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Building Soil is bringing life into the soil. It involves supporting the formation of soil aggregates through land practices that increase soil carbon and feed soil microorganisms. The aggregates are the soil infrastructure: they store carbon in a stable form and allow for the flow of air and water. While potentially long-lived, soil aggregates are destroyed by tillage and synthetic agricultural inputs.

Building soil means embracing biology. While geological processes that weather and break down rock form soil at a rate of an inch every 500 years, biological processes driven by the synergy of plants, fungi and microbes can revitalize soil rapidly.

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Building Soil Fertility

Building Soil Fertility

Featuring: Steve Ela
Location: Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss, Colorado

Building Soil Fertility
Steve Ela is an organic farmer who depends on cover crops to enhance soil fertilization on his farms. He plants both deep-rooted perennial legumes like alfalfa and clover (red and white) and vetch which provide biomass early in the season (when the peach trees need it most). They also…
1. suppress weeds
2. build organic matter reserves
3. build top soil by bringing nutrients up from deeper soil levels
4. prevent erosion and loss of top soil
5. perennials don’t require replanting each year (continued cultivation disturbs tree roots) and cover crops enrich a variety of soil bacteria and microorganisms that support earthworm populations.

Peaches Require:
1. hot days
2. cooler nights
3. lots of fresh mountain snowpack water (the Rockies)
4. good soil

Steve says the US agricultural model has always been exploitative. It uses up resources instead of treating agriculture as a system that can build resources like energy, food, biodiversity, and fertility.

Steve Ela' grandfather first planted peaches in western Colorado in 1907. Four generations later Steve grows a variety of stone fruits, including Earlistars (mid-July), Risingstars + PF-7 (later July), Newhaven + Bellaire (early August), Starfire (mid-August), Glohaven + Rose + Coralstar (late August), Glowingstar + Allstar + Blushingstar (early September), Cresthaven + J.H. Hale (mid-September), and O’Henry (late September).

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