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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Soil Is Alive

Authors
item KENNEDY, ANN
item Stubbs, Tami - WASHINGTON STATE UNIV.

Submitted to: Extension Publications
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2003
Publication Date: November 15, 2003
Citation: Kennedy, A.C., Stubbs, T.L. 2003. Soil is alive. Agricultural Horizons. Washington State University Coop Extension Newsletter. pp. 6-8.

Interpretive Summary: A healthy soil, one full of active microorganisms, is essential to agriculture. Healthy soil produces healthy plants efficient in nutrient accumulation; adequate growth for weed control; and extensive root systems for erosion control. One of the keys to healthy soil is the microbial population. The majority of soil microbes are beneficial to plant growth, but they need to be effectively managed. We have found that growers can do several things to improve conditions for microbes, which will in turn benefit crop growth and yields. The list of management practices to foster healthy soil and soil macro organisms and microorganisms includes practices that reduce tillage, maintain residue, rotate crops and minimize fallow. In this report we discuss the many beneficial functions of soil microorganisms. Many of these activities center around the decomposition of organic residues and nutrient cycling. We have found that growers can do several things to improve conditions for microbes, which will in turn benefit crop growth and yields. The list of management practices to foster healthy soil and soil macro organisms and microorganisms includes practices that reduce tillage, maintain residue, rotate crops and minimize fallow. This report will benefit growers and land owners who are interested in learning about soil microbial function and management options to enhance soil health and soil life.

Technical Abstract: The dry soil of summer, mud in spring and fall, and frozen soil in winter do not appear to be living, but soil is overflowing with life. A pinch of soil contains millions of tiny organisms critical to growing crops. A healthy soil, one full of active microorganisms, is essential to agriculture. Healthy soil produces healthy plants efficient in nutrient accumulation; adequate growth for weed control; and extensive root systems for erosion control. One of the keys to healthy soil is the microbial population. The majority of soil microbes are beneficial to plant growth, but they need to be effectively managed. The list of management practices to foster healthy soil and soil macro organisms and microorganisms includes reducing tillage, maintaining residue, rotating crops and minimizing fallow.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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