Here are some of the principles and practices we use on the farm.
- Performing multiple actions in a single pass - When possible, we try to perform more than one job at the same time. For example, we sometimes apply a soil conditioner when mowing or tilling. WHY? efficiency, less compaction
- Working soil only in drier conditions. Working soil when it is wet removes air from the soil which is detrimental in the long term. WHY? healthier soil, "happier" soil microbes
- Recognizing consequences. For example, incorporating green crops in the soil results in making the nutrients in the cuttings available to the soil. Incorporating brown crops results in increased carbon.
- Measuring soil performance with a refractometer. A refractometer measures the amount of solids dissolved in a liquid. Refractometers are used in a variety of industries, and in farming can provide a measurement of Brix, an indicator of existing and past photosynthesis and fruit nutrient-density. A refractometer can be used at several stages of plant growth to measure Brix 1) in crop leaves and stems (to measure crop condition), or 2) in crop fruit (to measure nutrient-density). Higher Brix indicates longer crop shelf-life and better resistance of plants to frost, cold, and heat.
- Refractometer [Wikipedia article]
- Measuring soil potential with an EC meter. Higher electrical conductivity in the soil results in a better environment for crops to grow. Conductivity below a certain level indicates low expectations for resulting crops' nutrient-density and/or yields.
- Soil testing. Research continues to discover more about the impact of the presence of nutrients by looking at the ratios of various nutrient relationships. For example, a ratio of calcium to magnesium -available in the soil - is considered optimum for most crops at around 7 to 1. Considering multiple ratios, for example the ratio of potassium to phosphorus with the ratio of calcium to magnesium, simultaneously, can provide a way of monitoring ongoing conditions and performance, and be a meaningful tool for soil managers (a.k.a. "farmers").
- Sometimes less is more - Nature is unique in that it has a way of returning to it's virgin state...and the best method to do this is to absolutely leave it alone.
This is impractical though if we're trying to farm, but we can conclude that we should sometimes let things rest for a while, and we should be slow to try to change things, for example, by adding chemicals or otherwise disturbing natural cycles in ways which might make things out of balance.
These are some of the primary practices and principles we use on the farm.