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Why Maryland Leads the Nation in “Trash Farming”

(GALENA, MARYLAND) – December 2018. What started as a dairy farm four decades ago has evolved into a modern poultry and grain farm for the Davis family. Farming nearly 3,000 acres in Kent County, Maryland, Allen Davis has experimented with many farm practices to find what works best for their grain crops and their land.

Davis is one of a growing legion of farmers who have joined the “Brown Revolution,” an approach to farming that focuses on building healthy soil.

Maryland farmers were early pioneers in the revolution, adopting no-till farming methods and cover cropping decades long before farmers in the rest of the country. Today, they continue to lead the agricultural industry by adopting new and innovative technology and practices.

“Thirty years ago, people called no-till ‘trash farming’,” says Davis. “Farmers liked the look of a smooth, clean, freshly plowed field. But, what we realized is that by leaving the ‘trash’ from the last crop, like stems, stalks, leaves and husks, on top of the soil and not plowing up the field, we were getting big benefits.”

Soil health has become such an important topic that December 5 is recognized internationally as World Soil Day.

At the center of the Brown Revolution is an understanding that soil is not just an inert, mineral-based substance. It is a living and limited resource. Just 20 percent of the United States’ land is used to grow food, feed and fiber for the country and the world. And, the depth of that soil varies widely. Good, deep, fertile soil is a rare and precious thing.

Nurturing that soil is both a science and an art.

A tablespoon of soil contains more micro-organisms than the number of people on earth. Like any other living thing, they need food, water and shelter. Maryland farmers manage their soil as they manage their crops to provide those necessities. No-till farming, cover crops, soil sampling, pasture management and nutrient management are all parts of the puzzle.

Healthy, living soil supports clean air and water and productive cropland, forests, pastures and more. For Davis, who enjoys boating and family life on his farm, managing the soil to promote a healthy ecosystem just makes sense.

“We have so many more tools available to understand what the soil and plants need,” says Davis. “Research has proven that our nutrient management practices are effective in building soil health, which provides the strong foundation for growing healthy crops and better protects the environment for the long term.” 

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