It's Ugly, But It Works

Fears about the environment fuel a revolution on the farm

Time was when the Midwestern grain belt had the manicured look of a suburban lawn. In summer, rows of corn lined up neat as picket fences. In winter the plowed earth mimicked swatches of felt brushed clear of debris. But as this year's planting season gets under way, an increasing number of growers are "farming ugly" -- gunning their tractors over fields ajumble with great clods of dirt and raggedy stalks left over from last year's harvest.

That untidiness is symbolic of a major shift in farming methods that is working its way across the nation's breadbasket. Reason: an emerging consensus...

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