Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #108523


item Carpenter Boggs, Lynne

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Conference on Exploring Organic Alternatives
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/16/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soil quality and inherent soil fertility are based on internal nutrient cycling and storage in the soil. These interactions are based largely on microbial activities. Habitat and food for diverse beneficial microorganisms can be built in the soil by maintaining a high soil organic matter (SOM) content. Not only does SOM provide microbial habitat, but it also is a great benefit to chemical and physical soil characteristics. Within ecosystem limitations of climate and parent material, we can enhance SOM through vegetation as well as organic and mineral inputs. Manure, compost, and biosolids are an obvious source of both N and OM for soil building. Continuous cropping with highly productive crops provides abundant growth both above and below ground to build or at least help to maintain SOM. Bare fallow periods should be avoided. Another source of SOM is the living biomass of the soil. A mollic topsoil with approximately y5% SOM contains 7-8 tons of living biomass per hectare. This living biomass feeds on, becomes, and is part of the SOM. SOM should also be preserved by minimizing oxidative carbon loss. Two management factors that seem to increase soil oxidation and CO2 release are intensive tillage and fertilization. Minimizing the frequency and intensity of both tillage and fertilization help to keep the soil habitat and community stable and maintain SOM. Low-outside-input and organic farms are more dependent than conventional farms on their inherent soil fertility. Maintenance of the soil's native nutrient supply and cycling is dependent on maintenance of rich and diverse SOM and soil biota. Focusing on these factors is an important step to sustainable farm management.