Sharing lessons learned in the dirt

Written collaboratively by Anthony Bly and Ruth Beck.

A soil health field day was held at the research farm near Pierre on July 14, 2015, hosted by the newly formed SD Soil Health Coalition, SD Grassland Coalition, SARE, SDSU Extension and Ag Experiment Station, USDA-NRCS, SD No-Till Association, and the SDSU Dakota Lakes Research Farm. Speakers at the field day focused on the importance of soil health and factors which can lead to improving and maintaining it.

No-till crop production: soil health benefits

Crop production practices that eliminate tillage and do not disturb the soil can go a long way to improve soil health by:

  • Keeping the soil covered to protect surface aggregates from rain drop energy which can result in surface sealing and increased run-off potential of water and nutrients.
  • Providing undisturbed soil to promote below surface aggregation that enables greater water permeability and air movement.
  • Increasing habitat for earthworms, especially night crawlers. Night crawlers are important because they recycle old crop residue, mixing and turning it back into soil and developing vertical burrows which allow air and water to enter the soil. Both are important contributors to growing healthy crops.
  • Creating a more favorable environment for mycorrhizae fungi and other soil life important for nutrient cycling.
  • Providing a stronger soil that can better withstand heavy equipment axle loads

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