The growing amount of information on soil health is quite astonishing. Just hop on over to Google and search “Soil Health” and you’ll see for yourself. As of this writing, there were 18.1 million hits! But that’s just the tip of the iceburg; when it comes to the nuts and bolts, everyone seems to have a different opinion.
There are several organizations out there trying to get a handle on the effectiveness and prevalence of cover crops alone – one thing we know for sure is that they are increasing. Yet my experience is that most farmers are still hungry for information about soil health.
Many of the questions that farmers raise are management related, and often these questions are related to the transition to no-till like: “how do I plant through all that residue?”, “how will my soil temperatures at planting be affected?”, “how do I get my soils dry without tillage?”, “how do I manage for weeds without tillage?”, and “does this stuff make economic sense?”. Let’s face it, these are valid questions that need to be addressed.
There’s a quote attributed to Harrington Emerson that goes as follows:
As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
We want to get a little more specific to South Dakota where we plan to engage with farmers, conservationists and researchers to address some of the above questions, but to do that, we also want to look at some of the underlying assumptions and views that give rise to these questions, and look at alternative assumptions. As we do this, we want to ask questions of things we encounter: “does this have merit or is it myth?”, hence the name “Merit or Myth”.
Watch this space in the next few months for video, blogs travelogues and podcasts as we travel across the Mount Rushmore state asking the question: Merit or Myth?
– Buz Kloot