research, he was on the front lines in 2005 when it was discovered that the gut microbiome, made up of fungi and bacteria, has a significant impact on whether and how cancer affects people. Joining other researchers, he began to learn the importance of supporting beneficial fungi and bacteria and realized that glyphosate damages the microbiome. Zach explains that glyphosate was originally deemed safe due to the fact that it blocked the shikimate pathway, which does not exist in humans or animals. However, in time it was discovered that glyphosate limits access to some essential amino acids needed by humans for microbiome resilience. Zach says that glyphosate targets protein structures in human cells which can lead to a leak in the gut lining, furthering chronic inflammation. He says that some widespread chronic diseases, such as asthma, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, can be traced to gut disruption and inflammation linked to glyphosate use. Zach references the statistic that the Mississippi River collects 80-85% of the water-soluble residues of Roundup. The last stretch of the river is referred to as “Cancer Alley” because the surrounding regions have the highest rates of cancer in the world. When glyphosate was first widely used, it was thought of as safer than the chemistries it replaced because those were known carcinogens. What we’re seeing now, a generation of 25 years later, is that vegetables can have high enough levels of glyphosate concentrations to lead to leaky gut, which is not fully explained by historical definitions of toxicity. In addition, Zach explains that there is an epidemic of autoimmune and neurological disorders that can be attributed to glyphosate. From a study done on mice, Zach knows there are cumulative epigenetic effects of Roundup. If a first-generation is exposed to Roundup, the second generation does not need to be exposed directly to have disorders, immune dysfunction, and a shortened lifespan. The third generation of mice in the study experienced cancers and stillbirths, still without direct exposure. Chronic diseases in children have been increasing exponentially, and Zach expects that trend to continue according to the models developed from this research. Sixth Extinction (Around 00:20)John asks Zach to elaborate on the prediction that the human population will go extinct in 70 years. Zach bases this prediction on the rise of chronic disease combined with decreasing fertility. He cites the statistic that about 1 in 3 men and women are infertile. Zach explains how we are creating the sixth extinction event by destroying soils, increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans, and other modern phenomena. The Research(Around 25:00) Zach mentions that he is currently working on a book that covers this perspective. For current material, Zach recommends Stephanie Seneff’s research correlating glyphosate to chronic disease epidemics. In the last seven years, Zach’s lab has been working on the causation aspect, with that research available on ionbiome.com. Zach’s lab has shown that glyphosate disrupts the tight junctions that act as intelligent gatekeepers in a cell while inducing cells to show precancerous attributes. White papers are available on his website for multiple studies he’s been involved in, including one showing that gluten intolerance is actually glyphosate toxicity. Zach has noticed a great increase in immune dysfunction, especially in children, which he attributes to the leaky gut injury caused by glyphosate. He sees this as evidence that we are destroying our ecosystem. John recalls the prediction that within 60 years we will run out of topsoil, and Zach notices that is very close to the 70-year prediction for extinction. Zach finds it very important that we regenerate soils. He says 11% of GDP is lost each year with the loss of topsoil and hopes this might motivate larger groups of people to switch to a regenerative system because it is a notable financial statistic. Other Pesticides, Endocrine Disruption(around 41:00)The impact of pesticides on the endocrine system works in conjunction with the damage already done with glyphosate and can affect kidney and liver function. Zach explains that the decrease in fertility and increases in chronic diseases are also results of endocrine disruption by pesticides and other chemicals. In the process of filming the Farmer’s Footprint documentary, Zach and his team noticed that rare disorders and dysfunction were unusually common in the farming community. Rather than seeing the increase in suicide and depression in farmers as a result of financial hardship, Zach sees it as a result of glyphosate impacting gut health and contributing to mood disorders. In addition, farmers are not eating healthy, nourishing homegrown food. 90% of the land in Kansas is used for agriculture, yet 90% of the Kansas food supply is imported. A large portion of the crops grown in large-scale agriculture do not become a part of the food supply but are grown for animal feed or other products. Both Zach and John agree that the midwest is largely a food desert, as societal and economic shifts have forced the agricultural sector to specialize and centralize production. The Solution (00:58)Zach is excited that regenerative agriculture has a comparatively rapid effect on soil health, farm profitability, and on rebuilding communities. Farmers can begin to work on becoming healthier as individuals by growing their own food and eating a varied diet. Zach describes a product he has available called Ion Biome which utilizes soil redox chemistry to fix the damage done to the microbiome by glyphosate. John asks Zach what he believes is necessary for food to be medicine. Zach’s reply is that fiber is critical and that a balanced diet with nutrient-dense root vegetables, fruit, and cruciferous vegetables allows one to treat food as medicine. He also finds it important to eat food that is freshly picked, such as a tomato right off the vine, with its microbiome still intact. Zach thinks it can be really beautiful when farmers connect with their land again as regenerative farmers and recognize the importance to co-create along with Mother Nature. Resources: Ion Biome Zach’s Research Zach’s Website Farmer’s Footprint Stephanie Seneff Non-Toxic Neighborhoods Support For This Show This show is brought to you by AEA, helping professional growers make more money using regenerative agriculture since 2006. If you grow on a large scale and are looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email email@example.com or call 800-495-6603 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.
