This Sunday's New York Times had an interesting article by Mark Bittman. A Simple Fix for Farming reports the results of a study begun in 2003 on 22 acres owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. The researchers set up three plots: one alternated between corn and soybeans; one was planted on a three-year cycle that included oats; one was one a four-year cycle that included alfalfa. The longer cycles integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer. In Mr. Bittman's words:
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
As always, there are two sides to story, though. Read the comments that accompany the article. What do you think?