The picture is by Dr. Jerry Glover who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development’s sustainable agriculture research program, which partners with small-scale farmers in developing countries to improve the health of their farms, families, and communities.
I write and have a number of future writings about regenerative agriculture. I want to give you, as readers, a quick article without too much detail so that you can grasp the concept and how revolutionary it is. It is already working for farmers around the world. In addition, I hope to let you know how our own government is already involved and how we can not only attack droughts but floods and climate change.
To begin, let me tell you about a farmer in Texas who even after several years of drought, according to The Christian Science Monitor;
“The diverse ranch has had enough resources to see them through this drought so far. This morning a herd of cattle is chewing on grass. (Not long ago they’d been forced to graze on mesquite beans and lily pads.) The native grasses he’s planted over the decades are more drought-resistant than short grasses, and 47 of 75 stock tanks – those rain-fed ponds – have held enough water for the herd. Despite nine months of drought, they haven’t had to buy feed or haul water. He hasn’t bought fertilizer in decades.”…
“Despite nine months of drought, they haven’t had to buy feed or haul water. He hasn’t bought fertilizer in decades…”
With all due respect for those who don’t believe in eating meat or meat products, if we are to feed the world, we will have to utilize all of the earth’s resources. Much of Texas and other parts of the U.S., as well as other parts of the world, are not suited for row crops or vegetable plots. In fact, the system of raising animals effectively was developed from the observation of a person in Africa who observed the Serengeti ecosystem where millions of animals thrive on land that revolves around periods of drought and ample rainfall. On the plains of Kansas, we had the example of millions of bison flourishing before we decided we could do things better and created the dust bowl of the thirties.
And, addressing the matter of raising meat using valuable water, a cow drinks a lot. If in a feedlot, the urine will pass and become a problem for disposal. On a pasture, the urine will pass on through the animal and will enhance the land with added microorganisms.
As another example, we can go to the drought parts of Australia and there see a parcel of land where a stream flows with clean water nourishing the surrounding farmland while the surrounding farms are dry and unproductive. You can see lots of films on YouTube click HERE.
A lot of the same principles for raising livestock in drought areas, apply to row crop farming. As an example, we will look at the farm of Gabe Brown in North Dakota from the book;
The Soil Will Save Us by Kistin Ohlson © 2014 page 98;
Gabe Brown “…He was producing 127 bushels of corn per acre, 27 more bushes than the county average, without fertilizer, pesticides, or fungicides, and with just a small amount of herbicide. He was spending between $1.00 to $1.25 to produce that bushel, whereas the county’s average cost per bushel was between $3.00 to $3.50. The corn and wheat were sold to standard commodity markets, and the cattle to specialty buyers of grass-fed beef.”
These examples include the man from Australia who has worked on his project for some 40 years and the Texas farmer and Dakota farmer, for some 20 years. I will in later articles show how farmers are transferring their operations in their first year, but I wanted to give an overview and these examples are only a start. Going back to Brown’s farm;
“Since transitioning to regenerative methods in the 90s, however, Brown’s farm has quadrupled the amount of organic matter in its soils, which are now able to infiltrate 8 inches of rainfall per hour, up from half an inch per hour. “(That’s) an unheard of amount,” he says.
“able to infiltrate 8 inches of rainfall per hour,”
How many floods have we had in recent years, all over the world, because we have had excessive rainfalls? Sometimes as many as a foot of water in 24 hours. What if our farmers, across the world, all had soils that would absorb these mammoth rainfalls? The procedures that the above-mentioned farmers used can be applied anywhere there is soil. Even Las Vegas has rainfalls that just run off and are never stored in the soil or manmade dams. As I drive around my neighborhood, I see grass yards without any weeds or dandelions. These yards have had their soil sprayed with poisons for such a long time that they are no longer living soil. Any rain will mostly run off along with the runoff from streets, parking lots, and roofs. Try to imagine the 1.9 billion acres of developed land shedding most of the rain that falls. Imagine this along with most of the farmland that also sheds most of the rainfall.
