Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.
“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.
Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.
He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.
Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.
He no longer needs to use nitrogen fertilizer or fungicide, he said, and he produces yields that are above the county average with less labor and lower costs. “Nature can heal if we give her the chance,” Mr. Brown said.
Neatly tilled fields have long been a hallmark of American agriculture and its farmers, by and large traditionalists who often distrust practices that diverge from time-honored methods.
But soil-conservation farming is gaining converts as growers increasingly face extreme weather, high production costs, a shortage of labor and the threat of government regulation of agricultural pollution.
Farmers like Mr. Brown travel the country telling their stories, and organizations like No-Till on the Plains— a Kansas-based nonprofit devoted to educating growers about “agricultural production systems that model nature” — attract thousands.
“It’s a massive paradigm shift,” said Ray Archuleta, an agronomist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the federal Agriculture Department, which endorses the soil-conservation approach.
Government surveys suggest that the use of no-tillage farming has grown sharply over the last decade, accounting for about 35 percent of cropland in the United States.
The Latest on: No-tillage farming
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The Latest on: No-tillage farming
- Conservation agriculture can boost maize yieldson May 5, 2020 at 12:05 am
Maize farmers who aim to practise no-tillage or conservation agriculture on their farms will benefit from considerably higher yields during dry seasons since these farming methods allow them to plant ...
- Conservation agriculture can boost maize yieldson May 5, 2020 at 12:02 am
Maize farmers who aim to practise no-tillage or conservation agriculture on their farms will benefit from considerably higher yields during dry seasons since these farming methods allow them to ...
- Manufacturer works flat-out in lockdown to keep up with export demandon May 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm
The company, which employs 47 people at its farm-based design, manufacturing ... and have turned more towards minimum tillage or no-tillage (no-till) regimes. No-till involves killing off emerging ...
- COVID-19 – How Eswatini’s Garden Farmers are Keeping the Vegetable Supply Flowingon April 28, 2020 at 3:00 am
Farmers also use low or no tillage methods and composting which are all great for ... “This also has co-benefits to climate mitigation because of permanent crops, trees grown in the farm and low ...
- How to use active fallows to repair soils on undrilled landon April 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm
So even where minimal or no-tillage is preferred ... “Of course, you might have some of the seed already on the farm, such as linseed, peas and beans, which brings the cost down.
- College of Agricultural Sciences newson April 5, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Potential link between COVID-19 and loss of smell, taste to be explored When Caela Camazine realized that she had suddenly lost her ability to taste and smell on March 17, she thought it was "really ...
- Easy-calving cows key to marginson February 16, 2020 at 1:22 am
Farming under the new Agriculture Bill looks set to revolutionise ... Out with improved genetics, Mike is also looking to a sustainable future by improving soil health with no-tillage practices and ...
- Mike Werling: Enriching the Soil and Improving the Bottom Lineon March 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Mike Werling, a fifth-generation farmer, is thrilled that his “farming ugly” practices of no-till and cover ... Werling received an award for responsible nutrient management at the 2016 National ...
- How farming screwed up Midwest carbon storageon May 2, 2018 at 5:58 am
That’s good news in the sense that practices such as limited or no tillage contribute to carbon sequestration and help to realize environmental benefits, Lu says. The results also will help ...
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