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57.6 Billion Tons of Topsoil Lost...Is It Time to Despair?



Colonel’s Blog, Earthdate 30 May 2023…

Hey Y’all!


Good afternoon and happy Tuesday from Air2Ground Farms! It’s another warm sunny one, but there are clouds forming this afternoon. We need the rain so clouds are a good sign! The animals are doing well today. The beef cows are enjoying all of the space in the hill pasture and the grass is holding well. In order to determine if the new grass is ready to be grazed, you can reach down and rip it like a cow would do with its tongue. If the grass rips, it’s ready to graze and if it pulls up by the roots, it’s not ready yet. We waited until the grass ripped and things seem to be going well. We moved TJ in with Tank and the ewes and lambs. Tank seemed to be getting a bit stressed with the responsibility of the entire flock to himself so we decided to take a chance on putting the puppy in with him. We closely monitored the situation and TJ couldn’t have done better. He immediately began doing his job, checking the perimeter and marking his territory. He gave a couple of lambs a sniff to check them out and then largely ignored them. Tank immediately calmed down and the two of them have been doing great. We still have at least one ewe yet to lamb…she has to be close. We have 25 or 26 now. The lamb pic is one of the newest ones, a little ram lamb. We have 3 black/white ones now and they are obviously the most striking pattern. Maybe half are solid white and the rest have some tan markings. We don’t have an exact count but it seems that there are many more ewe lambs than ram lambs. We will bring them through the pens in a couple of weeks and get an exact count. We spent about 2 hours building a new paddock with poultry net so we could move the bottle lambs closer to the house. It was hot and we had to push mow the perimeter so the net wouldn’t ground out in all of the grass. We finally got it finished and went up and got the two lambs and the ewe. We brought them down and put them in the new paddock. The littlest, motherless lamb immediately ran through the net. Well shoot, that didn’t work…so we turned on the electricity and put it back inside so that the shock would make it avoid the net altogether. Nope. It completely ignored the shock and popped right through the net again, but not before getting stuck and having to be helped out of the net, the entire time it was shocking us. So, we turned off the net and put the lamb in a chicken pen (the one that had Smokey the barn cat’s kittens in it) to think. I was quite frustrated that after all of the work it wasn’t working. We decided to do a big switcharoo. We moved the kittens out of the small chicken tractor. We moved the smallest incubator chicks out of their coop and into the chicken tractor. We then moved the coop into the new paddock we built for the sheep and put the lambs in the coop. Problem solved. The piglets are doing really well and growing fast. We had some skim milk left from making ice cream and gave them a few gallons. They LOVE the milk! The top pic is us with Stella this morning. Today we unloaded pallets and then picked up a ton of feed, dairy and pig.


There are some frightening headlines these days regarding topsoil, especially topsoil loss in the Midwestern United States. It’s been stated from the United Nations and then often parroted that we (humans) only have 60 harvest cycles remaining before all of our topsoil is depleted. Another recent headline highlights the Midwestern United States has lost 57.6 billion tons of topsoil due to farming practices over the past 160 years. You may see other articles claiming the world has 100 or even 30 years of harvests left. Shelley and I have even been caught up in the hype by believing we are on the brink of…well…something bad because the soil is going away! What is the truth? Are any of the claims factual? Should we all be scared? Slow down! I’ll try to bring this issue down to earth for us. First, soil erosion is a problem and we should be concerned. There are areas of the earth where soil is eroding at an unsustainable rate. According to Our World in Data, 16% of soils are estimated to have a lifespan of less than 100 years. Others have more time, much more. 50% of the soil have a lifespan of over 1,000 years and 33% have a lifespan of over 5,000 years. Our World in Data author Hannah Ritchie researched the claim by a senior UN official that the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years. She found no factual basis for the claim and concluded the claim is overblown. From that UN claim, others have taken liberty to claim the problem is even worse, some bringing the claim down to 30 years. As Hannah Ritchie highlights, there is no single “lifespan” of the world’s soils and how would you even estimate a soil lifespan? Soil is complex with many characteristics that make estimating its lifespan difficult. Back to the Midwestern topsoil loss of 57.6 billion tons. That is a really big number. It sounds really bad, and it is. Science News article “Saving our soil: How to extend the US breadbasket fertility for centuries” states “The Midwestern United States has lost 57.6 billion tons of topsoil due to farming practices over the past 160 years, and the rate of erosion, even following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines is still 25 times higher than the rate at which topsoil forms.” The very next sentence in the article’s summary is often missed in the headlines. “Yet, we need not despair: researchers recently reported that no-till farming, which is currently practiced on 40% of cropland acres in the Midwest, can extend our current level of soil fertility for the next several centuries.” Summarizing, topsoil is important and we should be concerned with keeping it. There has been a lot of topsoil lost due to traditional farming practices of tilling. There are things that can be done to mitigate the loss, like no-till farming. Air2Ground Farms’ practice of regenerative farming using ruminants on grasslands creates topsoil and others are doing the same. So, while 57.6 billion tons is a big number, and we should do things about it, it’s not time to despair.


Check out our most recent YouTube Shorts, to include a Top Gun tribute from the pigs.

A look at one of the bottle lambs.

There’s more!


Local Farm Report for 29 May 2023:

Harvest:

32 Chicken eggs

5 Duck eggs (a cat hung out in the duck house and they weren’t happy about it)

1 Goose egg

5 1/2 Gallons of milk


Cheers!


Psycho & Shelley

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