How Dung Beetles Improve Health Of Regenerative Farms
Dung beetles are the strongest animals in the world. They can pull 1,141 times their body weight. That’s like a human pulling six fully loaded double-decker buses. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Unlike the dung beetles I watched with curiosity as a kid in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) that would roll a ball of elephant dung much larger than themselves, the dung beetles in North Carolina are mainly tunneling (lay eggs in the soil beneath the cow pat) or dwelling (lay eggs in the cow pat). Tunneling dung beetles are the most beneficial to soil and pasture by acting as living feritlizers. By burying cow poo as food for their young, they aerate, introduce organic matter, and cycle the nutrients that are present in cow dung to the soil. The dwelling beetles have the additional benefit that they compete for manure with horn flies that can irritate the cows.
Why Grow a Food and Medicine Forest?
A Food & Medicine Forest attempts to mimic nature. It provides bio-diverse, perennially growing food and medicine and tools. The benefits of growing a Food & Medicine Forest range from carbon capture to self-reliance to increasing biodiversity. We have started started converting an old hay field intoto a Food & Medicine Forest. This area of the farm contributes heavily to our health and is one of the reasons Sue, who is a cancer survivor, has not taken any prescription or over-the-counter drugs in 8 years.
We’ve allowed wildflowers and ‘weeds’ to grow and added native species of shrubs, trees and flowers, and perennial food plants. Our goals have been multi-fold. In no specific order, these include:
Plants For Biodiversity and A Changing Climate
One of the key measures of environmental health is biodiversity. As of June 2023, Ozark Akerz is home to over 600 species of plants, insects, reptiles, birds, fungi, mammals etc.
Our strategy for increasing biodiversity at Ozark Akerz has taken many forms. This includes but is not limited to:
In terms of labor, planting native perennial plants in the food and medicine forest has been the most intensive. We have planted 130+ trees, shrubs and other perennial plant, all of which require regular watering, weeding, and hand picking insects like Japanese Beetles every morning for 3-4 weeks during summer to ensure they have a fighting chance to grow. The increase in plant species has had a knock-on effect on the increase in insect, reptile and bird species.
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