|Managing Appalachian Soil Systems|
Impacting Soil Nutrients, Organic Matter, and Ability to Hold Water
Soil – including its structure, nutrients, organic matter, and ability to hold water – is one of the primary regulators of agricultural production. Yet, the ecology of the soil and the ways in which this complex belowground ecosystem interact with the plant communities above continues to be relatively unknown. Plant physiology and management practices at the land surface influence the rates and timing of soil decomposition and nutrient availability. At the same time, these belowground processes influence the quality and productivity of the overlying plant communities. Efficient management requires the integration of plant and soil communities into a single agricultural system.
Research in permanent pasture and silvopastoral systems holds great promise for identifying positive interactions within the soil due to soil-litter biota and root turnover. In these perennial systems, management of the soil as an ecosystem offers the potential to improve pasture efficiency by: reducing moisture loss; providing relatively continuous substrate for decomposers; moderating organic matter inputs and nutrient release; and regulating decomposition through faunal interactions. In addition, root growth may be significantly impacted by invertebrate animal activities. Pasture and silvopastoral systems create a mineral and biological matrix absent in conventional tillage agriculture and may provide important insights into the linkages between soil processes and plant productivity.
Richard W. Zobel, Plant Physiologist, Acting Lead Scinetist
J. J. Halvorson, Soil Scientist
Javier Gonzalez, Research Chemist
Thomas Kinraide, Plant Physiologist
Visiting Scientists/Research Associates