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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #107504


item McCool, Donald
item Huggins, David
item Saxton, Keith
item Kennedy, Ann

Submitted to: International Soil Conservation Organization (ISCO)
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/21/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Achieving agricultural sustainability in the Inland Pacific Northwest will be challenging to producers, researchers, and policy makers and will require fundamental changes in current farming systems. Tillage-based agricultural systems dominate the region and have seriously degraded the soil resource base and caused adverse environmental impacts including air and water pollution. The long-term productivity of the region's soil resources are currently threatened by wind and water erosion, tillage-induced translocation of soil from ridge-tops and upper side slopes to lower landscape positions, declining soil organic matter levels, soil acidification, and reduced soil biological activity and diversity. Soil degradation effects have been masked by increased overall crop yields through technological advancements in crop breeding, and nutrient and pest management. However, conventional tillage-based crop management systems are not compatible with long-term sustainability.

Technical Abstract: Tillage-based crop management systems have been a major factor in the degradation of soil quality in the Inland Pacific Northwest, USA. Subsoils have become exposed by water erosion and tillage translocation, and tillage-based management has caused oxidation of soil organic matter, and adversely impacted soil fauna. Soil acidification increased rapidly since the introduction of commercial fertilizer. Conventional tillage-based cro management is clearly agronomically unsustainable. Reduced tillage and retention of crop residues on the surface will reduce erosion and the rate of soil degradation. True agricultural sustainability will be achieved only when the numerous agronomic and engineering challenges to no-till seeding practices are overcome and the practice is widely adopted.