About 175,000 farms produce more than $21-billion a year in food, hay, and flowers in the Northeast, according to the USDA. But with this summer’s dry weather, many fields across New England are severely dry and there are extreme drought conditions in parts of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The dry conditions, and the changing climate, has many farmers thinking about how to manage soil, water, and land in the future.
In a story by New England Public Radio titled “Farming, Soil And Water, In The Time Of Climate Change,” reporter Jill Kaufman talked to soil and crop researcher Masoud Hashemi at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
We got a lot of farmers calling us, asking for some information about transitioning to no-till,” Hashemi said, referring to a land practice of leaving fields unplowed, and planting crops on top of leftover vegetative matter from preceding crops. It’s a practice researchers at many agriculture schools in the United States are preaching, to prevent soil erosion. The unturned earth can take on the qualities of a sponge.
Kaufman reports that new mandates in Vermont go into effect by the end of the year that are intended to encourage no-till farming.
“While the state decision is more an attempt to keep fertilizers from leaching into lakes and rivers, no-till farming, Hashemi will tell you, is “sustainable farming.” By definition, it is the Hippocratic oath of farming: grow food for people and don’t cause environmental harm doing so. It is, Hashemi said, the future.
“How we manage the soil is the key the sustainability of farming, and it remains for generations to come,” Hashemi said.”