Every once in awhile promising news comes along that gives rise to hope.
For those struggling to find a reason to believe that meaningful change is possible in American agriculture, look no further than what Adam and Seth Chappell have accomplished on their 8,000 acre Arkansas farm.
Their story is told well and in detail in a July 7, 2020 piece by Chris Bennett posted on Farm Journal’s AgWeb entitled “A Skeptical Farmer’s Monster Message on Profitability.”
Please read this piece from start of finish. It drives home several key points we have harped on for years on Hygeia, but without the authority of the Chappells or the reach of Farm Journal.
Their story is so important because it hammers tight the linkage between the two really big drivers — economics and soil health — that will eventually change agriculture in the U.S. and globally.
And make no mistake, change is coming with or without constructive interventions by private agribusiness and federal policy. Change will eventually happen despite stubborn allegiance by ag “leaders” and institutions to technology, infrastructure, and policies that helped create today’s economic meltdown and continues to fuel incremental environmental erosion of row-crop farm sustainability.
GMO crop and multiple-herbicide-dependent weed management systems are working less and less well and costing farmers more and more per acre.
Seed-plus-chemical cash costs per acre have more than tripled since the introduction of GMO crop technology packages. The GMO-technology driven revolution in how weeds are managed is steadily eroding soil health and pricing a growing segment of U.S. row-crop farms out of international markets, and into the arms of Uncle Sam.
Notwithstanding COVID and Trump trade policies — Does anyone think heavy reliance on federal subsidies for large-scale, technologically sophisticated farms is a sustainable option to keep thousands of economically unsustainable operations in business?
The progress made by the Chappell operation was grounded in an accurate and sober assessment of what was not working for them, coupled with a hunch that enhancing soil health was a necessary step in the right direction. They were right.
The remarkable progress they have made in the health of their overall operation — including its profitability — rests upon their willingness to “think outside the box” and integrate novel cropping system management practices that each, incrementally, help cut costs. The Chappells credit successful efforts to take advantage of low-cost crop nutrients flowing through their operation, along with restoring the farm’s biology and soil health in achieving big weed management and productivity dividends.
So don’t bite the next time someone says we have to double-down on high-cost, pesticide-dependent GMO cropping systems in order to feed the world.
Instead, read what the Chappells have already accomplished, mostly on their own. Then reflect on what could be accomplished if all parts of the American agricultural system were pulling in the same direction, investing in soil health, and solving pest and public health problems by getting smart in managing biology to cut costs.
Chris Bennett, “A Skeptical Farmer’s Monster Message on Profitability,” AgWeb, Date Published: July 7, 2020, Date Accessed: July 28, 2020.