FOR BRANDON MACPHAIL, THE KEY TO HIGH YIELDS STARTS WITH SOIL HEALTH.
With potatoes as MacSull Farm’s primary crop, integrating sustainable methods such as nurse cropping and reduced tillage are imperative to ensuring the health of the soil now and for the future.
Through nurse copping, he plants a fast-growing companion plant such as barley shortly after planting his potato seed. Prior to seedling emergence, the barley is terminated providing the potatoes with beneficial green space to grow.
The benefits of nurse cropping are many, including prevention of soil erosion, minimizing weeds, nutrient retention, and soil warmth, which facilitates plant growth.
Maintaining the integrity of the soil is also achieved through reduced tillage, a combination of low and no till techniques that allow crops to grow without disturbing the soil. An example of one of the techniques MacSull Farms uses is swapping moldboard plowing for less-impactful machinery that keeps the residue through the whole profile of the soil instead of flipping it to the bottom for it to decompose.
Reducing tillage improves soil biodiversity, increases water retention, and helps keep important nutrients and organic matter in the soil.
It is an inexpensive technique that is worth the time and effort that goes into it, as the benefits are evident seeing fields come to life with growing green matter.
"Everything we do is to help this crop or help a future one."