Stewardship of Our Soils
Our soils are a reservoir of nutrients, microbes, and water. In nature, fertility is maintained by the constant recycling of organic matter (carbon). If we mimic and enhance this process on our farms, we would be returning all carbon and other nutrients that leave our farm in the form of food and oxidation. Understanding which nutrients are leaving and replacing them in the soil reservoir is the basis of good farming practices and soil stewardship.
At Durst Organic Growers, we utilize practices that maintain or increase the availability of nutrients that plants need to maintain health and produce an abundant harvest. This begins with understanding the “soil reservoir” and measuring its contents. We accomplish this by regular soil testing, petiol (plant tissue) sampling, and continuing education. These tools further our understanding of the relationship between plants, microbes, water, and soil chemistry. Organically approved nutrients are applied as needed to maintain and enhance this soil reservoir through years of experience working with varied crops and soil types.
At Durst Organic Growers, we utilize practices that enhance soil carbon and microbiological activity:
- Cover cropping: (mainly vetch and barley) This is the simplest way to build soil organic matter (carbon). Cover cropping is growing a crop to disc into the soil that increases the soil carbon. This additional organic matter is feed for the millions of microbes and other critters that live in the soil and allows them to thrive. They in turn play a critical role in decomposing this plant matter and making the nutrients it contains available to subsequent crops.
- Returning of crop residue to soil: After harvest, we return all remaining parts of the plant back to the soil to become food for the soil microbiological community. This practice also results in increased soil carbon.
- Maintain conditions conducive to microbiological health: Maintain soil moisture, proper PH, and protection from sun and harsh weather
- Crop rotation: Proper crop rotation breaks up disease cycles as pests fond of a certain crop are interrupted and allows time for soil to build up nutrients previously use by last crop
- Minimum Tillage: Soil disruption can be harmful to micro-biotic soil communities. By keeping tillage practices to a minimum, we can be less disruptive while also reducing soil compaction and erosion.