Only less than 3% (some say less than 2%) of the land in the world, has been subjected to Regenerative Agriculture practices. The pictured of the roots above are all similar to what will occur in both pasture and cultivated farmlands. Most Regenerative Agriculture practices will have a wide variety of plants. Pastures may number over 100 varieties. Each variety will have different root lengths allowing for the soil to be filled down to 3, 4, or even more feet. Each teaspoon of living soil will have over one billion microorganisms. All of these will collect and hold moisture. As they extend to the clay and rocky layers, different microorganisms will actually dissolve the minerals for use by the plants.
Urban areas can have rain gardens and lawns that have native wildflowers. I have a flower garden at the top of my lawn where I sow cover crops each fall and winter, I also have perennial plants for constant ground cover Water from the street flows into my flower garden. My lawn only has Dutch Clover, but this additional plant makes a difference which can be seen from my picture. Compare my yard to my neighbors which only has one type of grass and applies annual weed control poisons to control dandelions. His soil, long ago destroyed of living organisms, is dead. This year we have had three different month-long dry spells and two-week periods with 6 inches of rain, each. You can see the difference-second pic-.
And then still green, my non-watered flower bed;
For more information, go to “Soil will hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre with an additional 1% organic matter”
Our government is involved with Regenerative Agriculture, conservation projects, and storm runoff projects. Part of the Texas farmer’s land serves as a wetland where stormwater from cities is applied and it creates a marsh with multiple plants and animals and the water is purified. The federal government allows for industry to pay him extra money for storing carbon. This is an added benefit of Regenerative Agriculture practices. Farmer Brown utilizes cover crops and the federal government has a program that not only pays for the seed but furnished extra money to apply these crops. Check out the following Forbes article;
“ How Watershed Payments Save Cities, Support Farms And Combat Climate Change…200 cities in 29 countries have taken a more cost-effective approach. Instead of building filtration plants to counteract the effects of a degraded countryside, they’ve invested in healthy hills and forests, Forbes
In addition, unlike many projects, industry is not against the movement toward Regenerative Agriculture. From an article from Reuters;
“General Mills, Unilever, PepsiCo and Nestle are among the major food companies pledging large-scale support for this type of farming, which emphasizes soil health, biodiversity and avoids the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Amazon-owned Whole Foods called it the number one food trend in 2020.”
I can only speculate as to why. I would hope it is because of foresight. I do know that General Mills and their Cheerios product have a problem and they may be trying to develop an oat supply that is free of chemicals;
The EWG found that levels of glyphosate in Cheerios were 729 ppb and in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch the levels reached 833 ppb. The EWG considers 160 ppb to be the highest level safe for children’s food. EWG.org
With the government, industry, climate change demonstrations, and farmer success, why is that only a small percentage of farmers are changing? I can remember my mother explaining to me when I was young, “It takes a hundred years to make one inch of topsoil” where she got that information, I have no idea as most of her reading was the Bible. Maybe it came from one of my father’s farming magazines. But I had instilled in me that farmers were stewards of the soil. Since that time, the commercialization of farming has seen billions of topsoil wash down our rivers. Too few of our farmers feel this way today.
In my articles, I always try to have remedies for the conditions I refer to. I think that there is a way for us to encourage farmers to address these problems. It all comes down to demand. At the present time, the U.S. imports organic food because we don’t supply enough. Until we have regenerative agriculture across our nation, we will not have a good supply of healthy, no toxic food.
We need to create such a demand for a good product that grocery stores will demand a supply. We need to insist that our meat is raised humanely without chemical inputs. We need to insist that our food is labeled about where it is raised and if GMO or not. We need to insist on the limitations on sugar and salt being added to our prepared foods. We need to insist on HEALTHY FOOD!
Education is part of the program. When you see articles such as this one, copy the address and post it on your social media accounts. Follow, recommend, write letters to the editor, make comments, tell the rest of your family and friends…
For a good film-”Keys to Building Healthy Soil”
For more information, follow me at Regenerative Agriculture.