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Soil Quality Workshop

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Title: Soil Quality Workshop


1
Soil Quality Workshop
  • Presented by Eileen Miller
  • Resource Conservationist
  • USDA-NRCS
  • February 26, 2009

2
What is Soil Quality?
  • Soil quality is the capacity of a specific kind
    of soil to function, within natural or managed
    ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal
    productivity, maintain or enhance water and air
    quality, and support human health and habitation.
  • Soil Organic Matter and Soil Biology play a major
    role in soil quality.

3
What Soil Does - 5 Essential Functions
  • Regulates Water
  • Sustains Plant Animal Life
  • Filters Pollutants
  • Cycles Nutrients
  • Supports Structures

4
Walking Hand in Hand
Animal Biology
Soil Biology
Plant Biology
5
Managing for Soil Quality
  • Managing soil to improve soil quality entails the
    use of conservation practices that improve soil
    function. In general, practices that reduce
    disturbance, increase crop diversity, and
    efficiently cycle nutrients, water and energy
    will accomplish this.

6
How are we doing ? (Notice runoff from bare
fields.)
Photo taken By Ray Archuleta (April 29,
2007) Flight from Greensboro NC to Minneapolis, MN
7
How good does the buffer work?
Photo By Ray Archuleta. Flight from Greensboro,
NC to Atlanta, GA. April 22, 2007
8
(No Transcript)
9
Dont get bogged down with details…
Top 10 Crop Management Strategies to improve Soil
Quality…
10
1. Eliminate Erosion
Go Beyond T and Manage for C!
11
2. Minimize Stirring
Reduce Tillage
12
Manage Disturbance (Physical and Chemical)

After Secondary Tillage
After Primary Tillage
Before Primary Tillage
Dr. D.C. Reicosky, ARS, Morris, MN.
13
Tillage causes carbon losses
Reicosky, 2003
14
Soil Disturbance withdraws Carbon and Energy from
the soil bank total organic matter (OM) Lost in
19 days after tillage
2848 lb OM/a in residue of previous wheat crop
Pounds OM/acre
Type of Tillage
(Reicosky et al., 1995)
15
At the field level Tillage disrupts this
Ecosystem Processes!
C
NPK
Energy flow, Water cycle, Bio-Community Cycle
and the geochemical cycle
16
Physical disturbance (tillage) disrupts the
Nutrient Cycle
  • Allow plants to feed microbes and microbes feed
    plants

C
Nutrients from below
Nutrients from Fertilizer
NPK
17

Yield is Good!
3. Maximize Organic Matter Production
18

4. Maximize Organic Matter Return
Keep Soil Covered!
19
Understanding the Landscape
This soil is naked, hungry, thirsty and running a
fever!
Ray Archuleta 2007
20
Bare fields do not convert light energy into
chemical energy
Producers (plants and other photosynthetic
organisms)
Consumer
Chemical energy
Heat
Heat
Consumer
Ray Archuleta
21
Only Pores Connected to Surface Increase Flow Rate
University of Washington
22
Collaboration at work Cover Crops Keep soil
covered and provide nutrients.
23
Soil Temperatures
24
When soil temperature reaches...
140 F Soil bacteria die 130 F 100
moisture is lost through evaporation and
transpiration 113 F Some
bacteria species start dying 100 F
15 of moisture is used for growth 85 moisture
lost through evaporation and transpiration 95
F 70 F 100 moisture is used for growth
J.J. McEntire, WUC, USDA SCS, Kernville TX, 3-58
4-R-12198. 1956
25
5. GIVE IT TIME TO WORK
26
A
B
27
AGGREGATE STABILITY
  • Demonstration of Aggregate Stability-
  • Long term use of conservation tillage systems and
    cover crops result in increased organic matter
    and improved soil structure and aggregate
    stability

