Podcasts

Combining Best Management Practices in Organic Farming w/ Dr. Kate Tully, PhD

Interview with Kate Tully, Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at the University of Maryland

Show Notes


Is there a perfect combination of management practices for organic farmers? That’s what Dr. Kate Tully, a professor at the University of Maryland, set out to find in her new study on increasing soil organic carbon. Kate joins Organics Unpacked to share her findings and discuss the University of Maryland’s expanding role in the world of organic agriculture.

Learn more about the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at the University of Maryland: www.agnr.umd.edu 

Connect with our guest on LinkedIn

#OrganicFarming

Podcast Transcription


INTRO: Welcome to Organics Unpacked, a podcast for the business-minded organic grower — an interview podcast where we hear from the top experts in the commercial organic industry, with a focus on the business elements of organic growing both in and out of the field. You will gain insight and grow your operation. This show is brought to you ad-free by Avé Organics, a Wilbur-Ellis company. To learn more about Avé Organics, visit our program notes. In the meantime, enjoy the show. 

TOM: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in today. Welcome to a new episode of Organics Unpacked, a podcast where we discuss organic farming from a practical perspective. I’m your host, Tom Buman. Today, I’m joined by Dr. Kate Tully. Kate is a professor at the University of Maryland. Kate, welcome to Organics Unpacked. 

KATE: Thanks so much for having me.

TOM: Well, it’s great to have you. I think you bring a really unique perspective, and it’s really good to have you on the program today. Before we get started with some of the in-depth stuff, Kate, could you tell us how you got to your position today? What career path led you to where you’re at?

KATE: Sure. Well, I grew up in California, and my dad has a real green thumb. So he’s the one who kind of started everything, and I would just play in the backyard with him. We grew everything. Artichokes. We had palm trees. We had cherries. You name it. Everything. Avocados. From a young age, I was really interested in growing food, and I actually went to college at a small liberal arts school. And at that point, I decided I didn’t want to be a scientist. I wanted to do the complete opposite of what my dad did, and I was going to be an English major. So I majored in English and Spanish. But I went to Costa Rica in my junior year, and I lived and worked on an organic mango and orange farm. And that’s when I re-fell in love with agriculture and, especially, agriculture that can be done in a way that’s in harmony with nature. So I was working in these beautiful coffee farms and these organic orange and mango farms. Then, that sort of led me to grad school. And I went to graduate school and only wanted to work in a program that took me to Costa Rica because I fell in love with Costa Rica, and I speak Spanish. So that was very handy. And I worked there for five years in Costa Rica. Then, I went on to live in Kenya and Tanzania for several years, working on maize farms, primarily subsistence maize. And now, I’m here at the University of Maryland, working on issues related to organic agriculture, soil health, urban agriculture and climate change issues that we face in our Mid-Atlantic region.


The University of Maryland and Organic Farming


TOM: So tell me about the University of Maryland and its interest in organic farming. What are the things that the university deals with or helps with? Is it mostly research, or is it practical application with farmers? 

KATE: Yeah, it’s both. So the University of Maryland is a land-grant institution. So that means that we are charged with both the research of all of these agricultural practices, but also extension and education for farmers. So we do both. I’m primarily a researcher, but I work a lot with farmers. All of my research is on-farm, for the most part. So the university, when we think about the focuses or the foci of the university, one of the big ones, of course, is the Chesapeake Bay. So thinking about water quality and how agricultural practices can help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay region.

TOM: So how does organic farming fit into the water quality issues of Chesapeake Bay? What are the findings, and what’s the support? Then, what do you see as improvements? Because, obviously, the Chesapeake Bay, I mean, we have problems across the United States with water quality, but that is really one of the hotspots, right?

KATE: Yeah. Well, the Chesapeake Bay is this sort of iconic natural resource. And I think one of the things that’s neat about working in this region, too, is that, because we’re situated near where the decisions get made, the Chesapeake Bay kind of serves as this sort of icon that we can all turn to and think about: Okay, what are the practices that we’re doing? How are those affecting the Chesapeake Bay?’ Some of the big things that we have focused on at the University of Maryland is no-till, or reduced tillage, and also manure management. Both: how do we use it in a positive way? And also: how do we make sure that we’re not applying too much manure because of those water quality issues and because we really have farms that are just right along the edge of the Chesapeake Bay?

TOM: How does the University of Maryland see organic farming positioning and helping the water quality in Chesapeake Bay?

