President of Ag Advisory on improving Soil Health
With the next planting season quickly approaching, soil health advocates are hoping to encourage more farmers to adopt conservation practices.
The natural resources conservation service defines soil health as the “continuous capacity of soil to function as a living ecosystem for plants and animals.”
Michael McNeill, President of Ag Advisory, says farmers should think of it as part of production.
“I think probably the fastest way to change our attitudes towards that is to show how doing some of these improvements that increase soil health improve profitability of agriculture, and there is nothing that get a farmers attention quicker than to improve his profitability.”
McNeill says managing soil health is also an environmental tool.
“With this increased interest in carbon emissions and increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, we are overlooking the possibilities that exist in having our soil sequester a lot of that excess carbon dioxide, it can be very effective in doing that. But in doing so, we have to change a few of our practices.”
He also sees it as a way to reduce flooding risk on the farm.
“As we try to get more efficient in our agriculture production, we’ve gone to bigger and bigger farm equipment. Which is heavier. Heavier equipment puts compaction on the soil. And as the soil gets more compacted, water infiltration slows way down. In addition, we have seen some things changing in our climate where we are seeing more intensive rainfalls in short periods of time, so water infiltration becomes even more important.”
Part of the challenge is finding “transitional agronomists” that can help farmers adjust their production methods.
“We need to convince our educational institutions to train people along these lines and support them in that training. We need to get funding that promotes the transitional agronomists and instructions him to better improve our soil health.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the USDA is working on putting additional funding towards increasing the number of NRCS agents who can provide more technical assistance.
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