Renewable Farming

Thousands of growers are buffering their farms against crippling input costs

For years, Renewable Farming has urged transitioning your farm toward resilience against high fertilizer, fuel and chemical costs, regulatory shocks and wild commodity prices. Well, they’re all here. Now.

March 7, 2022: Fortunately, farming is a unique enterprise: You can substitute keen management and natural biology for NPK, GMO and Roundup. You can do it on large operations or small ones.

Example: Every summer, busloads of farmers travel to Gabe and Paul Brown’s Ranch east of Bismarck, ND, to absorb ideas on “Regenerating Landscapes for a Sustainable Future.”

Gabe and Paul Brown

Gabe and Paul are among the most visible and articulate poster people for Regenerative Agriculture, but you can find many more on that path to prosperity.

The Brown Ranch website says: “Improving soil health is a priority and no-till farming has been practiced since 1993. A diverse cropping strategy, which includes cover and companion crops are used.  We have eliminated synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides. We use minimal herbicide and are striving to eliminate it. We do not use GMOs or glyphosate.”

One of our delights here at Renewable Farming is seeing our WakeUP clients transition toward resilience by:

1. Rebuilding robust soil health with cover crops, minimum tillage and use of biological inoculants.

2. Phasing down, and out, GMOs and their endemic weedkillers and insecticides. Once those are gone, fungicides aren’t as necessary. 

3. Bringing livestock back to the farm, or at least importing manure and compost to enrich soil biological life, tilth and ability to absorb and hold moisture.

4. Diversifying corn/bean rotations with forages and specialty crops. Relay cropping, interceding covers and polycropping.

5. Innovating non-chemical weed control such as “planting green” into cereal rye or using high-speed cultivation techniques to disrupt emerging weeds. Coming: Precision GPS “cultivation” without chemicals.

6. Metering out nutrition and biostimulants with in-furrow, side-dress, Y-drop and foliars. Timing and setting rates based on tests of soil, tissue and plant sap. 

7. Making full use of GPS technology, combine yield monitors and the vast array of online technical knowledge flowing from experienced farmers, consultants and biological ag firms.

That list didn’t include “Certified Organic,” but these elements are certainly basic to organic farming. One of the most relaxed and confident group of farmers I’ve met was at a recent seminar for organic growers. They’re not worried about high fertilizer and chemical costs this season.

Here’s a bit more perspective. On April 18, 2018, our website published an essay which included what we called seven “Megatrends” impacting American agriculture. Here they are:

1. Dramatically reduced dependence on chemical weedkillers. Starting with a phaseout of glyphosate, as weed resistance undermines its usefulness and clinical evidence undermines the theory that it’s as safe for humans as table salt.

2. Loss of confidence in many nations that GMOs will feed the world. There’s active resistance to GMOs. The mantra of totally safe, invariably beneficial transgenic crops is withering as more farmers and more consumers “go non-GMO.” Surprised?  Visit GM Watch or the Organic and Non-GMO Report.

3. Increasingly fierce public resistance to several insecticides, especially the neonicotinoids. The European Union is banning them.

4. Gradual grassroots disillusionment with the “global warming” — oops — “climate change” gravy train. We’ve touched on this many times, including this recent report.

5. Global overhang of unpayable public and private debt. This would not be as worrisome if so many democratic legislatures weren’t approaching dysfunction — virtually unable to enact or adhere to a sustainable fiscal plan. The strong signal for you as a producer: Build a resilient farming operation, both financial and agronomic. Think of how you’d fare if dollars are worthless and the power grid fails.

6. A spiraling disease crisis across America. Rates of chronic diseases are soaring in parabolic curves. In just seven years at current trends, Americans will spend more on medical care than on food. 

7. Emergence of ag innovators who are becoming low-cost, profitable producers with biologically sound technologies. Not just one idea, but a melding of cover crops, microbial and biostimulant yield boosters, non-GMO seed, reduced tillage and many more practices. We work with many of these growers. They enjoy farming and ranching. We’re enjoying our work with them. This is our favorite “megatrend!”

As the exclusive manufacturer of WakeUP — the most effective surfactant, penetrant and mobilizer in farming — we’re enthused for farming through this tumultuous point in history.

Update March 8: A major European farmers group says disruption in fertilizer, energy and commodity supplies from Ukraine and Russia threaten food production