KATE: Well, we think a lot about — since we have a lot of dairy operations in some central parts of Maryland, and then we have a lot of chicken operations in some of the eastern shore areas — we think about organic agriculture as, in many ways, like one sort of tool in our toolbox, a collection of management practices that can be used to improve both soil health or soil organic matter and then, also, water quality. Because of the practices of, like we said, using composts and using manures and trying, as we can in specific systems, to try to reduce tillage to a certain degree, those are the ways that we think about organic agriculture really providing some of those positive environmental outcomes.


What Is Soil Health?


TOM: So, Kate, the real reason I invited you today is, recently, you published a study on organic carbon and organic farming and how different practices can really help with soil health. So I kind of wanted to jump into the soil health part, the soil carbon part, and just get your perspective on soil health and where we’re going. I mean, it’s such a big topic. We, almost, talk about it every week. It comes up with soil health. Every magazine you open up, every podcast, everything has the words soil health’ in it. Give us your perspective on soil health. How has it evolved? Where is it going?

KATE: That’s a great question, Tom. So soil health was born out of this term soil quality.’ So, for many, many decades, we talked about soil quality, which has a lot of the undercurrents of soil health that we talk about today. The big shift happened maybe about 10 – 15 years ago when we started this new term thinking about soil health. I equate it to when you go for your annual checkup as a human, right? There are not just like one or two things. We don’t just care about how tall you are or how much you weigh. We care about all sorts of things, right? We want to look at: are your reflexes good? How’s your eyesight? All of these things that we care about, it’s kind of this holistic balance. And that’s what makes us a healthy human, and soils the same way, right? We have to think about physical characteristics. We also think about chemistry, just like we would think about our blood chemistry, and also sort of the biology. In the soil health context, that’s carbon, for the main part. So it’s carbon and the microbial diversity that we have in our soils. In the 2000s, we started to see this emergence of the soil health movement. And now, we’re starting to move to a little bit more of a structured concept of soil health, whereby we think about: what are the metrics of soil health? How do we measure it? Just the way that you would think about when you go to the doctor, what are the things that they measure? And that’s sort of what the movement is starting to work towards now. What are these indicators? What’s high? What’s low? And how do we evaluate our soils for their current, baseline soil health? Then, we can start to think about practices — specifically, organic practices — that are going to, then, start to improve the soil health outcomes.

TOM: Kate, tell me about your co-authors on this paper.

KATE: So I wrote this paper with Rob Crystal-Ornelas, who was essentially a postdoc in my lab. He did all of the data analysis and the data mining, and then my, at that time, PhD student Resham Thapa, who has since gotten his PhD. They both worked really hard and are, in many ways, the brains behind this operation, doing a lot of the data analysis and nitty-gritty work to make this work come to fruition.

TOM: I always think that thinking of soil health and our own human health and making those comparisons is a really good analogy because we can go to the doctors, and we can get blood pressure. I mean, the typical things that we’re going to do, but that’s not like getting an MRI or a CT scan or a full blood workup or anything. And I assume the same thing exists in soil health. We have these overall metrics that give us a quick assessment, and it might get us 75% of the way there. Then, we have these really detailed stuff that, if we want to delve into one particular part, we can do. Is that right?

KATE: That’s totally right. You can be very specific, right? When we’re talking about soil carbon, for example, or soil organic matter, you could just look at the pool, right? Just how much soil carbon do you have? But, then, you can start to really dig into that, and you can talk about the kinds of carbon, right? Is this the kind of carbon that’s going to stick around for a while? Is it the kind of carbon that sort of cycles through the system more quickly? So that’s exactly right. You want to think about: there are the quick tests that give you about 75%. How are you doing? Then, there are things that you can start to investigate more deeply that are going to give you a more nuanced concept of soil health.


How Does Soil Carbon Relate to Soil Health?


TOM: Tell me how — specifically, in organic farming — how does soil carbon fit into soil health?

KATE: I think of soil carbon as kind of the nexus of soil health. Everything points back to soil organic matter or soil organic carbon. So your soil physical properties — the aggregate stability, how sticky your soil is — it depends on carbon. The chemistry of your soil is going to depend on carbon. How quickly things decompose, it depends on carbon. Then, of course, your ability to confer some of these climate change/​positive climate mitigation practices is going to depend on your soil organic matter and your soil health. I sort of see soil organic carbon really sitting at the center of all of these aspects of soil health, and that’s why we decided to focus on it in the study.

TOM: Kate, if I talk about soil carbon and organic matter in the same way, am I right? Or am I wrong?

KATE: You are both right and wrong. No, you’re right. So soil organic matter is like this: think of it as the stuff you can see, right? You stick your hand in the soil, and it’s crumbling. You see that dark stuff. That’s soil organic matter. But that soil organic matter, it’s not 100% carbon, right? Scientists will kind of talk about them. I think it’s fine, when we’re talking about them, to talk about them as kind of the same thing, right? But if you were to measure your soil organic matter, it would always be greater, a greater total amount, than your soil organic carbon because the carbon is just a component of that matter, right? For when we’re speaking, I think it’s fine to use it. But you’ll notice, if you read papers, that most people are going to report SOC: soil organic carbon.

TOM: And the reason why carbon is such an important component of organic matter to talk about is why?

KATE: Well, carbon, when we think about soil organic carbon, this is what we want to focus on when we think about how we can start to draw some of that carbon that’s in the atmosphere and start to store it in soils. But also, of course, storing it in plant tissues, which is another important component, of course, in organic systems, especially because organic systems tend to have these really awesome, complex rotations that draw a lot of that carbon down into the soil, not just to leave it there in the soil itself, but they have a lot of plants that are covering the soil at all times.

TOM: So is it fair to say that our focus on carbon is largely tied to climate change and how we can impact climate change?

KATE: I think that’s true, and I think it’s also just great if you’re a farmer. I mean, if you are concerned about too much water or too little water, carbon is the way to go, right? The more you can build your carbon, it’s going to help drain those soils when it’s really, really wet. And it’s going to help retain that soil moisture when it’s really, really dry. So it’s great for both the farming community, and it’s also great for all of us as we think about practices that are going to help situate us to try to start drawing some of that CO2 out of the atmosphere.


Best Management Practices in Organic Farming


TOM: So, Kate, let’s talk about the study you published. Talk a little bit about your coauthors. How did the study come about, and then what are the main takeaways? Then, we can get into the details, maybe.

KATE: Great. So the study was born because I wrote, actually, a paper before this paper, where I was just really curious about: there are a lot of studies that compare organic to conventional, organic to conventional. I see organic as a suite of practices. It’s not just you either apply synthetics or you don’t. Any organic farmer is going to tell you being an organic farmer is a million things. I sort of feel like that comparison, while useful, is not necessarily going to get us where we want to go when we think about the specific practices that are going to help us build soil organic carbon. So we started out, and we looked at a couple different things. We looked at rotation diversity and length. And we looked at tillage, organic amendments and the use of cover crops. And that was sort of where we started, and I did this big review, global review. Then, we decided, after we completed that, that there was enough data to hone in on soil organic carbon. So we focused on what we call best management practices, or BMPs, and we looked at the use of organic amendments.

TOM: So tell me what organic amendments are.

KATE: Sure. It can be composts, vermicomposts and manures, anything that is a non-synthetic addition to the soil. Then, the next thing we focused on was conservation tillage. So that could be no-till or some form of reduced tillage, and then, of course, comparing those to conventional or full tillage. Then, the third that we ended up focusing on was cover cropping, so either the use or not using cover crops in the system. And in each of those, we then started to look at the change in soil organic carbon.

TOM: And this is all within organic systems, right? Again, I mean, I know you talked about that. But I think that it’s easy to kind of forget this, that, in your study, you weren’t comparing conventional no-till with organic full-width tillage. You were comparing within an organic system, if somebody was doing organic no-till and organic full-width tillage or organic cover crops with not cover crops in organic, that this is a system inside of organic farming.

KATE: Exactly. We sort of said, from the outset, that there’ve been a lot of studies that have looked at that organic/​conventional comparison, but that what we wanted to do was to focus on the organic farming community and say: Okay, let’s look at the practices that organic farmers are implementing and only look at those studies that were actually done on organic farms, not comparing the conventional, because a lot of that work has been done.’ So we really wanted to be able to provide organic farmers with more nuanced information about the practices that they’re employing on their farms and how those practices, then, can be used to build soil organic carbon.


Meta-Analysis in Organic Farming


TOM: I don’t know if I have the lingo right, but you didn’t do primary research, right? What you did is you looked at research papers that have been done on organic farming, and then you compiled all of them that were available and, then, did your analysis based on other people’s research?

KATE: That’s right. So it’s called meta-analysis. One of the reasons this hasn’t been done before is because you need a lot of literature. I didn’t go out and measure carbon on a bunch of farms. I went out, and I looked at a bunch of papers. It only has been in the last, probably, like I said, maybe 10 years‑7 years that we’ve had a lot of data being published specifically on organic farms that actually allowed us to do this analysis. You couldn’t have done this analysis 10 years ago. There was just not enough information. So meta-analysis mines data from published scientific articles, and then it uses the data to calculate what we call an effect size. And you can just think of that as the percent change in a variable — in this case, carbon — under a treatment condition. So cover crops versus a control condition: no cover crops. Then, what you do is you just look at the percent change. So did it increase? Did you see soil organic carbon getting higher? Or did it decrease? So that’s what meta-analysis does.

TOM: Then, I assume there’s a geographic footprint of like: how does cover crops in organic systems in Maryland compare to California or something like that? Or Iowa?

KATE: So you could do that. We didn’t do a geographic comparison of the different practices. We did map them, and that was to give people an idea of where some of the research was coming from. In some cases, we do that to just sort of highlight that a lot of this data comes from the United States, and there’s some data from Europe. But we are vastly underrepresented in areas like South America, all across the continent of Africa and things like that. So it’s also to show folks where there are data gaps that exist. 

TOM: So, digging into the nuts and bolts of what you found out in your meta-analysis or looking at all these studies, can you give us a high level of what you found?

KATE: Sure. So we talked about those three practices, right? So organic amendments, conservation tillage and cover cropping, and what we found was that it increased. Looking at those BMPs sort of together, if you practice those, you’re going to see an increase in soil carbon by about 18%. Then, if you were to focus on what we call microbial biomass carbon — which is just like another specific subset, but it’s focusing on the microbes that do all the work — then it’s a 30% increase by using those best management practices. So you’re really increasing the diversity and all of the functioning of your microbial community by practicing these best management practices. Then, the next thing we did is we started to drill down to those specific practices. That’s the broad brushstroke. Then, step two was to say: Okay, now, let’s look just at tillage, just at cover cropping and just at organic amendments.’ Then, what we found there was that organic amendments, really, that’s where a lot of the action was. So adding organic amendments can increase your soil organic carbon by about 24%, and compared to conservation tillage, which was about 14%. And, again, remember this is on organic farms. So, again, we have to remind ourselves, sometimes, that we’re not talking about the magical world of conventional. We’re just talking about it on organic farms, and so using organic amendments is going to really move the needle when it comes to soil organic carbon.


Organic Amendments


TOM: So, in the studies you looked at, Kate, organic amendments, again, you explained them, but it’s very broad. But were there a lot of studies focused on manure or certain things? What was the biggest part of organic amendments out there?

KATE: Yeah, you’re right. The majority of those studies were using some form of manure. Yep. There were some studies, especially in India, where it’s like these combinations of organic amendments. And one thing I actually find interesting is that, when you use these organic amendment cocktails, when you combine a lot of different things, that’s where you also will see a big boost in your microbial community and a big boost in carbon because you’re kind of throwing a lot of different things at the system. So that can be kind of neat too. Manure is great, and most of the studies focused on that. But manure plus maybe a little bit of bokashi or a little bit of biochar, that can really do a lot, too, to stimulate the microbial diversity, which I think is really neat.

TOM: That is interesting. So let’s talk a little bit about the organic amendments and, largely, manure. In my knowledge base, typically, when you adopt a practice, most of the benefit comes in the first three to five years. Then, it kind of plateaus out in that you reach this equilibrium in what you’re doing, and you’ve built as much soil carbon, for the most part, maybe 90% of what you might ever get. Is that fair to say?

KATE: I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I think that you’ll see, when you start, let’s say you’ve transitioned to becoming an organic farmer. You did the three-year transition. You’re certified, and you’re now consistently adding organic amendments. I think you do. It’s all dependent on the other practices that you are employing, right? If you’re still needing to till, that’s going to, obviously, break down some of that organic matter. It’s going to help. It’ll just decompose more quickly. So adding organic matter every year, adding a lot of that manure every year, is really important. And one of the things that we found that was really neat was that cover crops, when you just look at them, and you just look at them from the meta-analysis, if you’re in an organic system, and you’re like: I’m going to grow cover crops this year to increase my soil organic carbon.’ You’re not going to see any difference. You don’t see that difference in soil organic carbon, like you said, until you have been practicing cover cropping for at least five years. And after 10 years, you really see a nice steady increase in your soil organic carbon.