28
No-tilled field
Conventional-tilled field
Sediment runoff from conventional-tilled field
Clear runoff from no-tilled field
Impact of disturbed Aggregates
29
6. Grow Something Year-Round
Continuous Crop
30
Soil is not a machine, it is an Ecosystem. A
functioning ecosystem that needs cover at all
times.
Soil Surface
31
Most important to soil health is the active SOM
fraction (10 to 35) which is composed of
partially decomposed plant and animal residues,
microbial biomass and metabolites.
Most of whats left is the passive SOM fraction
which is resistant to microbial decomposition.
32
Value of Soil Organic Matter
  • Assumption of 2,000,000 pounds soil in top 6
    inches with each 1 SOM 20,000 lbs.
  • Nitrogen (5 of SOM) _at_ 0.50 lb N 500
  • Phosphorus (0.5 of SOM)_at_ 1.03 lb P 103
  • Potassium (0.5 of S) _at_ 0.30 lb K
    30
  • Sulfur (0.6 of SOM) _at_ 0.30 lb S 36
  • Carbon (60 of SOM) _at_ 0.002 lb C
    24
  • Value of each 1 SOM
    693
  • for selected nutrients

Data taken from Jim Kinsella and Terry Taylor,
2006
33
Overgrazing another source of disturbance
50
60
80
30
34
Bacteria Food Root Exudates
Root exudates are bacterial food.
35
7. Diversify Crop Rotations
Rotate Crops!
36
  • Capture the sun, Feed the soil
  • Time- duration and rate of plant growth
  • Density of plants
  • 3) Surface area of leaf

Ray Archuleta
Diversify RotationsPerennials
37
8. Prevent Compaction
Stay Off Wet Ground!
38
Soil Disturbance
Compaction
Slide 28
39
9. Optimize Nutrient Applications
40
Manage manure to provide food for soil microbes
that then feed the plants!
41
S
K
K
N
K
P
P
S
N
S
K
K
N
N
S
K
P
M
N
S
N
N
N
S
M
S
K
K
N
S
N
K
K
N
N
N
N
N
S
S
M
K
K
S
N
N
N
K
N
N
P
N
N
P
K
M
S
K
N
P
K
N
K
S
N
N
S
S
K
What the plant can access alone?
42
What is actually there?
43
Collaboration between root fungus and roots
44
10. Optimize Pest Control
45
Soil Organisms
FUNGI
BACTERIA
MILLPEDES
ARTHROPODS
46
Ecological System
The Microbial Food web of Grassland Soil
Fungus feeding mites
Mycorrhizae
Soil organic matter residues
Fungus feeding nematodes
Bacteria feeding nematodes
(Killham, 1994)
47
What happens when an organism is missing?
Fungus feeding mites
Soil organic matter residues
Bacteria feeding nematodes
48
In No-Till systems
Fungi-dominated food web
Nematode and fungal relationship (Fungi has
40-55 C-use efficiency)
49
GLOMALIN
  • A strong glue, glomalin, is produced by a
    beneficial fungus that grows on plant roots. The
    glue comes off of the fungus and is deposited on
    soil particles. This process leads to build up
    and stabilization of aggregates.

50
Glomalin in its natural state is brown.
51
In Conventional Tillage systems Bacteria-dominate
d food web (Bacteria have 20-30 C-use
efficiency)
52
Stability tends to Increase with Increasing
Complexity
Allen Savory Holistic Mgmt
53
Economics Disturbance Costs You Money
54
How Much Energy Does Farming Use?
1 ton of Urea Fertilizer 34 million Btu 1
gallon of gas 125,000 Btu 1 ton of Urea
Fertilizer 272 gallons of gas Average American
commute to work is 25 miles/day 6,000
miles/year/commute 272 gallons of gas 22 miles
per gallon/city
Twaddle, C 1982, Fertilizer Handbook, The
Fertilizer Handbook
55
MORE SOIL DISTURBANCE EQUALS MORE FUEL USAGE
Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance 10/05
56
TAKE HOME POINTS
  • Soil is a living ecosystem
  • Cover the soil ecosystem at all times
  • Capture sunlight-make carbon (energy)
  • Copy Nature (mimic diversity) with cover crops,
    intercropping
  • Control physical and chemical disturbance.
  • Converge cropping and grazing systems together
    when possible.
  • Conservation-THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY

57
Soil Quality is Not an End in Itself
  • The purpose is to protect and improve long-term
    agricultural productivity, water quality, and
    habitats of all organisms including people.
  • Soils must function to provide benefits.

58
Thank You!
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