News | April 24, 2017
Nourishing the Land that Feeds Us
A farmer’s land is their livelihood – and ours. Simply put, without soil, farmers couldn’t grow the food we all need to survive.
And we can’t take that soil, or the soil’s health, for granted. It can take Mother Nature up to 500 years to create one inch of soil. A simple handful of healthy soil contains up to a billion bacteria and other organisms, in addition to nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that are crucial for growing healthy plants.
Right now, many farmers across the country are using innovative practices to protect soils, protect the environment, preserve biodiversity and help them have a better harvest for many generations to come.
At Monsanto, we’re actively working on a number of partnerships and products intended to help preserve the land that we use to grow food. In 2014, we joined with the National Corn Growers Association and Nature Conservancy to form a Soil Health Partnership that encourages adoption of environmentally friendly soil practices on farms nationwide. This partnership has sparked a dialogue between farmers, encouraging them to innovate, discuss and adopt each other’s best practices.
Organic and conventional farmers are increasingly turning to new and tried-and-true techniques to keep their farmland sustainable for generations to come.
One of the best techniques for farmers to maintain fertile soil is to grow cover crops – crops that are grown on farmland in between harvest and planting seasons. These plants are familiar to many of us – clover, radish, peas, oats and grass varieties. They can help reduce erosion during rainfall and suppress the growth of weeds, similar to mulching. In the spring, cover crop plant debris is left on the soil to help lock in nutrients and slowly release them over time, creating more organic matter. We have a number of partnerships intended to raise awareness of these benefits among farmers.
If you’ve ever driven through the Midwest in October, you’ve likely noticed that not all cornfields look the same after harvest. In the 20th century, farmers tilled under crop residue to turn up fresh soil and stop weed growth. In recent years however, more farmers have turned to no-till farming or conservation tillage for a number of reasons. When farmers skip the plowing after harvest, it keeps organic matter in the soil, while reducing soil erosion and the amount of carbon dioxide released into our air.
As our customer Josh Lloyd said, more farmers are using these practices to mimic Mother Nature and improve the health of their topsoil. You can hear more from Josh on why he’s switched to no-till and cover crops on his family farm in central Kansas.
A relatively new area of focus in agriculture is harnessing the power of tiny microorganisms – the millions of bacteria and fungi that thrive on all living things, including soil. Our BioAg Alliance partnership is dedicated to exploring the endless possibilities of these organisms to help farmers grow food more efficiently.