Healthy interest in soil

There was a time, not all that long ago, when summer fallow was common across much of the Upper Midwest. The idea was, keeping some fields bare and black during the growing season would help to control weeds and to improve moisture for the next year’s crop. The thinking was, that’s the smart way to farm.

But times change. Our understanding of science and nature grows and changes. Now, experts increasingly stress the importance.of keeping a variety of plants on the soil as long and often as possible. The idea is, a variety of plants helps to keep the soil healthy, just as a variety of foods helps to keep people healthy. The thinking is, using cover crops is the smart way to farm

Skeptics may question if it will still be considered the smart way to farm in, say, 10 years. I don’t know the answer to that. Nor do I have any easy answers about balancing short-term economic needs with long-term soil health. But I remember what a veteran farmers once told me about healthy soils and sustainable agriculture. He said, “We’d have to be complete fools to want a system that isn’t sustainable.”

Read more about soil health in the March 24 cover story of Agweek.

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