I want to make our soil as productive as possible for future generations
E. Blake Vince
- Fifth-generation family owned farm
- 485 ha of farmland, temperate climate due to nearby Great Lakes and substantial rainfall
- Crops: zero tillage soybeans, maize and winter wheat
- Began zero tillage in 1983, developing today to a crop cover system to protect soil and build organic matter
- Since 2013, working on more extensive rotation, sowing the associated cover crops
- Working on the need to move away from the annual crop model through the deployment of perennial plants (maximising yield by capturing maximal solar energy cannot only be achieved with annual crops)
- Works to demonstrate the impact soil management has on improving water quality
- Pursues financial yield rather than physical yield
Through his “roots not iron” approach he:
- reduces his use of machinery
- lowers his fuel consumption
- reduces the amount of synthetic fertiliser applied by 25%
- reduces labour
- reduces the use of weed killer thanks to the allopathic effects of the cover crop
- reduces soil erosion
- increases the amount of organic matter
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Blake is a firm advocate of the need to stop tilling farmland. His farm has become a benchmark and a place for exchange. He was a Nuffield Scholar in 2013 and travelled around different countries meeting all the pioneers and leading experts in zero tillage crop cover techniques.
To feed the world and its 9 billion human beings in 2015, it is explained everywhere that agriculture must step up its productivity. Blake is struck by the fact that no one mentions improving soil quality to meet this goal.
This profile was written by the organisation NUFFIELD France, a member of the NUFFIELD International network. The NUFFIELD Scholarship supports agriculture professionals on an international research and development journey. It is a window onto the world and access to a worldwide farming network.