The Canadian Prairies are exactly that — prairie. Rich soil supports incredible crop production now, but the climate, soil, and plants that have mingled and grown here long before agriculture moved in were all about permanent ground cover. Annual cropping leaves soil exposed or even bare if tillage is part of the equation, and while Prairie farmers have largely moved towards minimum or zero-tillage, there’s still more to be done to bring permanent cover back to the landscape.

Dwayne Beck, of Dakota Lakes Research Farm, says that the adoption of zero-till “stops the bleeding” of nutrient and carbon loss from soil, but without the addition of season-long ground cover and livestock to cycle nutrients back, Prairie farmers risk both literal and metaphorical erosion of its most valuable resource: the soil.

Beck, a long-time soil health and sustainable farming proponent, recently joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to talk about crop rotation, diversification vs. specialization, what grain farming looks like with livestock in the mix, and even the history of why, as Beck sees it, we so willingly ship so many nutrients off the farm.

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