Like Will Harris’ telling of his personal story in One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts, Indiana grower Dan DeSutter shared his late ‘90s ah-ha moment while digging a soil pit. Here’s a snapshot summary of his insights:
Over the ensuing 10 – 15 years, DeSutter experienced the benefits in water retention and input savings.
“’Nine years out of 10, the limiting factor on our farm is water. It takes water to produce bushels and when you run out you’re done. For every percent of organic matter in the soil’s top 12 inches we can store an inch of water. Our soils started at 6% to 8% OM and now we are under 2% on a lot of that stuff,” DeSutter said. “We have documented that by adding cover crops in the last 10 to 15 years, soils that started at 2% and are now over 4%. Adding 2% organic matter back to the soil really helps when August comes and that inevitable dry spell hits. It’s like our farm gets two inches more than other farmers get. Some years that may not be worth a lot but some years it is worth its weight in gold.’”
And he finds balanced soil biology is good for the bottom line. “At $4 corn, DeSutter’s soil health system budget leads to a per acre net loss (before land costs) of $17.92 per acre in the current challenging economic conditions. A comparable conventional system is losing $461.36 per acre with $4 corn.”
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