“Renewable Farming” describes an agronomic system which naturally renews soil life and greater yields every year. Input expenses gradually ease and profit margins widen each season as vibrant soil life multiplies.
July 5, 2021 Here, agronomic consultant Jim Martindale tells how his clients are achieving it.
Jim is based in Indiana, serving farmers across the Midwest and into Canada. He has advocated innovative biological ag programs for many years. He was instrumental in developing the CurseBuster vertical tillage implement, which is now manufactured in Iowa. We’ve tested a few of Jim’s micronutrient creations on our Renewable Farming research farm in previous years.
By Jim Martindale
First of all, we recognize the importance of a strong foundation for development of disease-free plants. That’s paramount since every battle fought to overcome disease detracts from potential production.
We start with seed quality, as much as we can exercise control over it. In the case of this season’s spring pea crop in Saskatchewan (photos), we grew seed for this 2021 crop on the same farm last year, using the same production protocols. We believe there are elements in that saved seed which are responsible to some degree for the vigorous plants we are observing in 2021.
We have been paying close attention to micro-mineral and macro-mineral nutrition in the soil. Secondly, we credit the soil and soil microbiome with the ability to supply much of the P and K the plant requires.
We can achieve this because we’ve amended the soil microbiome with specific strains of bacteria and fungi capable of making nutrients plant-available.
Further, we have adopted a tillage strategy with the CurseBuster implement which does not destroy microbial populations. The soil is not mixed or inverted. Root systems are not moved. Foraging insect populations return to fields because all crop residues are left on the soil surface. Naturally occurring compaction or weathering influences and traffic compaction are systematically removed, so that the soil infiltrates and percolates water rapidly and thereby experiences efficient gas exchange year-round.
We support increased density and diversity of the soil and plant microbiome using two additional distinct processes.
First, we feed the microbiology using Pacific Gro Seafood Hydrolysate at 1 to 2 gallons per acre, depending on row spacing.
Second, we facilitate colonization of the root system by using carboxylates from fish fermentation in the seed furrow. These are used in conjunction with double chelated broad-spectrum microminerals and our proprietary bacterial and fungal consortium. We are seeing evidence that a diverse and pathogen-destroying soil microbiology is getting established very rapidly. In a few growing seasons, it appears that it will not be necessary to continue applying microbiology annually when establishing a new crop.
We believe this is happening because we have created massive root systems with large populations of fungal and bacterial life, including endophytes, that continually multiply in the soil and in crop residues. The system can be self-perpetuating as long as we do not harm these natural processes.
It’s essential to maintain a soil ecosystem that facilitates growth and reproduction of the soil microbiome, including aerobic decomposition of plant carbon sources. This often under-rated element is more important than most management systems are taking into consideration today. Intermittent and/or prolonger periods of limited oxygen and nitrogen availability to the decomposers undermines the progress we have come to expect.
Here are some of our own observations underscoring points Jim Martindale makes.
First, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to build a self-renewing, living soil food web of beneficial organisms under a system of aggressive tillage, fungicides, insecticides, systemic herbicides, anhydrous ammonia and salt fertilizers.
Nurturing your littlest livestock underground requires a paradigm shift from waking up in the morning and wondering, “What should I go out in the field and kill today?” (That’s a quip from Gabe Brown, North Dakota farmer who spark-plugged the new Understanding Ag venture and its Soil Health Academy.)
Second, the Soil Cursebuster implement is more critical in Jim Martindale’s programs than this brief mention indicates. This is not your ordinary “vertical tillage” tool. It’s Martindale’s improvement on the original AerWay machine now made by Salford.
Third, developing a vibrant, perennial soil biome (soil food web) in the Midwest will benefit greatly with multi-species cover crops and rotation systems.
Update July 7. Jim e-mailed us a response to our own observations just above:
Spring peas during early growth stage