For the SARE funded Organic No-Till workshops, we were joined by soil scientist Andy Barry from WSU Extension Service. He presented research done by the Small Farms Team, on reduced tillage in organic vegetable production. They have worked with a variety of cover crops, special planting aids, roller/crimping and flailing and are comparing reduced till to tilled plots. Not surprisingly, the earthworm population was significantly higher in the no-tilled plots. See more about their experiments here: smallfarms.wsu.edu/soils-compost/research/organicnotill and here eorganic.info/group/4988
We then led a tour of the garden looking at our experiment beds. Gary demonstrated tools and techniques for preparing a bed for direct seeding.
Encouraging everybody to have a feel of the soil, to see for themselves the high moisture content and organic matter in a no-till bed that had not been watered all summer.
We discussed healthy soil structure and how to maintain it naturally, without the destructive practice of tilling. A purely man-made action that never occurs in nature.
Today, Larry Korn talked a bit more about the “nuts and bolts” of Fukuoka’s farming methods. But he introduced his talk with an anecdote: A soil scientist came to the farm and took samples and found there was a big phosphorous deficiency. Fukuoka responded by saying: but didn’t you see the rice growing in front of you? Wasn’t it one of the healthiest plants you have seen? Fukuoka farmed intuitively with an intimate knowledge of the ‘family’: place, plants and animals.