Re: Sustainable Agriculture

Rich Molini wrote:

>         I also adhere to the concept of a dynamic definition of sustainable,
> but I strongly disagree that no-till burn down should ever be an
> allowable practice in developing or undertaking this endeavor. I have
> observed burndown no-till and am of the distinct opinion that it will
> never pass any of the tests of sustainability including the often
> exagerrated claims of soil savings. A field that has no cover from
> August through May is a senseless waste of solar input and an easy
> target for soil loss. There are a myriad of methods that save soil that
> are compatible with the natural functioning of ecosystems. There are
> hundreds of relatively low slope no-till fields in my region that have
> one to two feet deep rills. No-till  often turns into no-management
> which is most fatal disease to family farming. Runoff remains high and
> infiltration is low  when micro and macro soil invertebrate populations
> are depleted. A minimal amount of pesticide laced trash doesn't appear
> to make a difference. I feel no-till is only a method by which
> agribusiness could tout at least one other "potential " benefit other
> than high yields. In reality it appears that no-till is much less of an
> advantage sustainably or environmentally than it is a PR gimmick and
> primarily just another  technique for reducing labor and equipment costs
> for agribusiness and increasing and institutionalizing the need for
> dispensing  millions of tons more of substances that are designed for
> the distinct purpose of interrupting  life processes. I hope that we
> would concentrate on and show preference to production methods which
> also focus on  local and regional ecosystem viability, a healthy
> nutritious product and a product that your neighbors would purchase and
> feed to their family.
> Thanks,
> Rich Molini
> Indiana Chapter OCIA
> Atlanta, Indiana

Thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding no-till's role in sustainable 
agriculture. Many times our perception of a concept or idea is formed by 
an example we've observed or information we've been influenced by. This 
is good, as it gives us a foundation to live by, but we need also to be 
open to new paradigms and stategies that could possibly enhance our 
treatment of the environment. I'm sure you desire others to apply this 
to organic agriculture.
I'm a no-till farmer and have NOT practiced most of the elements of 
no-till farming that you described above.  Some of the points listed do 
occur in no-till, but not as wide sweeping as indicated. 
My soil is covered year around with at least 50% residue. I have a net 
GAIN of soil on some fields that have slopes of 8%. Humus and organic 
matter levels have increased from 2% to 3% on my whole farm with some 
fields at 5%. Pesticides have been reduced to nearly half for all crops 
and in vegetables to 1/3. I've yet to spray for colorado potato 
beetle in no-till tomatoes(3yrs.).Burndown herbicides are used little. 
Soil Microbial biomass in a 40 year no-till field measured 343mg/kg 
soil, while a mere 100 feet away in a tilled field was 105mg/kg soil.  
	I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence as it basically 
sums up my farm's mission statement! If you ever come to Pennsylvania 
please stop by and visit- I'd be glad to show you another side of 
"New Generation Cropping Systems": the cutting edge of sustainable 
Steve Groff
Cedar Meadow Farm
679 Hilldale Rd
Holtwood PA 17532  USA
Ph. 717-284-5152