My neighbor Charlie Johnson forwards me this column from Alan Guebert, who cites a new study that finds three- and four-year crop rotations producing better yields than two-year rotation schemes with half the energy inputs:
...[Three- and four-year rotations] each used less than half the BTUs-calculated by totaling fuel, fertilizer, grain drying, “field operations” and pesticides-than the two-year rotation. When put in terms of gallons of fuel used across the rotations, the two-year system “uses the equivalent of 25.43 gallons of diesel fuel per acre (while the)... three- and four-year rotations are both just over 10 gallons per acre.”
So, what's the catch?
You already know it; you have to farm like your father and grandfather. Longer rotations; use of livestock manure; hay baling; moldboard plow the alfalfa; and, yep, retrieve that cultivator from behind the barn [Alan Guebert, "Wise Old Grandpa and Dad," Farm Forum, 2012.11.16].
Wendell Berry has long recognized the need for us to return to less energy-intenseive farming methods. He advocates the "50-Year Farm Bill," which would focus on ecological sustainability and human health over the corporate profit model.
Don't expect Rep. Kristi Noem to advocate any such deep thinking on farm policy. She's too busy cudgeling her brains to write Happy Thanksgiving wishes on the taxpayers' dime. Gobble gobble.