Monday, May 8, 2017

David R. Montgomery's "Growing A Revolution"

David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies how erosion shapes topography and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured on NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, and Fox News programs, as well as in documentary films. When not writing or doing geology he plays guitar and piano in the band Big Dirt.

Montgomery applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, and reported the following:
“If tillage was good at eliminating weeds, all the weeds in the U.S. and Canada would be gone by now.”

Weeds. Farmers hate them. Gardeners do too. But that’s what page 99 of Growing A Revolution is all about.

The book tells the story of how a growing movement in which farmers are forgoing conventional practices and ditching the plow, planting cover crops and diversifying their crop rotations. Why are they doing this? To rebuild fertile soil on their farms. These are not back to the land types. They are, or were, conventional farmers who found a better way to do things. This new system works for them because they make more money by growing as much and paying for less diesel, fertilizer, and pesticides.

Page 99 finds us in South Dakota talking with Dwayne Beck about weeds. Plowing them up is the time-honored, conventional way to suppress weeds. But that’s something Beck won’t do. He’s seen what tillage does to the soil. When the 1930s drought hit freshly plowed fields in the region the native prairie no longer held the soil and high winds lofted great clouds of black earth skyward. Beck led a decades-long effort to adopt no-till farming and stop the soil from blowing.

Beck didn’t stop innovating after adopting no-till methods. He experimented with cover crops and diversifying crop rotations and found that by so doing he improved his soil and could control weeds and pests and thereby reduce fertilizer and pesticide use. Beck’s farm was my first stop on a journey to visit soil-building farms in Ghana, Costa Rica, and across North America. The farmers I met showed me how reshaping agriculture around practices that build healthy fertile soil would be one of the best investments that society could make in the future of humanity—and that farmers can make in their own farms.
Visit David R. Montgomery's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Hidden Half of Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue