Healthy fields, healthy soil, healthy planet
Over the last 150 years, the planet has lost half of its fertile topsoil. If farmers are to maintain the crop yields needed to feed our ever-growing population, then ensuring their fields receive the correct care is vital.
Erosion can result if proper field management practices are not followed and this is responsible for the loss of billions of tonnes of healthy soil each year. Ensuring the presence of nutrients and biodiversity within the topsoil helps safeguard the viability of life on our planet.
Weeds are a fact of life and a key part of farmers’ work is ensuring that these fast-growing plants do not deprive their crops of sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. The way this fundamental farming activity is handled has a large impact on the health of the topsoil, and in turn the health of our planet.
Promoting good field management
Unhealthy fields can result from many things, but over tilling the soil is a major factor. When farmers wanted to clear weeds ahead of planting, traditionally a plough was used to till (or turn) the soil.
Tilling has a negative impact on soil structure, with tractors compacting the soil as they repeatedly move over it. It also reduces biodiversity in the soil by churning it up and exposing it to the atmosphere. This heavily impacts the vital populations of microorganisms that help maintain the health of the topsoil by processing organic matter that releases nutrients and improves moisture retention.
This loss of structure and soil biodiversity impacts soil’s capacity for water retention. This leads to water gathering on the upper layers and leading to soil runoff, that can then end up in rivers and standing water.
Another aspect of soil health relates to the repeated planting of a single type of crop. Continuous growing of one crop on a field negatively impacts the fertility of the soil as they will remove the same nutrients from it, eventually depleting it entirely.
Improper field management leads to soil erosion, which eventually impacts crop yields and quality. Luckily there are widely accessible tools for ensuring good field management.
Crop protection = soil protection
Farmers can ensure the health of their fields by employing a combination of technologies and techniques. No till farming is supported by herbicides so farmers can control weeds on their fields without resorting to turning the soil. Combining herbicides with herbicide-resistant biotech crops provides brings together even more benefits to farmers and soil.
No till helps the soil by maintaining its biodiversity as animal populations and microorganisms within it remain undisturbed. This improves the organic matter which in turn boosts moisture retention and soil fertility.
Crop rotation also improves the health of the soil. Different crops extract different nutrients from the soil. Having a variety in the types of crop being grown maintains the balance of nutrients in the soil and ensures the ongoing health and productivity of the field.
The improved soil structure due to not being repeatedly turned over and compacted by the tilling process, reduces erosion and ensures higher yields and healthier crops.
A powerful combination
This combination of crop protection products and biotech crops allows farmers to mitigate soil erosion, with positive impacts for the environment and for a stable food supply.
Soil acts as massive carbon sink, storing 10% of the world’s CO2. No till keeps this carbon locked in the topsoil, helping mitigate climate change. No till also boosts yields, with staple crops such as maize and corn having the potential to increase by as much as 66 per cent by 2050.