Every Fall, as I travel around, I’m mystified by all the freshly harvested fields, black with exposed soil, and I wonder…isn’t that a bad idea? Isn’t that nice rich dirt going to wash away when the snow melts and the spring rains arrive? But what do I know? I’m not a farmer. I never studied agriculture, so I’m just going to trust the experts whose livelihood depends on their land.
Of course, my confidence tends to be eroded by all the Trump signs on those fields.
But good news! For once, the giant food corporations are trying to do something for the environment. They’re giving farmers incentives to practice something called regenerative agriculture.
Still, the companies’ moves have the potential to expand the use of unconventional farming practices known as regenerative agriculture. The movement represents a fundamental change to the way mainstream farmers manage their fields.
Regenerative principles call for reducing or even eliminating such mainstays of farming as tilling the soil before sowing seeds. Other regenerative techniques include planting cover crops, so soil is never bare; expanding plant diversity; adding livestock to an operation; and reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals.
The system has benefits such as storing more climate-altering carbon in the soil, improving water quality by preventing runoff, and reducing the need for pesticides by increasing insect biodiversity. Research shows it can also make farms more profitable by reducing the cost of chemicals and fertilizer and spreading price risk among many crops instead of just corn and soybeans.
“It’s not just about carbon. It’s not just a water benefit,” Sirolli said. “You get all of these different benefits that you stack together that benefit the community, that benefit the planet, while at the same time making sense for the farmer.”
See? I am learning something about farming. Although to be fair, if I’d been asked, I would have made suggestions along those same lines, although having to be admittedly vague about how to implement them.
I was probably thinking selfishly, though. Fewer pesticides → more plant and insect diversity → MORE SPIDERS. Also all those agricultural pollutants are just bad for us.
Overall, the Minnesota River is unhealthy. Sediment clouds the water, phosphorus causes algae, nitrogen poses risks to humans and fish, and bacteria make the water unsafe for swimming.