Viewpoint — ‘We’re trying to mimic mother nature’: Why healthy soil is key to cutting back on pesticides and growing climate-resilient crops

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Credit: Full Belly Farm
Credit: Full Belly Farm
[Les Seiler and his brother] have been practicing “no-till” farming [in Ohio] for 36 years and counting. That means they don’t use any heavy machinery to turn the soil before planting. Further, unlike most conventional farmers, the Seilers don’t just grow corn and soy, but a rotation that also includes wheat, alfalfa, hay and barley, along with cover crops like cereal rye. The blanket of cover crops prevents soil erosion and provides habitat for beneficial insects. “We’re trying to mimic mother nature, and mother nature never let the land go bare,” says Seiler.

Additionally, Seiler says sustainable farming practices like cover cropping and no-till have helped him cut back on pesticide and fertilizer use. This, in turn, keeps the local bees healthy so they can pollinate the soybean crop, and keeps insect predators like ground beetles around to manage the ravenous slug population.

Related article:  Neonicotinoid pesticides ban proposed in Chicago
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Decades of research now points to a scientific consensus that is on the Seilers’ side. Farming methods like crop rotations, using cover crops and reducing soil tillage boost ecosystem services without sacrificing yield, according to a review study of 5,160 original research papers, published November 4 in Science Advances. Sustainable strategies seem to have real, measurable benefits for both growers and our planet.

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