Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Beefs and Beliefs

Five reasons salvation doesn't come in a bottle

Alfaphotorus-iStock-Thinkstock Elixir in bottle outdoors
Good things sometimes come in a bottle, but nature is too complex for a bottle of goodies to solve all problems.
The growing list of biological soil amendments won't fix our problems. We need to improve management on crop ground and pasture.

You can't buy salvation in a bottle.

I've noticed recently, as the soil health movement is gaining steam from the farmer realization that soils are bad and getting worse, big companies and universities are now working on magic elixirs to fix what ails us.

It won't work.

Even if it works immediately after application and the soil is a little healthier for a time and the plants start off well, the actual problem is the long-term management. That's what has caused the decline. That's what will prevent the recovery.

Buying elixirs, therefore, will never carry you farther than the current growing season and existing soil conditions. Therefore, it will be no different than buying fertilizer.

This reminds me of people who use compost tea every year, all year long, year after year. I believe they're largely missing the point, and they're not saving money or building more resilience into their farming and grazing systems.

To reiterate: If we want to change our profit outlook on pasture or crop ground, we must do these things:

  1. Build biological complexity above and below ground.
  2. Keep the soil fully covered.
  3. Grow something as many months as possible on the soil.
  4. Give the plants time to develop deep roots.
  5. Apply livestock grazing and limit time and consumption to benefit both animals and plants.

Last, we may need to help the soil-plant complex along with some of those amendments and fertility as we rebuild it into a resilient and more profitable system.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.