86 minutes | a year ago
Resilient Agriculture Models for The Future with Joel Salatin
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Joel Salatin, a well-known lecturer and author and the co-owner of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. Polyface Farms is a “diversified, grass-based, beyond organic, direct marketing farm”. Joel is well-known for his highly engaging public speaking style and is the author of twelve books relating his experience as a self-described ‘lunatic farmer’. In this episode of the podcast, we visit the challenges of mainstream, conventional agriculture through Joel’s paradigm-shifting lens, and learn why farmers are beginning to shift to a regenerative model. Joel also describes how farmers can learn the skills of marketing, communications, and public speaking, and broaches the uncomfortable topic of planning for farm inheritance and succession. Joel’s worldview, informed by both real-world experience and immersion in a broad range of literature from philosophy, history, and religion, to current events and business, forms the foundation of his farming practices. Joel states that deep soils were not built with 10-10-10 chemical fertilizer, but rather built with real-time solar energy converted to carbon and vegetation that rots or is eaten and manured in place. Joel describes why he does not believe such organizations as McDonald’s or Monsanto are evil, but rather thinks they have misguided beliefs concerning ecological systems and food production. Most often, employees at these organizations truly believe they are helping the world. While their understanding of agricultural processes is wrong, they are not ill-intentioned. The ability to understand the opposition is an important skill Joel developed in high school debate tournaments that helps him to build bridges with those who see agriculture differently than he does. Joel and John discuss how most farmers desire to better their land and none have the intention to degrade the soil. Yet, many farmers continue to practice mainstream agriculture with its soil-degrading effects. Joel explains that for farmers to change their practices, often they need to face a crisis. He describes how the symbol for “crisis” in Japanese is the same as the symbol for “opportunity”. He sees crises as an opportunity for farmers to move towards more productive, regenerative practices. Joel also describes how we can elicit broader societal change to where regenerative farmers are viewed as the heroes within their communities. The benchmark of success most used in farming is yield. Farmers also consider equipment and infrastructure as benchmarks of success. Joel’s take is that neither of these are a determinant of financial success or farm profitability. He relates an anecdote from his early years when his father, a tax preparer for the neighboring farming operations, mentioned that their own threadbare family farm was more financially stable than those farmers with large and fancy equipment and expensive facilities. Joel believes the mantra that farmers must feed the world is a fallacy that encourages detrimental practices and unsustainable agriculture. The coronavirus pandemic has sharply defined the need for communities to be able to feed themselves and has placed a spotlight on the drawbacks of the current centralized system. Joel describes his belief in an intelligent creator who has loaned the world to us as an investment. In his words, no investor would accept dead zones, pollution, and species extinction. Thus, it is our responsibility to improve the land and help it become more fertile year after year. Seeing the world as an investment helps people to treat it well rather than deplete its resources for unsustainable growth. The dysfunction of the current system is evidenced by the statistic that small-scale agriculture produces 70% of the global food supply with 30% of the inputs while the other 30% of the food supply is produced using 70% of the inputs. Joel makes the distinction that the size of a farming operation is not a determining factor in how regenerative or sustainable that farm can be. Rather, the sustainability of a farm can be rated on how centralized the operation is. He describes the growth of Polyface Farm as growth by duplication, rather than centralization. Although his farm is considered a large farm by the USDA, it has a small-farm feel partly due to his method of decentralizing 100,000 chickens in 300 field shelters on pasture rather than concentrating them in two giant poultry houses. He considers the ecological carrying capacity of the land when expanding, ensuring the land can absorb the livestock manure. Decentralized systems are much more resilient and much less smelly than concentrated, centralized systems. Although he cannot predict the future, Joel is certain that building healthy soil will stand the test of time. He emphasizes that an agricultural system of the future must be integrated, regionally focused, and full of complex relationships, and that it will be human and soil oriented. Joel describes the profitability of growing corn versus a grass-fed beef production. Land that grows 100 bushels an acre of corn would produce grass that could support 400 cow days per year. He calculates that, no matter the price of cattle, there is approximately $300 per acre net profit for grass-fed beef, a profit never realized by corn farmers. However, very few of the farmers have actually shifted their production. That is because it is difficult for humans to make such a large change and admit to themselves that a new method could be better than their current practices. Farmer’s identities are based around what they grow and how they grow it, so it is very challenging for change to occur. The truth, though, is that farmers must adapt or die. It may require a new