Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #277968

Title: Linking Soil and Water Quality in Conservation Agricultural Systems

item Franzluebbers, Alan

Submitted to: USDA-ARS Research Notes
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/5/2009
Publication Date: 2/5/2009
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J. 2009. Linking Soil and Water Quality in Conservation Agricultural Systems. JPC Research Note 13. 2009.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soil and water resources are fundamental components of agriculture. Soil quality can be determined by observing the functionality of soil after being subjected to different types of management. Some key functions of soil are to: supply nutrients to plants, allow rainfall to penetrate soil and provide water to roots, successfully filter contaminants and nutrients from water passing through soil prior to entry into groundwater, sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store C in soil organic matter, and decompose organic matter and various man-made chemicals to avoid plant and animal toxicities. Soil organic matter is a key soil property that drives many of these important soil functions, and therefore, soil organic matter is an essential component of soil quality evaluation. Conservation agricultural management (i.e., conservation tillage, cover crops, and perennial pastures) helps to build soil organic matter. Scientific literature was reviewed and summarized for soil and water quality responses from various conservation agricultural systems. Linkages between soil and water quality can be improved with future multidisciplinary approaches that include soil-profile distribution of organic carbon and nitrogen fractions. This more holistic research approach is needed to fairly evaluate the plethora of alternative management systems aimed at conserving soil and water resources. The effect of surface soil organic carbon accumulation on improving soil quality and preserving water quality is a concept that can be applied to the >100 million acres currently farmed with conservation tillage and the >100 million acres of pastureland in the USA.