March 20, 2023

Make soil health count

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Seventh-generation farmer Mitchell Hora believes that you can make soil health practices pay off.

Hora, owner of Continuum Ag, discussed making money with soil health at the Conservation Cropping Seminar.

“My topic today is making money with soil health,” he said. “The conversations right now include a lot of outside sources of funding — carbon programs and sustainability programs. All of these different components are great outside tools to help you bring additional dollars in, to make these concepts pay, to help with the transition process to a more regenerative system.”

But to really make soil health pay, it’s about understanding soil health principles and utilizing these tools as offensive management systems.

“If you’re going to implement soil health practices for defense, just because there are a couple dollars dangled in front of you, I think you’re really going to struggle,” Hora said.

“The key is to utilize these tools for offense,” he said. “These practices, like no-till, cover crops and more system diversity, can directly benefit your bottom line. They can directly benefit your profit and loss in multiple line items.

“And when we utilize these tools for offense, we should prioritize them, make sure they get done correctly, get done on time and to the best of our ability.”

Prioritizing soil health may also mean getting creative. It may involve hiring someone to put in the cover crop while you finish harvest.

“It might take additional equipment to make it work on your operation, or hiring a part time person,” Hora said.

“But if we’re going to make these systems work, it has to be prioritized. It has to be offense. It has to directly pay the bills.”

Soil Health Principles

Hora emphasized six soil health principles.

1. Minimize soil chemical and physical disturbance.

2. Maximize soil armor.

3. Maintain living roots throughout the year.

4. Foster diversity of species.

5. Integrate livestock.

6. Understand context as the principles are implemented.

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Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor