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.
Is there a correlation between soil health (or soil productivity) and manure? A Missouri team analyzed many soil health related variables and manure land application details, based on data collected under the Missouri Cover Crop Cost-Share Program and experimental plots. Continue reading
Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices
In December, I traveled to Indianapolis, IN to attend a meeting sponsored by the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus. The meeting was a kickoff to discuss a new grant the Nexus was recently awarded entitled “Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices.” Continue reading
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
What does soil texture have to do with manure? Sand bedding has become a popular choice at many dairies due to the cow comfort and health benefits it offers. A question raised at manure application time is how does sand in the manure impact the health of my soils? While using sand laden manure as a fertilizer source does add sand to the soil, the change is small and would take about 100 years for a silt loam soil to see a change in soil texture. 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
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.