generation of farmers for the needed change to happen. Joel raises the uncomfortable topic of farm succession. Estate planning is especially difficult for farmers due to their love for the land. The average age of a farmer today is 65, so about 50% of America’s farmland will shift in ownership in the next 15 years. At the same time, there are many young people hoping to enter the sector. While Joel has explored ways to connect young people with aging farmers who are looking for a successor, he also enforces the value of low-capital and mobile systems to help young people get started. The average American farm has $4.00 of depreciable equity for $1.00 in annual gross sales. At Polyface Farms, this ratio is $0.50 to $1.00. This more nimble style of agriculture requires no land equity, as mobile systems can be placed on land not owned by the farmer. Low-capital systems are becoming very important as young people gain the necessary experience, skills, and knowledge to start up a successful farming venture. The practice of equal inheritance of farmland is a concept Joel discourages. His view is that farmland should be inherited by the person who has been stewarding the land. When the child who stayed home and held the farm together is given an equal inheritance with their siblings who pursued other careers, they must buy out their siblings to keep the farm which is an unfair burden. These conversations often don’t happen, but they are necessary for families to have. As Joel jokes, “Why should I die on my tractor so my kids can run off to Las Vegas with my money?” This episode is a long conversation examining the importance of being well-informed and focusing on soil health and profitability above yields. Listen to gain a better understanding of the future of agriculture and what it will take to get there. Resources:Joel’s Bio Support For This Show This show is brought to you by AEA, helping professional growers make more money using regenerative agriculture since 2006. If you grow on a large scale and are looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-495-6603 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.
35 minutes | a year ago
The Role of Carbon in the Soil with Rattan Lal
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John interviews Dr. Rattan Lal, an acclaimed soil scientist, researcher, and author. Dr. Lal has published hundreds of journal articles on soil ecosystems, effects of tillage, global food security, sequestering carbon in the soil, and more. In the early 1990s, Dr. Lal was a pioneer of the now mainstream idea that healthy soils are a defense against rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading groundbreaking research in Africa and later in South America. After a long and storied career, he is currently the Director of the CFAES Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, where he works with graduate students to research soil carbon sequestration and climate change. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Lal provides an in-depth description of the function of carbon. Carbon is the determinant of healthy soil. As Dr. Lal describes, the reason that soil life is much more diverse in healthy soil is because organic carbon is the food for soil organisms. Thus, the healthier the soil, the higher the percentage of organic carbon, providing more diverse populations with the ability to thrive. This is also why, if crop residue isn’t returned to the soil frequently, the soil organisms will starve and the soil will eventually die. By dying, Dr. Lal means the soil will no longer contain enough living organisms to carry on the biogeochemical and biogeophysical processes needed for healthy plant growth. Dr. Lal outlines the concentrations of organic carbon in the soil, which should be approximately 2% in the top 8 to 12 inches. Maintaining this level of soil carbon is essential for water retention and for controlling soil erosion and leaching. It’s also critical for nutrient cycling and improved soil structure. Dr. Lal states that CNPK should be the slogan for the application of elements, rather than NPK because carbon is such a critical component of a healthy soil system. Dr. Lal details how carbon is essential for the utilization of the nutrients in the soil, whether they are native or applied, and illustrates the management of soil carbon levels by describing it in similar terms to managing a bank account. In a bank account, the goal is to increase the savings, and therefore what is deposited into the bank must always be more than what is withdrawn from the bank. Soil is exactly the same way. If we want the organic matter to increase in the soil, what we put in as a biomass carbon must be more than what is taken out. We lose carbon from the soil for four different reasons. These reasons are erosion, leaching, decomposition, and volatilization. It’s important to know the amount of carbon loss happening from the soil so we can add a sufficient amount of biomass carbon back to the soil. The efficiency of humidification is about 15-20%, meaning the carbon added into the soil after harvest is 15 -20% of the original biomass after one year. Dr. Lal says that the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in corn or wheat residue is approximately 80:100, while the carbon to nitrogen ratio of humus is 12:15. That means the humus is more enriched in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Therefore, to make the most efficient use of the added biomass, microbes need nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and other elements to transform the residue carbon into humus carbon. In an experiment on Dr. Lal’s current Columbus, OH research farm, he developed four plots with 4, 8, 12, or 16 tons of biomass per hectare respectively. He then cut each plot into two and added extra