Agronomy Library > Soil Conservation

Leveraging Biology - Direct Seeding Advantage 2006
Author: Matt Hagny, Exapta Aolutions
Date Created: November 22, 2006
Last Reviewed: March 01, 2007

In the Big Picture perspective, all we’re trying to do out in those fields of crops is to ‘leverage’ the biology to our benefit?to extract a little more than we put in (hopefully a whole lot more, but this is often not the case unfortunately). After all, the crops we grow are merely slightly altered forms of wild plants?selected over the millennia to be more ‘user-friendly’ than their wild cousins, often with traits such as larger seeds for easier harvesting or processing, less dormancy, more responsiveness to fertilizers, etc. But in the search for greater efficiencies, crop genetics are only one piece of the puzzle. 

Think of your fields as ecosystems -you can’t sterilize the whole thing and have only the crop out there. Nature isn’t easily confined or excluded. Life is quite resilient - the biology just can’t be kept out without extreme measures. Think about your shower curtain or bathroom tile - no matter what you scrub it with, the mildew and other living ‘gunk’ show up again in a few weeks. Or how about hospitals - supposedly nice and sterile, right? Not so -a high percentage of nasty infections and diseases are transmitted during hospital stays and medical procedures, despite the advances of modern medicine. So a person can hardly expect to have complete
control over big fields of crops, in the great outdoors - at least not without massive technology, deployed at a staggering cost. 

Instead of focusing on wiping out the population of pesky organisms, we should instead be looking to avoid the confrontation, or at getting the suppression some other way. ‘Brute force’ technology generally fails to subdue biology - the technology is very costly, plus, the target often evades the control measure (particularly if used repeatedly), and the side-effects are sometimes unanticipated and unpleasant. So we need to look for ways to manipulate the system to get what we want - to find those places where we can exert small pressures and produce big changes, to leverage biology in our favor. Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the world. Or at least nudge it. Really, what we want to do is mostly observing, with very little intervening - a good system will run fine by itself much of the time.

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