Recent advances in technology span far greater than cellphones, computers, and GPS. Agriculture is an industry of constant improvement and innovation, and technology is giving farmers the opportunity to be better stewards of the environment than ever before.
Farmers use several techniques to manage their soil and planting operations. New York State is unique in that soil, topography, and weather patterns vary so dramatically throughout the state, that each farm must manage their land base differently.
A couple of weeks ago we shared the most exciting things that happened at Schrader Farms in 2017, one of which was the purchase of a no-till (no tillage) planter. Tillage is the practice of using equipment to condition soil for planting. Think plows and cultivators.
At Schrader Farms, we are implementing no-till (no tillage) and min-till (minimum tillage) practices to prevent some of the negative affects of heavy tillage. Our new planter is called a no-till planter and minimizes soil disruption.
Heavy tillage has long been thought necessary to make crops the most productive. It requires two steps. Primary tillage is used first to break the soil loose and is very rough on the ground. Secondary tillage prepares the soil for a good seed bed.
Recent advances in agriculture technology has revealed three ways that heavy tillage can negatively hurt the environment.
1. Primary tillage uses a lot of energy to break the soil apart.
2. It exposes the soil to more weather, breaking down soil aggregates.
Aggregates are small groups of soil particles that are stuck together. Large quantities of soil aggregates is a good indication of healthy soil.
3. Loosening soil makes it more susceptible to erosion - a serious problem for Finger Lakes farms because the land is all sloped toward the lakes.
Heavy tillage is great for improving crop yields but is a short term solution to a long-term problem. Science is showing us that minimizing soil disturbance is better for soil health.
Practices that are more sustainable in the long-term are no-tillage which avoids soil disturbance and minimum-tillage which minimizes soil disturbance. There are three significant benefits to these practices.
1. it facilitates the building of more aggregates - the tiny groups of soil particles that stick together. A greater population of aggregates allows the soil to crumble better.
2. Avoiding soil disturbance promotes the growth of earthworms and other soil microbes, creating more organic matter.
3. Lastly, by not mechanically loosening the soil, roots and overgrowth hold the soil together to reduce the potential for erosion.
We are excited about the future of Schrader Farms and implementing some of these new practices as we continue to strive to be better stewards of our land. The reality is, the better we care for our environment, the better our environment cares for us.