January 15 Radio Program Script

Healthy soil is more than sand silt and clay. It contains millions of microscopic microbes, thousand of beneficial nematodes and water and carbon absorbing organic material.
Photo by Peggy Greb Courtsey, of USDA

Good morning! This is Bob Bragg. Welcome to the January 15th edition of Farm News and Views.

According to a new Government Accountability Office report published last week, nearly two million College students who may be eligible for food assistance might not be enrolled in the program and it suggests that the USDA should help these students sign up for SNAP benefits. The study found that low-income college students who are potentially eligible for food stamps usually have at least one additional risk factor for food insecurity. This includes being a first-generation college student or they are single parents. The report also encourages college administrators to help students understand that the program is available to them.

Immigration issues have been a hot topic over the past couple of years in Congress. But Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Zoe Lofgren from California, plan to introduce companion bills this week, which would overhaul the H-2A visa program that farmers and ranchers depend on for temporary workers . The proposed legislation is aimed at easing labor shortages on farms across the country. Their goal reportedly is to address a slice of immigration reform, instead of taking on a comprehensive approach.

Let’s shift gears and talk about soil health, a topic that has become increasingly popular in agricultural publications over the past two or three years. Since maintaining healthy soils is important for future generations, a recent Successful Farming Magazine article caught my attention. It outlined New Mexico State University molecular biologist David C. Johnson’s research concerning the role that fungi and bacteria play in maintaining productive soils. He believes that having the proper balance between the two groups of microbes is essential, with fungal domination of the microbial community most helpful for soils. When the soil is highly populated with diverse microbes coexisting in balanced communities, plant growth explodes, and soil carbon starts to increase. These processes trigger the building of soil organic matter and sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.

Johnson has developed a low-cost composting system for manure. He doesn’t turn over the compost, which is normally part of the composting process. He discovered that leaving the composting material in a pile yielded a product highly populated with fungi. When it was applied to test plots in the green house, chili plants yielded double the crop of chilies compared to chilies grown on conventionally produced compost.

Field plots bore out similar results when combined with a couple of years of cover crops. The plots were than planted to cotton and chillies and grown without any fertilizer. He calls his system Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management, which should include livestock as an important component of this system. He believes that by figuring out ways to align ourselves with nature, we can develop agricultural systems that are self-sustaining.

This brings me to some house keeping. I’ve developed a blog page, Farm News and Views dot net, where I’ll post the radio scripts for this report, as well as links to articles that may be of interest to listeners. I’ll also post an occasional essay that I write about subjects that have caught my attention. So if you want more details about David Johnson’s research, check out the link to the Successful Farming Magazine article at Farm news and views dot net. There is also a link to the Farm News and Views Blog on ksjd dot org.

Considering the current state of our national affairs, a Will Rodgers observation seems to apply. Be thankful that we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.

Until Next Week, I’m Bob Bragg

Link to Successful Farming Magazine article: https://www.agriculture.com/crops/soil-microbes-secure-the-future

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