Greta Long, Class of 2015 attended the Quivera Conference this past November. This is what she learned;
“I attended the Quivira Conference in downtown Albuquerque. The theme of the conference was “Back to the Future,” featuring speeches pertaining to the regenerative agricultural movement. Within this realm, the presentations encompassed a wide variety of topics, including the design of resilient agriculture, the integration of carbon and nitrogen cycles, and the significance of agroforestry, among others. Each speech that I listened to was incredibly informative. The presentation that I found to be the most successful was Paul Kaiser’s speech, titled: “Soil is Life, Tillage is Death: A Future with No-Till Vegetable Agriculture.”
Before viewing this particular presentation, I was unaware of the detrimental impacts of soil tillage. Through its intense process of mechanically digging, stirring, and overturning soil, tillage reduces:
- The amount of organic matter in soil
- The presence of soil cohesion (and soil compaction)
- The water infiltration rate of the soil
Clearly, the practice of intensive tillage does not promote the health and longevity of agricultural farmland. At Paul Kaiser’s farm (Singing Frogs Farm), four key components ensure the health of soil:
- Disturb the soil as little as possible – This one’s easy; just don’t till!
- Grow different species of plants – Incorporate a diverse selection of crops into the garden. In order to do so, Kaiser recommends the use of perennial hedgerows. This technique proves to be advantageous, as it increases food for soil microbes, decreases wind and rain erosion, decreases evapotranspiration, moderates temperature fluctuations, produces animal fodder, attracts native pollinators, attracts beneficial insects (not pests!) and even provides nitrogen fixation.
- Cover the soil – At Kaiser’s farm, crop transplanting proves to be an effective method. Transplants guarantee 100% crop coverage, have little to no trouble outcompeting weed species, and spend less time in the field, optimizing maximum annual crop yield.
- Keep living plants in the soil as long as possible – Kaiser suggests the use of cover crops to guarantee that the soil remains a living organism and does not stagnate.