Agriculture has changed significantly though the decades.
Today growing crops is a business where the majority of producers look to maximize their production.
There is some solid reasoning to that goal. Even if you are only making a few cents a bushel profit, the more bushels grown mean more gross dollars generated. Gross dollars look good in the books.
Of course if you start to lose money on a bushel of grain, then the more bushels can also lead to greater losses.
It’s something of a fine line for producers because maximized production does not normally come without a significant investment in the crop.
That investment includes equipment, labour, fuel, seed and to get the really large yields generally lots of fertilizer and a range of crop protection products, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides.
Of course not all producers are tied to increasing input investment as a way to making their farm units more profitable.
There are producers who are trying to work more in concert with Mother Nature to produce a crop, reducing costs in the process.
Their thinking is simple enough, if you can work with the natural cycles of the soil, mimicking as much as possible the way nature does things, you can reduce the reliance on purchased fertilizer, and fungicides and pesticides.
If you are not having to pay out big dollars for inputs, the risk taken on in a crop year is reduced.
It doesn’t mean you don’t hurt when a crop fails for some reason, but there is not a huge input bill that still has to be paid.
The thinking is something Bangor, SK.-area farmer Garry Richards who is focusing on what he terms regenerative agriculture.
Richards isn’t 100 per cent opposed to use herbicides, or tillage, in a pinch to control weeds, but he doesn’t turn to those options until he has tried a range of other more natural processes, those that are more in-tune with the process that occur in the soil and its ecosystem.
Is trying to work with nature the future of farming?
It is likely closer to what farmers did before herbicides and manufactured fertilizers came into vogue.
That does not mean the farm sector will return to that style farming en masse.
It does however suggest it is a system that can work for some producers, and is likely worth a look by producers seeking to reduce their risks and still keep a reasonable net income. At the very least a more nature-based approach would seem worth taking a closer look at.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.