Jerry Hatfield on Why Should We Care About Soil Health
Play • 41 min

Dr. Hatfield is the laboratory director for the USDA’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment. He has also served on the faculty of the University of California-Davis and is a Past President of the American Society of Agronomy.

In this short but very powerful episode, Jerry and I discuss the mechanics of improving plant efficiency in capturing water, nutrients, and light and put that into productivity. We talk about the role that the soil-plant continuum plays in not only developing the productivity but also the quality of the products that plant is harvested for. Jerry and I discuss the fundamental functions of the soil aggregate structure and the value of gas exchange and water infiltration.

 

 

Support For This Show & Helping You Grow

This show is brought to you by AEA, leaders in regenerative agriculture since 2006.

If you are a large-scale grower looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email hello@advancingecoag.com or call 800-495-6603 extension 344 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.

 

 

Episode 10 - Jerry Hatfield - Highlights

3:10 - What have been some of the highlights that have lead Jerry to where he is today?

  • What drives Jerry:  Finding out how can we improve the efficiency of plants to capture water and light, and put that into productivity
  • What is the role of all this in increasing productivity and quality of what is harvested

 

5:30 - Why should we care about soil health?

  • What does the surface of the soil look like? (Aggregation structure)
  • Getting air and water into the soil helps drive the biological processes under the soil
  • This determines what the plants are doing (how well they can take up nutrients)
  • We need to care because this makes the whole plant system much more efficient - the soil health is the unifying factor

 

11:10 - How does soil quality improve so many various characteristics of plants 

  • Creating a more balanced soil - creating a condition for the plant to store more carbohydrates more efficiently, for example
  • Allowing the plant to optimize itself

 

13:00 - How do we regenerate and improve soil health?

  • Restoring biological activity - Biology has four needs: food, water, air, and shelter
  • Putting a cover over soil
  • Allowing the biology to express itself when it’s not being cooked at high temperatures
  • Supplying food to the biological system the entire year
  • Diversity of plants increase diversity of biological system

 

18:30 - How fast can we regenerate and improve soil health?

  • We can begin seeing changes within one growing season

 

20:30 - What has Jerry observed regarding a diverse number of plants producing soil changes?

  • Comparing cover crops  - Cover crop cocktails changes are much more rapid
  • Crops begin behaving differently with crop rotation

 

27:45 - Are we just regenerating soil, or also the thought processes and models around agriculture?

 

29:00 - Increasing water use efficiency and nutrient efficiency

  • Water and nutrients are tied together - optimizing together leads to stability
  • The plant may be nutrient limited - leading us to expending water to little effect
  • How efficient is the plant at capturing solar radiation?

 

33:10 - What does Jerry believe to be true about modern agriculture that many others don’t believe to be true?

  • How important improving soils are to increasing productivity - allowing genetics to be optimized

 

35:20 - What is the opportunity for improved yield and quality? What does this mean for growers in terms of profitability?

  • If you improve soils in “bad” parts of field, immediately improve overall profitability
  • No tillage growers have been able to drop nitrogen by 50% without affecting yields because soil is providing nutrients
  • Producers need to think about what they are getting out of their inputs

 

38:10 - What action should farmers take right now?

  • Getting a cover crop on system
  • Increasing biology in soil
  • Crop rotation and diversity
  • Cover crop cocktails
  • Reduce tillage

 

 

 

Feedback & Booking

Please send your feedback, requests for topics or guests, or booking request have a Podcast episode recorded LIVE at your event -- to production@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com. You can email John directly at John@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com.

 

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