SpudSmart recently published another of my articles titled, “Does Soil Fumigation Have a Place in Regenerative Agriculture?”
You can access the article here: Does Soil Fumigation Have a Place in Regenerative Agriculture? (spudsmart.com) or read on!
DOES SOIL FUMIGATION HAVE A PLACE IN REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE?
Over the past handful of months, I’ve attended a whole pile of potato seminars, expos, forums and conferences around the world. Regenerative agriculture and sustainability are almost always top of the agenda. However, I’ve sensed frustration amongst growers that, while there’s lots of talk about the need for change in our industry, there are few real plans or useful recommendations on how to develop an integrated, meaningfully regenerative and sustainable system. Farmers are consistently being asked to do more yet aren’t being provided enough in the way of roadmaps and tools to achieve real change.
I think we need to introduce a key word to the sustainability discussion. That word is ‘functional’. Functional sustainability is the system or path that gets us from where we are today to our collective regenerative agriculture goals. Farming practices, informed recommendations, and real tools that keep farms viable while prioritizing environmentally sound and socially responsible considerations are the keys to success.
Since I’m a soil fumigation guy, let me start there. Fumigation has a bad reputation in agriculture. Many have a knee jerk reaction to it, assuming it’s the polar opposite of sustainability. But let’s take a look at what the science shows:
Chloropicrin (sold as Strike) is a modern, highly effective fumigant that manages yield-sapping potato crop pathogens including verticillium, rhizoctonia, black dot, and common scab. It directly and meaningfully contributes to enhanced yield. Higher productivity is the hallmark of sustainability, since it allows better input efficiency and higher profitability per potato produced.
Unlike other fumigants, Strike is highly selective. It actively supports soil’s beneficial nutrient recyclers, saprophytes. That’s not the only way it builds soil health, however. It’s a key element in a reduced tillage, lower erosion, more irrigation-efficient production system.
There’s more. Strike also supports better looking tubers: lower disease means significantly less waste at the farm level.
I’m not arguing that Strike is the silver bullet to all of agriculture’s sustainability efforts. However, Strike is a great example of a single product that has wide-ranging sustainability benefits, yet remains somewhat marginalized. I believe the issue is that too many in agriculture believe sustainability can only be achieved with a strict adherence to a set of restrictive practices and products. We need to shift towards seeing sustainability as an integrated, coordinated system. And, we need to give sustainability’s keystones – those central products or practices, like Strike, that promote or enable a meaningfully sustainable system – the recognition they deserve.