Submitted to: South Dakota No Till Association Annual Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 25, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Soil health is defined as the capacity of soil to function. Functions of soil include sustaining biological productivity, regulating water flow, storing and cycling nutrients, and filtering, buffering, and transforming organic and inorganic materials. Soil also functions as a habitat and genetic reserve for numerous organisms. Consequently, management strategies that optimize multiple soil functions have a greater potential for improving soil health over management strategies that focus on a single function. Recent efforts to quantify soil health have resulted in the development of tools to evaluate the impact of management on the soil and environment. These efforts have increased awareness among agriculturists regarding the importance of soil to agricultural and natural resource sustainability. While much has been accomplished in the area of soil health, much more needs to be done. Research efforts to monitor and index indicators of soil health need to be balanced with efforts to clearly define relationships between the status of indicators and specific soil functions. Greater relevance to these efforts may be achieved by adopting a broader perspective of soil health; a perspective that establishes strategies for agricultural and natural resource sustainability up front, and then uses indicators encompassing all aspects of agroecosystem performance.