Cover Crops and Tillage


TOM: So, with cover crops, it’s going to take a few years to really see that difference. Is it that we can’t measure the difference? Or it just doesn’t happen for a couple years? It just takes a couple years to get that soiling condition and see that change?

KATE: I think it’s all about the roots. So I think it takes a couple years for those roots because you leave the roots when you have cover crops, right? I think it takes a couple years for those roots to really start to decompose and to build up that soil organic matter. So that’s where I see the cover cropping taking a little bit longer than some of the other practices.

TOM: Right. It’s not like I can apply manure for a couple years and say: Whoa, I’ve improved soil organic carbon. I’m good to go.’ It’s something that I need to continue to add?

KATE: Yes, so it’s really important.

TOM: Do you see that as because in organic farming, a lot of times, we’re using a lot of tillage for weed control? Or is this just a part of how soil works, regardless if we’re in a no-till or till situation?

KATE: That’s a great question. I think part of it is to offset the impacts of tillage. I really do. And I think that we talk, sometimes, about the holy grail of organic no-till or organic reduced till. And I do think that if we were really able to get those farmers who are really striving towards that, I think they will see that needle moving up even more with soil organic carbon. I think that a lot of the studies that we looked at, while they were applying manure, let’s say, they were also doing tillage in the background, right? This is why you always have to look at everything. Everything happens as a system. So every decision you make stacks on the other decisions, and that’s going to impact your ultimate level of soil organic carbon.

TOM: So we’ve talked about cover crops, and you need three to five years to really start seeing the difference. And we’ve talked about organic amendments — largely, especially in a tilled situation, we need to add those every year to kind of see that benefit. No-till, obviously, is a struggle for a lot of people in organic farming. Talk a little bit about what you found there.

KATE: Well, of course, I mean, tillage really breaks down soil organic matter. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles with that one, and it’s really hard to do organic agriculture without tillage. It’s incredibly challenging. So I think that the more organic matter that we can add to the soil, the longer we can let the system rest using cover crops, especially during the winter months, if possible, to really hold the soil in place. I think that those are some of the best ways that we can start to really move that needle forward, in terms of organic farming, because I’m never going to say to an organic farmer: Well, if you could just do no-till, everything would be fine.’ Because it’s such a huge challenge to do that. So we always have to think about: Okay, if this is the way that I need to manage, maybe there’s a way we can reduce it, right?’ So, maybe, if you’ve got a plot, and maybe you’re doing potatoes or something, you’re just doing it in those alleys, and you’re not tilling the whole field. The more that we can start to think about ways where you can chip off some of that tillage, I think that’s going to really help move the organic movement forward, in terms of storing more and more soil organic carbon.


Stacking Practices in Organic Farming


TOM: It’s about stacking practices, right? How many of these practices? So what if you were able to do no-till, manure and cover crops? Is that exponentially better? Or is it just kind of a little bit better? How does stacking practices work, in general, for improving soil carbon?

KATE: I mean, I think, honestly, there’s not enough data. So, as a scientist, my science brain says: I don’t know because we don’t know.’ There are so few studies that would give you the actual analytical capacity to answer that question. But I can say that, from looking at the data from a more qualitative perspective, I think you’re going to get a pretty strong additive. I would think it would probably be more additive than maybe exponential. But you would start to see that accruing every year, right? Whereas, right now, if you’re doing tillage and organic amendments, you’re kind of just keeping it at a nice, high level. But I think if you start to do that, you’ll start to see this slow increase. And maybe even the first year, you get a big bang for your buck, and then it plateaus again. But it’s going to plateau at a much higher level. So, the more we can think about stacking practices — I mean, I can’t stress enough the importance of thinking of all of these things working together — that’s really going to boost your soil health.

TOM: So, when we talk about organic amendments, especially manure, is there a difference in the type of manure that farmers use? We’ve had the liquid dairy and swine manure to poultry manure that’s more solid to beef manure that’s coming off feedlots. Do those make a difference?

