This weekend I taped an episode of Char Can Cook Keto on Thimbleberry Farm, talking to Young Agrarians who care about keeping nutrients in the soil and growing sustainably.
Serious and well-informed, Vicky explained her small farm’s technique of no-till agriculture. For one, they don’t need to use petroleum products to fill a motorized tiller’s gas tank. Tilling also brings the weed seeds up into the sunlight instead leaving them dormant under a layer of mulch – she and her husband Chris plant cover crops of peas or oats, which die out over the winter and provide a nice protective cover.
A website called notillagriculture.com tells us about the benefits.
Less Soil Compaction With No Till Farming
Conventional tillage breaks up the natural soil structure, which makes it more vulnerable to soil compaction.
Less Soil Erosion With No Till Farming
In general, with no till farming, there’s less soil erosion caused by wind and water. Leaving a thick layer of mulch cover (stalks, straw, leaves, chaff, and pods) on the surface of the soil can also help prevent soil erosion.
Less Soil Moisture Loss With No Till Farming
That same mulch cover, or plant residue, helps keep the soil moist and protects against evaporation caused by wind and sun. Less moisture loss means less water usage.
Healthier Soil With No Till Farming
With no till farming, because the fields aren’t tilled, the plant residue that’s left on top of the soil decomposes naturally, increasing life forms and organic matter. Overall, no till farming creates a healthier field ecology.
More Productive Soil With No Till Farming
Bottom line: Healthier fields and healthier soils mean more productive soils, which lead to higher crop yields.
Prof. Helias A. Udo de Haes et al look at nutrient deficiencies: “In total, 21 mineral nutrients are essential for the health of crops, livestock and humans.” Humans and livestock don’t need Boron, but we do need Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc, among others.”
We need Zinc: “Zinc plays an important role, especially in protein synthesis. Zinc deficiency causes problems such as growth disorders, delayed sexual development, increased susceptibility to infection, immune suppression, skin rashes and chronic diarrhoea. […] The geographical distribution of zinc deficiencies in humans shows roughly the same spatial pattern as zinc deficiency in the soil.”
We need Selenium: “There are indications that selenium deficiency exacerbates other disorders such as iodine deficiency diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease, fertility problems, viral diseases (including HIV), muscular dystrophy, and – with 30% of women – insufficient selenium in milk during breast- feeding. […] A clear relationship has been ascertained between selenium deficiency in the human body and selenium deficiency in the soil.”
We love fungi: “Mycorrhizas are soil fungi that form a relationship with the roots of higher plant species, including agricultural crops. These fungi can make otherwise inaccessible or scarce nutrients and water available to plants in exchange for sugars (mutualism). This is possible because the mycelia of the fungi are in contact with a much larger soil volume than the plant roots themselves and because they can absorb forms of nutrients that cannot be taken up directly by plants. Mycorrhizas also improve soil structure and disease resistance. For most agricultural crops, mycorrhizas contribute to increased yields, increased nutrient efficiency and reduced use of pesticides. […] High fertilisation levels often restrict their activity.”
Healthy soils, healthy plants, healthy humans.
De Has, H. (2012.) “Scarcity of micronutrients in soil, feed, food, and mineral reserves.” From https://www.iatp.org/sites/default/files/scarcity_of_micronutrients.pdf
Notillagriculture.com (n.d.) “Effects Of No Till Farming On Soil.” From https://notillagriculture.com/no-till-farming-effects-on-soil/
ABOUT THIMBLEBERRY FARM
Thimbleberry Farm is located in Terrace, BC. Established in 2016, owners and operators Vicky and Chris manage a market garden, pastured poultry, layer flock, and meat rabbits. As a no-till, no-pesticide/herbicide farm, Vicky and Chris integrate the farm’s different operations to create a healthy and diverse agro-ecosystem that produces nutritious, ethically grown food for their community.
Vicky and Chris practice small-scale, intensive farming. They would like to show people that a lot of food can be produced on a small acreage using little mechanization. They feel their operation is an example of a very accessible way to farm.