Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rethinking Agriculture from the Soil Up

Recently, Mark Fulford, of Lookfar Agricultural Service and Teltane Farm, stopped by Johnny's to lead a two-day agronomy seminar for our Sales and Marketing teams.

The seminar -- "Rethinking Agriculture: Farm As If Our Lives Depended On It" -- focused on many soil-related topics. Mark, who runs a small commercial farm and orchard in nearby Monroe, Maine, presented ideas on soil biology, soil chemistry, tillage reduction, compaction, microbes, inoculants, minerals, paramagnetics, composts, and cover crops to name a few.

Dry recipe samples made from naturally occurring minerals.
Mark spoke extensively about the science behind building, maintaining, and replenishing soil fertility. He discussed using combinations of dry and liquid "recipes" with ingredients like granite dust, gypsum, and basalt to boost levels of essential soil nutrients and elements (potassium, calcium, carbon, magnesium, boron, etc.).

But this wasn't just a science class. A lot of Mark's teachings are of the common sense variety, including reminders about being a good neighbor, being observant, working hard, not taking short cuts, and respecting nature.

Mark emphasized the need for as much information as possible about your soil. A routine soil test is not enough. Understanding how the land has been used in the past and being able to identify the plants currently thriving on it before you begin planning your crops is a crucial first step. A soil test is only a tiny snapshot of what's going on in your soil and can often be misleading says Mark.

With regard to soil fertility issues, Mark believes in treating the cause of the problem, not the symptom with long term solutions, not quick fixes.

To illustrate his overall message, Mark told us to think of a buffet table line: "the (microbes in the soil) eat first, then the plants, then us." It is good way to think about our ongoing role as growers in ensuring a healthy food supply.

Here are a couple of articles written by Mark Fulford:

Building Living Soil Systems With Biological Farming Methods
Soil Biology: The Most Important Livestock on the Farm

And a few of the many books he recommended to us:
  • Weeds and Why They Grow, by Jay McCamon
  • The Nature and Properties of Soil by Ray Weil
  • Paramagnetism and Tuning Into Nature by Dr. Phillip Callahan
  • The Compost Tea Manual by Dr. Elaine Ingham
  • Science in Agriculture by Dr. Arden Andersen

1 comment:

James Feder said...

It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us. Soil Recycling NY