HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Environment & Energy » Environment & Energy (Group) » One Weird Trick to Fix Fa...

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 10:29 AM

One Weird Trick to Fix Farms Forever

Does David Brandt hold the secret for turning industrial agriculture from global-warming problem to carbon solution?

—By Tom Philpott | Mon Sep. 9, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

CHATTING WITH DAVID BRANDT outside his barn on a sunny June morning, I wonder if he doesn't look too much like a farmer—what a casting director might call "too on the nose." He's a beefy man in bib overalls, a plaid shirt, and well-worn boots, with short, gray-streaked hair peeking out from a trucker hat over a round, unlined face ruddy from the sun.

This is the domain of industrial-scale agriculture—a vast expanse of corn and soybean fields broken up only by the sprawl creeping in from Columbus. Brandt, 66, raised his kids on this farm after taking it over from his grandfather. Yet he sounds not so much like a subject of King Corn as, say, one of the organics geeks I work with on my own farm in North Carolina. In his g-droppin' Midwestern monotone, he's telling me about his cover crops—fall plantings that blanket the ground in winter and are allowed to rot in place come spring, a practice as eyebrow-raising in corn country as holding a naked yoga class in the pasture. The plot I can see looks just about identical to the carpet of corn that stretches from eastern Ohio to western Nebraska. But last winter it would have looked very different: While the neighbors' fields lay fallow, Brandt's teemed with a mix of as many as 14 different plant species.

"Our cover crops work together like a community—you have several people helping instead of one, and if one slows down, the others kind of pick it up," he says. "We're trying to mimic Mother Nature." Cover crops have helped Brandt slash his use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. Half of his corn and soy crop is flourishing without any of either; the other half has gotten much lower applications of those pricey additives than what crop consultants around here recommend.


Full Article: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/09/cover-crops-no-till-david-brandt-farms

9 replies, 2203 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply One Weird Trick to Fix Farms Forever (Original post)
polly7 Sep 2013 OP
Stargazer09 Sep 2013 #1
polly7 Sep 2013 #3
NYC_SKP Sep 2013 #2
DreamGypsy Sep 2013 #4
judesedit Sep 2013 #5
proverbialwisdom Sep 2013 #8
denverbill Sep 2013 #6
TalkingDog Sep 2013 #7
NickB79 Sep 2013 #9

Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 10:52 AM

1. Thank you for posting this!

I forwarded the link to a couple of farmers I know here. I think they are young enough, and smart enough, to give it careful consideration.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Stargazer09 (Reply #1)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 11:01 AM

3. You're welcome.

This farmer reminds me of my Dad and his genuine love for the land.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 10:52 AM

2. Nature knows best.

 

Always look to her for solutions.

K/R

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 11:12 AM

4. Our crop is perennial ...

...blueberries. However, the middles between the rows of plants and all the working areas around the fields are planted with grass. The grassy middles allow cultivation activity to occur with reduced soil compaction and without producing lots of mud. I mow frequently during the growing season so the plant material is incorporated back into the soil. Very little weed control is done in the grassy areas so there is a random diversity of weeds and fungus cohabiting with the grass. Lots of dandelions appear every spring, causing me to mow more than is really necessary. However, after harvest I let the little yellow heads take over parts of the fields because there is little other forage for the feral honeybees and bumblebees. During the summer areas of grass/weed that are not under irrigation die back, but the plants always return once the fall/winter rain starts.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 12:16 PM

5. Are the corn and soy GMO? That is the first question.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to judesedit (Reply #5)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 01:48 PM

8. Bingo! Reading the article's comment section, a celebratory observation from the pro- GMO food side.

mem_somerville 09/09/2013 01:31 PM
How very strange. In just about a week both Mark Bittman and Tom Philpott laud farmers who use GMOs and herbicides.

I do think we have turned a corner on this issue.


Funny, I just had the same reaction about turning the corner on ridding our food of GMOs after reading this: http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/hedge-funds-are-dumping-monsanto-company-mon-224412/
Link from: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_28167.cfm

RECOMMENDED: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15012-nathanael-johnson-grist-to-whose-mill

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 12:44 PM

6. The 'one weird trick' headline cracked me up.

Seems like every website I visit has a least one advertisement with that gimmick.

Good article too.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 12:51 PM

7. It's "1 Weird Trick". (thanks for the article)

n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to polly7 (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2013, 03:53 PM

9. Cover crops have been used forever in gardening

The late-season drought and heatwave forced me to harvest my garden prematurely, so I'm now seeding it in with oats and winter rye. Both will grow until we get a hard freeze in mid-Oct, with the oats dying and insulating the roots of the winter rye. Come spring, the rye will resprout, and will grow another month until I till it in around late April.

Then, in late July, I start interplanting cheap pinto bean seeds everywhere there are gaps as a nitrogen crop to build up the soil.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread