QUANTIFYING SOIL HEALTH: MEASURING THE IMPACTS OF TILLAGE & COVER CROP PRACTICES ON NUTRIENT RETENTION, & SOIL PHYSICAL, BIOLOGICAL, & CHEMICAL PROPERTIES
Modern agricultural practices, such as monoculture cropping systems and mechanized tillage, have resulted in widespread soil degradation, erosion and biodiversity loss. The resultant degraded, “unhealthy” soils require increased inputs such as fertilizers and irrigation in order to maintain productivity. In recent years, however, proactive agricultural producers, extension agents and agencies have worked together to develop management methods such as cover cropping and conservation tillage that restore, maintain or improve the health of agricultural soils, thus reducing production inputs and improving soil properties. The overall objective is to increase the acreage of land that is being managed with conservation tillage including no-till and multi-species high-residue cover crops, by demonstrating and quantifying the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils managed under conventional tillage, conservation tillage and conservation tillage with high-residue multispecies cover crops. This project will incorporate several innovative strategies to increase the awareness and practice of soil health management tactics, building on a legacy of interrelated investigation, outreach and extension.
This research is supported by a conservation Innovation Grant (grant no. 69-3A75-14-260) from the USDA-NRCS.