By-products and recycled materials may improve economic returns for many farms. During the 2017 Waste to Worth Conference, recycled wallboard was promoted as an excellent source for dairy barn bedding. Being non-organic, ground drywall is very absorptive and less likely to support bacterial growth. Therefore, cow udder health is greatly improved with recycled gypsum bedding as a low cost alternative to sand and sawdust. Continue reading
Farmers and ranchers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of soil quality/health to the productivity and sustainability of their agricultural system. Research and field observations have demonstrated that carefully managed manure applications can contribute to improved soil quality with limited environmental and social risks. However, a comprehensive assemblage of outputs and conclusions from research studies, field trials, soil labs databases, and other sources has never been developed. Continue reading
Tunsisa Hurisso and Steve Culman, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University
In short, the answer is usually both.
Soil organic matter is a mixture consisting of various compounds (e.g. simple sugars, cellulose, proteins, etc.) derived primarily from plants and microbes. It represents 1-6% by mass of agricultural soils, but plays a disproportionate role in soil function. Organic matter in soils acts like a sponge, holding nutrients (sequestration or stabilization) that become available to plants when organic matter is broken down (mineralization) by the collective action of the soil food web (mainly by bacteria and fungi). In addition to nutrients, organic matter also enhances the soil’s water holding capacity, making farmlands more resilient to periods of drought. In contrast, when organic matter is depleted due to repeated plowing and/or removal of crop residues from the field, the ability of a soil to hold water and nutrients will be greatly diminished. Therefore, growers should strive for both organic matter stabilization and mineralization processes to ensure short-term crop productivity and to build long-term soil resilience.
In 1987, a long-term cropping systems study started at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center. Three sets of 4-year crop rotations are replicated three times each year. The ninth cycle ended in 2016. This article will discuss some of the effects of using composted beef manure on soil properties and selected crop yields. Continue reading
Extension educators, crop consultants, and farmers working to improve soil health now have practical in the office or in the field resources. The new Iowa Soil Health Management Manual, Field Guide and a Soil Health Assessment Card are available at no cost.
The Iowa Soil Health Management Manual, Iowa Soil Health Field Guide, and Iowa Soil Health Assessment Card were recently published to increase understanding of soil health concept and their awareness of best management practices to protect soil health. These three publications are a collaborative effort between Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and can now be ordered or downloaded for free at the Extension Store.
The Soil Health Nexus was started with seed money from the North Central Region Water Network with representatives from 12 Land Grant Universities, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Inter Tribal Ag Council, National Soil Health Partnership and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The purpose is to increase access to soil health research and resources available to extension staff, farmers, and their advisors who help them implement management practices that improve soil health on their farms.
Manure and Soil Health: What is the State of the Science? Can manure be both an economic ‘Win’ and an environmental ‘Win’? What fields provide the best opportunity for Win/Win? What exactly are the environmental and soil health wins associated with manure? Can we test soils so that we better understand the value of manure nutrients and carbon? What are the biological processes in a soil system that benefit from organic fertilizers? These and other questions are the topics a new working group addressing Manure and Soil Health (MaSH) plan to address.