As science and agriculture gain a better understanding of the complex and dynamic nature of soil health one thing is becoming more and more clear, our modern farming methods are destroying our soil and causing very serious issues for the long term sustainability of our farms and food chain.
Synthetic Fertilizers, Pesticides & Herbicides
A healthy soil is loaded with microbes and biologic life, however decades of modern farming has slowly killed off much of the biodiversity in our soils. Synthetic and chemical pesticides & herbicides slowly and continuously kill off this beneficial biology in your soil by raising the toxicity levels in the ground. These products are design to kill negative biologic forces but after repeated use these products end up killing far more than their intended targets and destroy much of what they come into contact with.
Everyone knows if you use too much fertilizer your can “burn” your plants but many of the ammonia, sulfates, nitrates, urea and other compounds can also kill the soil microbiology. As the combination of fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides gets worse, the biology dies off and your plants become more “addicted” and dependent on the chemical inputs so slowly over time you have to spend more money to get the same growth out of your soil. Worse yet the excessive use of synthetic fertilizers & herbicides also pollutes our lakes, rivers and ground water causing untold damage to the environment.
Our soils is made up primarily of 3 particles (sand, silt & clay) with sand being the largest, followed by silt and clay being the smallest. Larger spaces between these aggregates assist in root growth and aid in soil aeration and gas exchange of the roots. The smaller spaces in silt and clay make room to hold extra water and microbes that benefit the plants. When you till soils year after year you end up breaking up much of these aggregates from large clumps to something that closer resembled dust, then when those spring rains hit much of your quality soil can get washed away through erosion. The use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides also leads to extra issues with tilling and they kill the microbes that often act as the glue to help hold these particles together. Tilling also kills a lot of the beneficial worms and fungi in our soils, these fungi can grow to be fairly large and really help hold the soil structure together to prevent erosion.
That isn’t to say there are no benefits to tilling because there is a time and place for it. Tilling can help kill weeds and other unwanted plants & roots, breaks up compacted soil, aid with aeration if not compacted, it can help with some pests and delivers nutrients deeper into the soil.
The combined use of tilling and herbicides/pesticides has killed much of the microbes and fungi that hold our soils in place. The lack of a cover crop also leaves this bare soil exposed to the elements so rain can easily wash our soil and valuable nutrients away, even the wind can blow the soil around and displace your valuable dirt. Many new soil studies indicate that soil erosion is a major player in reduced soil productivity and literally drains the nutrients from your land. Soil erosion and tiling also plays a major role in transporting many of the chemicals from our farms and dumps them into our watersheds so the more we can curb this problem the faster we can clean up our valuable lakes, river and streams.
Resistant Pests & Weeds
Worse yet is many weeds and pests are quickly becoming resistant to the chemicals designed to keep them in check. Some 600 or more species of pests are quickly becoming resistant or developing some resistance to the pesticides in modern farming. As this resistance evolves and is passed to future generations of pests and with few new synthetic options available it is not hard to see these applications have a limited amount of effective time left. Many of the weeds are showing similar traits but the results are more localized, with repeated use the weeds build up a tolerance and each application becomes less and less effective. It isn’t that hard to see the writing on the wall, we have the choice to keep trying to force more and new dangerous chemicals into our crops or we can look at biological alternatives.
While many of our modern farming practices have done great things to increase yields and the availability of food for the world on a mass scale. It has also caused a great deal of damage to our environment and food chain in a number of different ways. We seem to have traded short term gains in output for long term disaster in both our production and soil health. Now comes the time to turn the tables on these issues and focus on our health, the environment and long term sustainability of our farms and food production.
At Denali BioSolutions we are pround to offer our YieldBuilder and YieldBuilder Bulk products that are loaded with biologic life that can help improve your soils biodiversity. Organically recovering from soil degradation can take years but our products can help speed up this process by giving your soil a shot of life!