There is a good discussion occurring on one of Jerry's Farm Question threads. In an effort to continue this discussion I have started this thread.
Jerry tells about his efforts thus far on his farm. He has made amazing progress in his farm's fertility as well as tackling several erosion problems.
I too have seen great gains on my previously worn out farmland. I, like Jerry did not have limitless resources so as to be able to dump money on my soil. What we did have was manure, the ability to mow weeds and grass and the desire to make improvements.
Jerry and I do not know each other, yet our approach to farming mirrors each other. We both divided our farms into small fields or paddocks. We grazed these areas and mowed/clipped the vegetation. The next thing we did was stop erosion and apply manure and compost.
I am a firm believer that if a farmer can do nothing else, timely mowing will help him make great gains. The clover and grasses will start to recover and grow. The grazing animals moved often from pasture to pasture, deposit manure. They also cause the grass to regrow during the rest period between grazing rotations.
I also saw great improvements on my farm from frost seeding clover. The clover seed is broadcast in very late winter or very early spring when the frost causes the ground to "honeycomb". The only equipment I use is a small spin seeder slung on my shoulder. The clover supplies needed nitrogen to the other grasses. The manure and mulch from mowing starts to increase the organic material available to the growing crop.
I plant a little corn followed by a small grain crop in a 5 year rotation around hay and pastures in my paddocks. I use some fertilizer (organic) on the year that I plant the heavy feeding crop of corn. The grain crop that follows, cleans up the extra phosphorus and nutrients in the soil.
Compost helps to buffer pH in the soil, but a liming program based upon soil tests, is probably one of the best ways to spend your money. In this regard I should follow my own advice a little better.
The take away here is that farm fertility will be increased by mowing, rotational grazing and the application of manure and compost. Farming in such a way to manage water run off enhances these efforts. This type of farming is the foundation for sustainable self sufficiency that will ensure your success on your piece of land.