Noble Research Institute on the Path to Changing the Way We Think About Soil Health ConservationMon, 13 Nov 2017 15:36:56 CST
Over the past few years, Bill Buckner, president and CEO of the Noble Research Institute, has made significant inroads in the organization’s advancement towards achieving a national level of authority in the scientific community through its work with farmers and ranchers, focusing on some key environmental studies and relationships. During the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Convention in Norman this past weekend, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays had the chance to speak with Buckner about a few of the Institute’s priority projects underway currently, namely its research in soil health systems. You can click or tap the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page to hear their complete conversation.
“We believe everything begins underground,” Buckner said. “Having a soil health profile that’s capable of creating a resilient agricultural system, we think, is very important.”
Buckner insists that it is from this perspective that every conversation his team has with a producer, starts with leading them to a systems-based approach, as opposed to a best practices approach. The most challenging aspect of their work in this area, though, is getting people to understand and embrace soil health differently than the way it has traditionally been viewed. He says this is mostly to do with a lack of education. And, while Noble continues its attempts to educate, including those at the United States Department of Agriculture, Buckner says it is actually the farmers themselves that have taken to the research most readily.
“To get people to think about soil health differently is quite a stretch,” he said. “It all stems back to where we were all products of the 60s coming through the system and we were focused above the ground. Farmers and ranchers today are changing that paradigm and the dynamics on the farm and I’m very encouraged by what we see there.”
Buckner shared an anecdote of a recent conversation between he and an acquaintance in ag retail, to whom he remarked that a “freight train was coming” and the retailers can’t see it. Buckner says in a few years down the road, retailers will not be able to relate to their customers because the farmers are shifting their focus on soil health and conservation, and abandoning their reliance of inputs.
One aspect of this is the use of cover crops to improve soil health - a trend that is quickly growing across the nation. Noble has established teams in which to study and advance the age-old system, in an effort to learn how it can be utilized better and increase efficiency and sustainability on the farm.
“We really look at it from a stewardship perspective - we think everything is connected,” Buckner said. “When we look at the next five to ten years, as the science comes through and begins to develop, it will force farmers to think differently about the practices they have. I think we’ll see a total restructuring of our thinking and our attitudes around what we do.”
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