These are the words of soil expert Rick Haney on agribusiness’s pursuit of maximum crop yield –
“We were applying fertilizers and getting these big yields, so that system seemed to be working — until we began seeing, for example, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico [created by algal blooms triggered by high nitrogen levels from fertilizer], and we started wondering if this was really working right. Are we putting on too much fertilizer? And the answer is, “Yes we are.” It’s like instead of feeding your children a balanced diet, let’s just feed them vitamins. That’s not going to work, is it?
Our mindset nowadays is that if you don’t put down fertilizer, nothing grows. But that’s just not true, and it never has been. The biggest issue with all this is that we keep wanting to get higher and higher yields. But the reality is that you are shooting yourself in the foot doing that …
… Well, if we are going to overproduce corn, wheat, soy, sorghum — look at the price. Why is the price low? Right now, these guys are planting corn around here, and I’ve talked to several of them who tell me that they won’t be making any profit this year. They are looking at a loss. It’s just crazy. If you are going to overproduce your product, the price drops. So what are we doing?
We had a guy I talked to last week who said, “If I adopt these soil health principles, my yields will fall.” And I said, “Yeah, I hope so, I hope everyone’s yields fall.” There’s just this mindset that we’ve got to increase the yields, increase the yields, increase the yields. You can’t keep doing that.”
Taken from this piece on Yale Environment 360.