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Monday, February 15, 2010

To Plow or not to Plow

running sub title: Have Tractor Will Plow

We had a few days of above freezing temps with sunshine last week and this left me pondering soil, tillage methods, soil erosion and the urge to drag something sharp and powerful behind my tractor.  Now, let me state for the record that I consciously resisted the urge to deny or at least hold private the last part of the previous sentence; the "drag something sharp and powerful behind my tractor" part.  Here we are trying to demonstrate a better, more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to feed ourselves and I find myself dreaming of PTO horsepower and wide implements!  As much as I would deny it, there is something to these feelings.  I think many of us might paint it as a "man" thing, but is that it?  Intellectually I'd like to think not, but are tools fulfilling some weapons need that early man (here I do mean males) developed as we moved from a hunting to agrarian existence.  This line of thought is even more interesting considering  I am a vegetarian.

Nevertheless, I find myself being reminded that we don't really know what we are doing yet.  I have, however, learned the difference between cultivating and tillage.  I also found it very interesting that  no-till methods don't really mean what I think they mean.  This is apparently a trend in modern  agriculture, which means that seeds and nutrients are placed in the soil without significantly disturbing the soil.  I think it is akin to poking a hole or furrow just wide enough for the seed, compared to completely inverting the soil system with a moldboard plow.  The benefits are decreased erosion and less damage to the beneficial living soil components (i.e. worms), but the negative (in my view) is the complete dependence on herbicides and genetically modified seeds for weed control.  But here I find myself pondering the cost/benefit of discers, rippers, middle busters, cultivators, and rotary tillers.

Maybe I will just walk across the highway and talk to the farmer there to see what I can learn.  What?  Is this a reason to interact with a neighbor?  Maybe I am really onto something...

1 comment:

  1. Here's my take on your urge and dilemma - I imagine somewhere you envision some image of plowing by hand with maybe the help of a mule, but what you also know is that you already have a machine on which you can attach this thing and simply drive (not to mention you have a day job). Here's another way to look at it, though: you have full intention of using the land responsibly in order to feed yourself (this includes the family) and have some to share - when the gas engine came along and allowed farmers to plow and till more time efficiently than before, it facilitated greater production from the land, and this is exactly how you can justify doing it yourself. I would go on to say, though, it's been the maximizing of that mechanization which has tilted it so far the other way. I think there's something to be said for using the resources you have available.