nitrogen and phosphorus on the one side of the plot and no additional nutrients on the other side. The results showed the percentage of residue converted into stable humus is substantially increased when extra nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients are added then when there are none. Dr. Lal also describes his thoughts on providing farmers with compensation for ecosystem services. As a society, we could ask farmers to provide services to the global community such as carbon sequestration and the improvement of water quality. Dr. Lal believes society should be willing to compensate farmers for these services. He describes how he’s calculated the cost farmers should be paid and has determined a baseline of $16 per acre per year by calculating in terms of tons of carbon and the worth of that carbon ($125 per ton) sequestered in soil as organic matter. Dr. Lal’s outlined system of ecosystem services is not similar to a subsidy but is rather a payment earned for services performed. Dr. Lal also describes the necessity of passing a Healthy Soil Act. Similar to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Healthy Soil Act would be critically important to human health and to the slowing of climate change. Dr. Lal believes the passage of this act is especially critical because of the impact soil has on both air and water. Soil is the link between the atmosphere, the environment, plants, animals, and people. This episode is densely packed with information about soil health and how to achieve it, not only for farmers but also for policymakers and educators. As Dr. Lal says in his closing remarks, "Agriculture, if done properly, has to be a solution to environmental issues.” Resources: Dr. Rattan Lal, Soil Rock Star Societal Value of Soil Carbon journal article Rights of Soil journal article Support For This Show This show is brought to you by AEA, helping professional growers make more money using regenerative agriculture since 2006. If you grow on a large scale and are looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email email@example.com or call 800-495-6603 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.
52 minutes | a year ago
Collaboration, Spirit and Change, Perspectives from Ray Archuleta
In this episode of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, John Kempf interviews Ray Archuleta, an outspoken proponent of healthy soil systems and the founder of Understanding Ag and the Soil Health Academy. Ray has spent decades working in conservation agriculture and, in this episode, he describes his journey from seeing nature as a competitive entity, in which all else should be killed in order for the desired crop to survive, to his understanding today that nature thrives on diversity and collaboration. Ray describes how new science and technology have identified many examples of collaboration in agroecology, like arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which share water resources and transport energy and nutrients from organism to organism. Even under stress conditions, these microbes provide water to the plant, an example of nature sharing resources rather than competing. He provides examples of research that illustrate fields with a diversity of species showing greater resilience and yields than monoculture plantings. Ray attended graduate school at New Mexico State University, after which he served as a livestock specialist in the Peace Corps and then as a conservation agronomist with the NRCS. During Ray’s early years working in conservation agriculture, he started asking difficult questions: “Why is sediment the number one water quality problem in the nation? Why does it take so many acres to make a living?” Through these questions and more, reading books such as Allan Savory’s Holistic Management, and coming to Gabe Brown’s ranch in 2007, Ray had revelatory moments, realizing that robust soil ecology is the key to solving many of the challenges plaguing farms today. On Gabe’s farm, Ray observed an ideal example of a thriving ecology. When he realized the crops had received no support from nitrogen or chemical fertility applications, he began to dig deep, looking for research that would explain how this ecosystem was working. What he found was that nature thrives when collaborations between compatible organisms are fostered, illustrated not only in agronomic studies such as Brown University’s paper on Stress Gradient Hypothesis but also in the real-world operations of early-adopting farmers. John and Ray describe the collaboration taking place between plants, microbes, and bacteria in a healthy ecosystem as descriptive of a larger collaboration between farmers who are practicing these methods and sharing their information with other growers. Ray describes his own journey from viewing farming as drudgery to learning how the relationship between the living organisms works and feeling like he was a part of that relationship. The conversation takes a deep dive into this farmer-soil-plant relationship, providing growers with the history of the soil health movement, the roles that policy, society, and agriculture play in the broader global health context, and the encouraging view on the vast gains that have been made in the field of soil health since the beginning of Ray’s career as a soil conservationist thirty years ago. Resources: Understanding Ag The Soil Health Academy The Stress Gradient Hypothesis Holistic Management by Allan Savory Gabe Brown’s Ranch Support For This Show This show is brought to you by AEA, helping professional growers make more money using regenerative agriculture since 2006. If you grow on a large scale and are looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-495-6603 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.
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