In Good Times and in Bad: Healthy Soils and Sustainable Soil Management – NSAC

In a four-year experiment in Ohio, tillage played a deciding role in whether a corn field was able to save—or simply wasted—precious rainfall. The experiment compared conventional tillage and no-till, and showed that runoff averaged 7 inches of water per year in the conventionally-tilled system, and averaged less than 0.1 inch in the no-till system.

For many farmers and ranchers, rainfall has never seemed more precious: The historic drought this summer withered crops and rangeland around the country. While we can’t control the climate, we can prepare our soils and crops to better withstand the devastating effects of drought, flood, and pest and disease outbreaks when they do happen.

Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

While you cannot always avert disaster, sustainable soil management practices—such as reducing tillage, planting cover crops, improving crop rotations, and adding organic matter—promote healthy soils and more resilient crops when times turn bad. And when times are good, sustainable soil management continues to reap benefits.

For example, yields of crops grown in rotation

via In Good Times and in Bad: Healthy Soils and Sustainable Soil Management – NSAC.

How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves

SRI methodology is based on four main principles that interact in synergistic ways:

Establish healthy plants early and carefully, nurturing their root potential.

Reduce plant populations, giving each plant more room to grow above and below ground and room to capture sunlight and obtain nutrients.

Enrich the soil with organic matter, keeping it well-aerated to support better growth of roots and more aerobic soil biota.

Apply water purposefully in ways that favor plant-root and soil-microbial growth, avoiding flooded (anaerobic) soil conditions.

These principles are translated into a number of irrigated rice cultivation practices which under most smallholder farmers’ conditions are the following:

Plant young seedlings carefully and singly, giving them wider spacing usually in a square pattern, so that both roots and canopy have ample room to spread.

Keep the soil moist but not inundated. Provide sufficient water for plant roots and beneficial soil organisms to grow, but not so much as to suffocate or suppress either, e.g., through alternate wetting and drying, or through small but regular applications.

Add as much compost, mulch or other organic matter to the soil as possible, ‘feeding the soil’ so that the soil can, in turn, ‘feed the plant.’

Control weeds with mechanical methods that can incorporate weeds while breaking up the soil’s surface. This actively aerates the root zone as a beneficial by-product of weed control. This practice can promote root growth and the abundance of beneficial soil organisms, adding to yield.

via How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves.

Food gardens bring relief | Special Reports | Mail & Guardian

The world’s leading environmentalists have warned that the global food supply system could collapse at any point. This stems from the growing demand for food, compounded by ever-increasing prices.

This will result in the poorest of the poor absorbing the biggest impact. Cities such as Johannesburg can contain the effects by putting in place co-operatives that are able to manage and share harvests at a community level.

Johannesburg City Parks has recently planted 7 000 fruit trees and rolled out 42 food gardens in schools and various public institutions.

City Parks has also developed plans in initiate a large-scale urban agriculture site in the far north of the City to encourage farming by small and micro-enterprises.

These programmes provide much-need nutrition to vulnerable learners and simultaneously foster high levels of environmental awareness in the respective benefiting communities.

via Food gardens bring relief | Special Reports | Mail & Guardian.