Toxic Algae in Lake Erie West Basin Photo credit NASA Earth Observatory
from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, press release February 15, 2012
ECO farming is an approach using eternal no-till continuous living cover and other best management practices. It’s economically viable, ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable, says Jim Hoorman, assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality issues.
Hoorman’s program combines cover crops and no-till with a corn/soybean/wheat rotation to reduce the amount of nutrients farmers may need to buy and apply.
“Fertilizer prices are going up, soil quality is going down, and we’re losing soil nutrients to Lake Erie. What cover crops do for us in ECO farming mimics Mother Nature by tying up the nutrients and carrying them forward in the soil to the next planting instead of resulting in soil nutrient runoff into our streams.
“ECO farming restores the organic matter because we have live plants in the soil for 12 months a year as compared to conventional farming, which utilizes soil with live plants for only four to five months a year and requires growers to spend more on fertilizers and herbicides.”
Over the past 100 years, Ohio soil has lost between 60 to 80% of organic matter, leaving the soil denser and more compacted. In consequence, growers now pay about $.75 per pound for nitrogen. A farmer uses 200 pounds of nitrogen and gets only 30 to 40% efficiency. He’s wasting a lot of money, Hoorman explained.
He continued: “By growing two crops year round, the soil organic matter increases due to the increased root mass coupled with long-term no-till. . . . we can tie nutrients up in the organic matter and begin to take credit for those nutrients. After a few years of using cover crops, we can get the soil stabilized and use less fertilizer and have more nutrients available for crop production. Every 1% of soil organic matter holds 1,000 pounds of nitrogen and about 100 pounds of phosphorous.”
To hear more about ECO Farming, you can attend Hoorman’s “ECO Farming” workshop March 6 at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference.
The full schedule and registration information is at http://ctc.osu.edu . Participants may register online or by mail. Registration for the full conference is $80 ($60 for one day) if received by February 24.
Information is also available in county offices of OSU Extension.