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For countless years, conventional agricultural practices neglected the vital task of preserving and nurturing topsoil, the most nutrient dense part of the soil. This resulted in the erosion and degradation of topsoil, leaving our local farm, like many others, with shallow topsoil barely measuring 3.75 inches.
A decade ago, we embarked on a transformative journey driven by a commitment to sustainable land management. Throughout experimental farming practices, we have succeeded in increasing our topsoil depth to 10 inches, simultaneously we have revitalized our subsoil from 15 inches to a thriving 22 inches — which was previously thought to be incredibly difficult to achieve.
Our understanding of diverse plant growth patterns has deepened, allowing us to recognize the optimal rates and timing of growth for different species. During the warm summer months, Sorghum Sudangrass flourishes, with astonishing daily growth of up to 5 inches. However, as temperatures cool, it dies quickly. In contrast, resilient forages like Ryegrass persistently thrive even amidst chilly temperatures and snowfall, making them ideal for our pastures from late fall through spring.
Embracing purposeful field management practices has yielded remarkable results. Not only have we achieved enhanced crop utilization and increased yields, but we have also fostered vibrant and sustainable soil ecosystems. By ensuring continuous active root growth and maintaining constant ground coverage, we have taken a significant step towards safeguarding the health of our soil. This practice not only prevents erosion but also facilitates carbon sequestration—a crucial component in our fight against climate change.
Soil biodiversity is incredibly important to healthy plants and a holistic ecosystem. We are still learning the comprehensive impact but it is well documented that healthy microscopic fungi and bacteria ratios in the soil help with plant growth. We have recently started using Johnson Su biologicals which we created through a special composting technique that creates a high fungi to bacteria ratio. We then spread these biologicals in our fields to promote better plant growth and increase the fungi/bacteria levels in the soil.
By minimizing our use of fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers, we also give worms, insects, bees, etc. a healthy ecosystem to live. We always joke that it's easy to go fishing because with just a few scoops of a shovel in any of our fields you'll find lots of worms! The organisms such as fungi, bacteria, and worms all play a role in making nutrients more readily available for the next organism to use. That includes nitrogen and other nutrient fixation but also carbon/organic matter as well.