Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Agrophysics
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 26, 2010
Publication Date: July 4, 2011
Citation: Karlen, D.L. 2011. Soil Tilth: What every farmer understands but no researcher can define. In: Glinski, J., Horabik, J., Lipiec, J., editors. Encyclopedia of Agrophysics. Heidelberg, London; New York: Springer Dordrecht. p. 794-798. Technical Abstract: Good soil tilth provides a stable base for agricultural production, while a limited soil profile reduces the amount and vigor of plant growth. Good soil tilth is also associated with good soil structure. This is important because a vast majority of the world’s agriculture depends upon rainfall to produce a reliable supply of food, feed, or fiber and when the soil has an unstable structure, infiltration of rainwater into the soil is often very limited. This encyclopedia contribution examines the history of soil tilth, soil and crop management practices that can affect soil tilth (including harvesting crop residues as feedstock for biofuel production), and other ecosystem services that are affected by soil tilth. Examining and understanding soil tilth as part of the entire system that contributes to improved ecosystem health and services (i.e., water quality, air quality, biodiversity, and efficient use of resources) is important for developing sustainable agricultural practices. Soil provides the foundation for existence of humankind, but it is the soil tilth that increases the value of that foundation with regard to its ability to produce a reliable and sustained supply of food, feed, fiber, and now fuel from the soil. Soil is precious and good tilth increases the value of the soil for all future generations.