KATE: Oh, that’s a great question. I didn’t do the research on all of the different types of manure to be able to answer if a liquid manure is going to, say, not stick around as long as something that is a little bit more solid. But I would say that my gut says the more that you’ve got those solids, the more that that’s going to stick around for a little bit longer. So that goes back to what I was saying before. So you’re asking this really nice, nuanced question that’s like: Okay. So, now, you’ve been talking about carbon, but how good is that carbon, right?’ What’s the quality of those different kinds of additions, and then how is that changing the flavor of carbon that’s in the soil? And that’s an excellent question. I’d have to do some more reading to see if anyone has looked into that because those analyses are oftentimes overlooked. Oftentimes, we just want to know how much carbon. We don’t really care about the flavor. But I think that, for climate change, that’s a very important question because some carbon sticks around. That’s the carbon you want. And some of it cycles more quickly through the system. So, looking into the different kinds of manure and figuring out which one’s going to stick around for longer, that’s a great, great question and would be a way to fine-tune your management practice, such that you are doing the best you possibly can to try to build your soil organic carbon.


Farming Systems Project


TOM: And that might change geographically and by soil type and a lot of things, but yes. So, as a researcher, I know researchers always have their eye on: What do I want to know next?’ Or: What’s the next best question I want to answer?’ So, when you think of the study that you did and the practices you looked at and the changes in organic carbon, what is it you’re dying to know next?

KATE: So I am really excited because I’m working with Michel Cavigelli, who is a pretty famous scientist when it comes to organics, and he has the Farming Systems Project at the Beltsville Ag Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. And it’s one of the longest-term organic studies in the U.S., and we are working with him to look at — and one of my master’s students is focusing on — these flavors of carbon that we just talked about. So not just looking at carbon, but how. They started in 1995 up to now, so we’ve got a lot of data. And we’re looking at how, with different kinds of organic practices, how these systems are accumulating carbon. But not just that: the kind of the flavor of the carbon. So how is that carbon stored in the soil? So going a little bit deeper and trying to understand if this is a flavor of carbon that’s going to stick around a little bit longer. Or is this a flavor of carbon that’s going to cycle through the system? So really trying to get a more nuanced understanding of how practices like tillage and different kinds of organic amendments — in this case, we’re in the Mid-Atlantic, so it’s poultry litter that we’re looking at — how that’s going to change the soil organic carbon outcome. But in this case, we’ve got over 20 years of data, so it’s really exciting. 

TOM: So, in this case, you’re actually gathering primary data, right? It’s primary research when you’re going out into the field, and you’re putting that together and not looking at the study. 

KATE: Yep.


Organic Farmers as Experimenters


TOM: So very interesting. Okay. Well, Kate, I really appreciate you taking the time today to share with us some of your knowledge. It’s really exciting. Obviously, your enthusiasm comes through for what you do. But if you had — the final question — if you had two minutes with an organic farmer to convey a message to them about your research and what you found in organic matter, organic carbon, soil health, soil quality, what do you want them to know? What do you want them, after two minutes, to take away?

KATE: Oh, I love that question. I mean, organic farmers, and farmers in general, are like the ultimate scientists. They may not want to admit it. They’re the ultimate experimenters, right? So noticing on your farm what’s working, right? What is starting to build up that soil tilth, building that aggregate stability? Going with your gut on those things as an organic farmer, I think. I really always want to encourage farmers to notice these things and start implementing some of those practices and, then, talking to the extension agents who they work with and being like: I noticed this thing. When I add poultry manure after liquid dairy, I’m noticing this thing that’s happening.’ I’m always encouraging farmers to work together with scientists. But, certainly, I think if it came down to what does Kate want to say in terms of practices, I think that adding those organic amendments, adding interesting combinations of organic amendments, I think, is really going to be helpful when it comes to if you’re really focused on soil organic matter and soil health and microbial diversity and functionality of your soils. I think applying different cocktails of organic amendments, working as much as you can to try to reduce tillage — not saying that you have to eliminate it completely because I realize the challenges there — that is going to be some of the best things that you can do to really start to see some of those environmental outcomes, not just for your own farm, but also for the planet when we think about climate change mitigation.

TOM: Professor Kate Tully, University of Maryland, thank you for your time today. I appreciate it very much. Certainly, I look forward to you being back on another episode sometime in the future, maybe sharing more of your research, but thanks for your time. And to the listening audience, thanks for joining in another episode of Organics Unpacked, and be sure to stay tuned to next week when we bring you another episode and a new topic. Thank you.

OUTRO: Thank you for listening to Organics Unpacked. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and giving this show a five-star rating and review, so we can continue to help organic growers improve their operations.