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First "Soil Summit" Links Healthy Soil to Higher Profits

Blain Hjerthaas speaks at the first Soil Summit on Saturday about a practice called "regenerative agriculture." (Blain Hjerthaas)
Blain Hjerthaas speaks at the first Soil Summit on Saturday about a practice called "regenerative agriculture." (Blain Hjerthaas)
October 14, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. – If you want to get higher yields from a farm, start with the health of the soil. That's one rule being shared by a speaker at Northern Plains Resource Council's first Soil Summit, which takes place in Billings on Saturday and is open to the public.

Blain Hjertaas, a sustainable rancher in Saskatchewan, will share information at the conference about the advantages of a farming technique he calls "regenerative agriculture," which he said improves degraded soil and could produce higher earnings for ranchers.

"And it basically means building soil and as you do that, it makes the food produced healthier, it makes the water infiltrate better," he said. "It takes carbon from the atmosphere, puts it down into the earth, and it makes the yields higher, and more profit for the farmer."

Over the past five years, Hjertaas explained he has been measuring carbon levels in the soil to get a picture of how it's doing. He and other farmers have set up a soil-monitoring system at more than 300 sites across North America to assess how fast each farmer can capture carbon. They'll compare notes in the next few years.

Hjertaas said the fact that healthier soil can produce healthier food is no small matter either. Referring to poor-quality crops, he said the current state of the soil in many areas is a direct indicator of public health at large.

"If I take a look at society in general, I would conclude that it's not terribly healthy," he added. "We have epidemic levels of diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies, all these things. And from the knowledge that I have learned over the last number of years, soil health, and human health are directly related."

Hjertaas will also speak about the benefits of carbon sequestration to help offset the effects of climate change. To find out more about the conference, look online at northernplains.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT