Think 'Systems' on your Farm — Expert

 12/30/2014 @ 12:13pm
I’m a Fourth Generation farmer from north central Kansas, where we grow wheat, soybeans and grain sorghum on a dryland, no-till farm that also includes cover crops. I am a Crops Editor for Successful Farming, and graduated from Kansas State University in 1993. My wife and I have two children.
Dwayne Beck is not one to mince words.
So when the head of Dakota Lakes Research Farm spoke to farmers at meetings near Bladen, Nebraska and Pierre, South Dakota last month, he was blunt about how farming in the modern age must change.
Simply put, today’s farming methods consume more energy than they produce. “150 years ago, we used almost zero fossil fuels,” Beck says. “Now, we take fossil fuels to make stuff and ship that stuff out.
“Eventually, the soil runs is depleted,” he continues. “If humans are going to live on this planet, we need to change. We need to stop being extractive and start being more sustainable.”
Getting there is hard. It will demand big changes.
By 2030, Beck believes the world’s population will demand that farmers provide healthy and nutritious food – all the while keeping soils healthy and teeming with life, water clean and abundant wildlife. This will require a dramatic shift in mindset in which farmers, ranchers, agriculture industry and researchers focus on systems, not incremental changes or small details.
“Almost everything about agriculture has been incremental to this point,” he says. “We’ve made little changes here and there, but they are very small. Everyone focuses on details. We need to focus on outputs, not inputs. We should take action, not reaction.
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