Saturday, October 26, 2013

Unlocking The Secrets Of The Soil

Ag Talk has helped put together groups of farmers and scientists who seek to unlock the secrets of the soil.  One email group is referred to as "the bunch," which includes four of us but gets as big as 20 or more on some topics as we refer our thoughts and questions to people outside that group.  Networking is a key part of unlocking the secrets of the soil.

My unlocking of these secrets started as a child as we pulled weeds, repaired broken tile and sowed clover into wheat planted after corn stalks.  Rotation and diversity are key parts to unlocking these secrets.

As I studied biology, chemistry and physics, I never lost the connection to those sciences and growing food.  That is what our family did for a living.  I performed my first LaMotte soil test at age 13 when I rented my first farm and planted corn.  My first field of corn was beautiful like this one from 2010 and I was hooked.

We started no-tilling in 1976 as dad was getting older and I was teaching and advising full time while still farming.  We did that out of necessity to be more efficient, not understanding the implications to our soil.  Every step in my life has been a key part to my development but learning how to no-till was a very important key to unlocking the secrets.

In 1987 I began work as a county extension agent in agriculture.  Ohio State had taught me how to learn and now was sending me all over the country to advance my skills.  I became a proponent of tissue testing to balance the nutrient load in our soils.  I was involved with biosolids and gypsum and became a spokesman for lime because every soil test result I studied in the county was low in lime and deficient in micro-nutrients.

In 2002 I started working more with cover crops.  I discovered the power of the radish thanks to Steve Groff at the National NoTillage Conference and started blending all of these ideas together I'd learned since childhood.  In 2004 LuAnn and I bought our first farm large enough to put all of these ideas together.  Using these ideas for profit and sustainability puts all the secrets to work.  Now I get phone calls and email from all of the country and even beyond to share what I've been blessed to learn about these secrets.

There is no one magic secret, these ideas all work together and blend into one big pot of secrets.  Dan and Rodney in the video put them to work on big acres.  I can do as well on a much smaller operation that fits my personality and style of living.

What is the next secret you need to unleash on your farm?  Let's talk about it.

Ed Winkle


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