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To Prevent the Next Dust Bowl, Give Soil a Chance

As the United Nations gathers for a Climate Summit, farmer Gabe Brown and ag specialist Ron Nichols urge regenerative agricultural practices to improve the soil and slow climate change.

Hugh Hammond Bennett, the father of the modern conservation movementeffort that became today’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), once wrote, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.” Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say, “Take care of the soil and the soil will take care of you.”

It’s not just a matter of semantics, but rather of understanding.

When Bennett became the chief of the Soil Erosion Service in 1933, the nation was in the midst of one of the most devastating environmental disasters in our history: The Dust Bowl. This disaster was caused by two primary factors.

One was climatological: A prolonged (but historically normal) dry period followed an unusual period of above-average precipitation throughout the Great Plains. The wetter stretch prompted many landowners to convert grasslands into farmland because the climate, for a handful of years, seemed perfect for grain production. The resulting bounty was, indeed, plentiful. The combination of precipitation and carbon-rich soils (provided courtesy of thousands of years of perennial vegetation living symbiotically with herds of roaming bison) set the stage for a yield boon.

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