Over the past several years, state and federal agencies and researchers have been trying to come up with a definition for soil health. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service defines soil health as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” Another definition that is embraced by many is the improved function in terms of crop yield response to inputs, such as fertilizer efficiency. Continue reading
Nitrate levels above the drinking water standard of 10 ppm are frequently found in subsurface drainage tile water or groundwater below farm fields of the upper Midwest. Nitrogen comes from applied manure and fertilizer, along with natural mineralization of organic matter.
Soil health management refers to the preservation and improvement in soil physical, chemical, and biological properties to maximize the productive capacity of soil. Cover crops and reduced tillage are promoted for improving soil health; however, soil amendments such as application of livestock manure and municipal biosolids have received less attention as a soil health improvement practice. A literature review, funded by the North Central Region Water Network and the Soil Health Institute, was conducted to summarize and discuss results of studies reporting chemical, physical, and biological soil properties from application of livestock manure, animal by-products (i.e. compost), and municipal biosolids and to identify further research needs. Continue reading
Manure has value. That value may result from improvements in soil quality, increases in yield, and replacement of commercial nutrient required for crop production. Previous articles on manure’s value have focused on its soil health, environmental benefits, and tools for estimating manure’s value. This article will focus on the economic benefits of manure. Continue reading
Soils of Northern Great Plains are relatively young (11000 to 14000 years old) and have some of the highest organic matter levels (4 to 7%) of all mineral soils in the United States (Overstreet and DeJong-Huges, 2009). However, continuous cropping, poor management practices and loss of topsoil have adversely affected the soil organic matter levels. Continue reading
If manure increases formation of larger (macro) and more stable soil aggregates, several benefits may result for fields fertilized by manure compared to commercial fertilizer including:
- Reduced runoff and soil erosion;
- Increased water infiltration into the soil possibly leading to greater drought tolerance; and
- Partial offsetting of higher soil P levels resulting from manure application and limiting P loss to local surface water.
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
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.