“Soil erosion and degradation is probably the most neglected of the important environmental crises humanity faces in the 21st century,” says David Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He wrote about the effect of soil erosion in 2017’s Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life. “Plowing degrades soil organic matter and leaves the soil bare and vulnerable to erosion by wind or rain. Since the dawn of agriculture, humanity has degraded between a quarter and a third of the world’s potential farmland. … We’re on track to degrade another third over the course of the present century.”
But, Montgomery says, we don’t have to repeat the story of ancient civilizations that squandered their soil. “Regenerative farming practices based on no-till farming with cover crops and complex rotations can rebuild soil fertility as a consequence of intensive agriculture.”
No-till is a type of farming that doesn’t disturb the soil. After a field has been harvested, straw, or stubble, is left behind. Tillage incorporates that stubble into the soil, creating a smooth seedbed for the next year’s crop. No-till utilizes special equipment that plants the next year’s crop directly into the previous crop’s stubble. The stubble and roots help prevent soil erosion.