Healthy Soil Facilitates Sustainable Farming

Tanja Folnovic

Soil is the basis of farming. It delivers water and nutrients to crops, physically supports plants, helps control pests, determines where rainfall goes after it hits the ground, and protects the quality of drinking water and air as well as wildlife habitat. Throughout human history, our relationship with the soil has affected our ability to cultivate crops and influenced the success of civilizations. This relationship between humans, the earth, and food sources affirms soil as the foundation of agriculture. Soil forms from fresh parent material through various chemical and physical weathering processes. Soil organic matter is incorporated into the soil through the decomposition of plant residues and other biomass. Although these natural soil building processes regenerate the soil, the rate of soil formation is very slow. For this reason, soil should be considered a nonrenewable resource to be conserved with care for future generations. Due to the time required to generate new soil, it is imperative that farm practices utilize best management practices to prevent soil erosion. The soil which is first eroded is typically the organic and nutrient enriched surface layer which is highly beneficial for plant growth. The primary on-site outcome is reduced crop yield since only the less fertile subsurface layers remain.


Importance of good soil conditions

The goal of soil management is to protect soil and to enhance its performance. This will allow you to farm profitably and to preserve future environmental quality. Soil management affects all operations, practices, and treatments that are used to protect the soil and to enhance its performance. The most common soil management practices that determine soil quality are:
  • controlling farm machinery traffic on the soil surface helps to reduce soil compaction, which can reduce aeration and water infiltration
  • cover crops keep the soil anchored and covered in off-seasons so that the soil is not eroded by wind and rain
  • crop rotations for row crops alternate high-residue crops with lower-residue crops to increase the amount of plant material left on the surface of the soil during the year to protect the soil from erosion
  • nutrient management can help to improve the fertility of the soil and the amount of organic matter content, which improves the soil structure and function
  • tillage, especially reduced-tillage or no-till operations limit the amount of soil disturbance while cultivating a new crop, and help to maintain plant residues on the surface of the soil for erosion protection and water retention
  • use of Agrivi farm management software for recording and tracking of all farm activities on the soil, like soil tillage, sowing of crops, and other soil maintenence practices

Soil management practices allow farmers to manage farm soil for optimum crop yields and at the same time maintain or improve the capacity of the soil to provide essential ecosystem functions. Soil is the foundation of terrestrial life. It provides many essential ecosystem functions, such as providing a medium for plants to grow in, absorbing, filtering, and slowly releasing water, housing bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthroprods, and higher level animals, recycling nutrients and organic wastes, and storing and releasing greenhouse gasses.


Good soil achieves sustainable agriculture

Sustainable Soil Management

It is evident that, in order to maintain and increase food production, efforts to prevent soil degradation must become a top priority of our global society. If mismanagement of soil resources continues to diminish the fertility of the soil and the amount of productive arable land, then we will lost a precious and essential pillar of sustainable agriculture which strives to protect environmental resources, including soil, and provide economic profitability while maintaining social equity. By embracing certain modern-day technologies, proven best management practices, and learning from the past, our society will be able to continue to conserve soil resources and to produce food supplies sufficient to meet current and future population demands.

Keep good soil conditions by following soil management practices and use Agrivi software to enhance your farm production.

Text sources: Penn State Extension || University of Minnesota

Image sources: Soil Quality || Slide Share