Soil Building: The Key To Sustainable Farming

By Steve Savage | February 7th 2013 01:30 PM

Will we will be able to meet the growing global demand for food over the next few decades? Will we be able to do that in a way that does not degrade the environment? Surprisingly, the answers depend on how well we manage the soils we farm.

Soils are not just dirt. They are dynamic living systems with highly complex physical and chemical properties. Whether they are healthy and have desirable features depends on how they are tended, and historically many farming practices degraded soil quality rather than improved it. Fortunately, over the past several decades we have learned a great deal about how farmers can significantly build the quality of this critical resource.

It is extremely important that this knowledge is extensively applied (I will be specifically addressing the situation for the millions of acres of rain fed, row crop land in the American Midwest).

What A Healthy Soil Can Do For Farmers and the Environment

Healthy soils are rich in “large aggregates” – collections of the base minerals of the area (sand, clay, fragments of parent rocks, etc) which are held together with the living organisms and life generated complex polymers like humus from broken down plant matter and glomalin from beneficial fungal growth. These aggregates are loosely arranged with many “macropores” created by past plant roots and by the work of earthworms and other tunneling organisms.

Read more: Soil Building: The Key To Sustainable Farming — Science 2.0.

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