On speaking with many conventional farmers the No. 1 fear that stops change is that taking any steps from traditional practices will lead to loss of production inferior in quality and to loss of cash flow.
Secondly there is a belief that a farmer needs to use a range of fertilisers, weedicides, pesticides, drenches and other inputs to keep the productivity at a peak and to keep animals healthy. This is not dissimilar from the farmer himself lining up for his annual flu injection or taking medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, gout, back pain and numerous other common ailments.
Thirdly, in many cases, a farmer is conditioned to follow the majority as “they” must be right. “They” being their family, fellow farmers, their suppliers, their consultants and public opinion. It is far more comfortable to be part of the mob, even if the farm is going backwards and costing more each year, than think outside the box and risk ridicule and maybe the failure that you are told about.
And the last stumbling block to change is the perceived need to change their equipment and therefore it will be too expensive to change and lack of support.
Let’s look at these concerns.
- Is it possible for a conventional farmer to change to a more biologically sound way of farming, without losing production?
- Can you reduce or even eliminate the amount of synthetic fertilisers and other inputs as well
as maintain productivity and animal health?
- Is it true that conventional farming practices are better because the majority of farmers farm that way? Wouldn’t at least the trained advisers know what’s best?
- Is it necessary to change the equipment and is it expensive to do so?
Obviously every farm is different and each needs to be individually assessed as to the steps that need to be taken when changing so that all risks are minimized. However for all farms to be successful they must create and maintain a highly active and complex biological system in the soil.
Once a highly active and complex soil system has been established all risks associated with change are minimised. For when any fertilizers or other inputs are added to the active soil food web they are caught, digested and stored in plant available form. They become part of the soil food web where the plant can access these nutrients as required.
Whereas conventional farming actually destroys the active soil food web by disturbing the soil structure and destroying the microbial life. When the microbes are unable to function properly a large percentage of inputs are either unavailable to plant uptake, are washed away or taken up in the atmosphere. A bit of a waste of money, wouldn’t you say? Many years ago the CSIRO actually proved that superphosphate is locked up in the soil after 6 weeks, unavailable for plant uptake until the microbes are activated again when fed such inputs as fish or kelp. The majority of farmers have many years supply of superphosphate in their soil.
*to be continued in the next Gold Nugget