While the evidence in support of regenerative farming (a philosophy and set of practices that drive soil health/biology forward) seems to be growing, it probably doesn’t do much good for us to simply read them. The truth is, even if someone presented the most lopsided statistics in favor of such practices as these accompanied by authoritative quotes in its support, odds are it wouldn’t do much good. We humans often need more than just head-knowledge to be converted – we need knowledge that resonates with the heart. This type of deep knowledge is rarely acquired in the classroom or from words on a screen. No, this type of knowledge is acquired only through direct experience.
Luckily, just last week our team was able to witness the benefits of living soils first-hand – no blogs, text books, varying statistics, or farmer testimonials necessary.
In our 5-day trip to the Mount Rushmore State, we were fortunate enough to meet with the NRCS’ Jeff Hemenway. In that interview, Jeff shared a wide array of knowledge and hard statistics that illuminated the value of living soils. While these statistics may be hard to argue against, what definitely couldn’t be dismissed was seeing them unfold in that very interview.
The concept of Slake Testing probably isn’t new to most of our audience, but for those who may benefit from a definition, soilquality.org gives us a perfect explanation:
“Slaking indicates the stability of soil aggregates, resistance to erosion and suggests how well soil can maintain its structure to provide water and air for plants and soil biota… Limited slaking suggests that organic matter is present in soil to help bind soil particles and microaggregates into larger, stable aggregates.”
Or put more simply, Slake Testing compares the resilience of two soils – most notably, conventional till versus no-till.
Even a few seconds in and it’s not hard to see that two drastically different factors are at play. The conventionally tilled soil begins to break down the second it’s submerged. The no-till soil on the other hand maintains its structure throughout.
As I sat there, a relative newbie to the soil health movement, it was clear that all of the articles, statistics, and interviews that had been pointing towards the value of living soils were in fact true. I could say this because the evidence was playing out right in front of me.
For the no-till soil, organic matter, while perhaps unseen by the eye, was there, alive and well. All I could think of during the test was that the no-till soil performed as a unit, one living whole, while the conventionally tilled soil performed less like a cohesive entity, and more simply like… well, dirt.
Take this example a step further and apply it to two different fields – one conventionally tilled and one incorporating no-till (which, if done right, is always accompanied by the 4 Principles of Soil Health).
It’s rather clear that the field using the latter would be more resilient (to shocks like drought or floods) with reduced erosion and higher soil biomass. It doesn’t take a PhD in soil science or agronomy to see this… or as Dr. Buz Kloot would say, “It’s not rocket surgery.”
THE GROWING SOIL HEALTH MOVEMENT
Our one Slake Test in Huron, S.D. last week is not an isolated event. These tests have been on display at conferences and universities throughout the U.S., opening countless eyes along the way. Just look up “Slake Test” on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.
As anyone who has followed along with Merit or Myth knows, the evidence of healthy soils is abundant and we like to think that we are playing a small part in helping get that message out there. Regardless, we’re not the only ones who are taking notice. Government agencies (spearheaded by a national NRCS effort), universities, environmental organizations and agribusinesses have begun to make a serious push towards soil health – and they’re going all in. Millions of dollars in support of sustainable agriculture are being spent each year. This has led not only to an increase in awareness, but also community. These agencies, organizations, and universities that were once on opposite sides of the fence regarding ag practices are now joining forces. What’s more, the farmers themselves have now been given a platform to speak – AND FINALLY THE WORLD IS LISTENING!
This is the power of healthy soils! There’s only one thing that can be said…
JOIN THE REVOLUTION!