By adopting three practices—no-till farming, cover crops, and diverse crop rotations—farmers worldwide can help preserve the world’s soils, feed a growing global population, mitigate climate change, and protect the environment. This was the key message of a presentation by David Montgomery, professor of geology at the University of Washington, at the Iowa Organic Conference in November.
Eroding soil 20 times faster than building it
Montgomery, author of several books including his most recent, Growing a Revolution, began his talk by describing how the earth’s soils are being degraded by agriculture and the catastrophic impacts that result.
“Humanity is losing 0.3 percent of our global food production each year to soil erosion and degradation and 30 percent every 100 years,” he said, referring to a United Nations report on soil.
Montgomery said soil degradation and loss has been a problem since the beginning of agriculture and played a major role in the demise of past civilizations including Mesopotamia, classical Greece, and ancient Rome. It also caused the downfall of the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States as a leading agricultural producer, which it had been in colonial America.