Modern day farmers must abandon monoculture cultivation in livestock and crop farming if they are to win the war against weeds and plagues.
This is the warning from Walter Davis, well-known American cattle farmer and consultant. Davis was a speaker at an annual farmer’s day about Regenerative Agriculture on the farm of Gail Fuller, near Emporia in the US state of Kansas.
South African agricultural journalist Marleen Smith, from the magazine Landbouweekblad, attended the day thanks to sponsorships from VKB and Pannar.
Walt, who years ago saved his farm from financial ruin by applying holistic agricultural practices, said a lack of biological diversity is the cause of a number of problems for farmers.
“Conventional agricultural practices are designed for the production of monocultures of different plants and the concentration of large amounts of animals in small areas, and are focused on efficient production.
“This dependence on monocultures combined with general practices like chemical control and tillage, decreases the amount of plants, animals and microorganisms above and in the soil.
“Single communities of plants and animals are inherently unstable. The constant attack of weeds, diseases and plagues the modern farms have to face are nothing else than efforts from nature to resettle these organisms that is needed for a functional community of plants and animals. In this kind of system, all available resources like water, energy, minerals and space, are used optimally without any being wasted.”
“Nature doesn’t like wasted resources”, explains Walt. If underutilization occurs, nature will enter to fill empty ecological niches with life.
Examples include legumes and Rhizobia-bacteria which can live in a symbiotic relationship to fix and recycle nitrogen. Another example is plants which grow during the warm seasons, while others grow during colder seasons to ensure that sun energy is converted into chemical energy over as long a period as possible. Some shrubs also have the ability to concentrate certain minerals that are deficient and release it.
“There are no waste organisms in nature. Each one is adapted to function in a set of specific conditions. Many of these plants that we classify as weeds, the microorganisms we classify as diseases and the animals we see as plagues are not so much the problem. Maybe in most of these cases the problem occurs due to a lack of bio complexity.”
Many general agricultural practices only provide short-term advantages that have to be paid with long-term costs, he said.
According to Walt, scientists are also to blame for these short-term advantages by providing proof for every new chemical substance, larger machines or new technology without taking the long-term costs into account.