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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #312437

Title: Soil biology for resilient healthy soil

Author
item Lehman, R - Michael
item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item Buyer, Jeffrey
item Cambardella, Cynthia - Cindy
item Collins, Harold - Hal
item Ducey, Thomas
item Halvorson, Jonathan
item Jin, Virginia
item Johnson, Jane
item Kremer, Robert
item Lundgren, Jonathan
item Manter, Daniel
item Maul, Jude
item Smith, Jeffrey
item Stott, Diane

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/9/2014
Publication Date: 1/6/2015
Citation: Lehman, R.M., Acosta Martinez, V., Buyer, J.S., Cambardella, C.A., Collins, H.P., Ducey, T.F., Halvorson, J.J., Jin, V.L., Johnson, J.M., Kremer, R.E., Lundgren, J.G., Manter, D.K., Maul, J.E., Smith, J.L., Stott, D.E. 2015. Soil biology for resilient, healthy soil. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 70(1):12A-18A; doi:10.2489/jswc.70.1.12A.

Interpretive Summary: The living component of soil or soil biota represents a small fraction (< 0.05% dry weight), but it is essential to many soil functions and overall soil quality. Some of these key functions or services for production agriculture are: 1) providing and cycling nutrients; 2) pest and pathogen protection; 3) production of growth factors; 4) water availability; and 5) formation of stable aggregates to reduce the risks of soil erosion and increase water infiltration. Soil resources and their inherent biological communities are the foundation for agricultural production systems that sustain the human population. The rapidly increasing human population is expanding the demand for food, fiber, feed, and fuel, which is stretching the capacity of the soil resource and contributing to soil degradation. Soil degradation decreases a soil’s production capacity to directly supply human demands and decreases a soil’s functional capacity to perform numerous critical services, which are valued in trillions of U.S. dollars. The ability to reverse degradation of soil resources and improve soil services is intimately related to the ability to promote the biological functioning or health of the soil. Emerging tools and technologies have become available to dramatically advance our understanding of microscopic soil biota and provide the foundation to manage soil organisms to enhance primary productivity, provide multiple ecological services, rejuvenate soil resilience and sustain long-term soil resource quality.

Technical Abstract: What is a resilient healthy soil? A resilient soil is capable of recovering or adapting to stress; the health of the living/biological component of the soil is crucial for soil resiliency. Soil health is tightly coupled to the concept of soil quality (Text Box 1) and the terms are frequently used interchangeably. The living component of soil or soil biota represents a small fraction (< 0.05% dry weight), but it is essential to many soil functions and overall soil quality. Some of these key functions or services for production agriculture are: 1) providing and cycling nutrients; 2) pest and pathogen protection; 3) production of growth factors; 4) water availability; and 5) formation of stable aggregates to reduce the risks of soil erosion and increase water infiltration (Table 1). Soil resources and their inherent biological communities are the foundation for agricultural production systems that sustain the human population. The rapidly increasing human population is expanding the demand for food, fiber, feed, and fuel, which is stretching the capacity of the soil resource and contributing to soil degradation. Soil degradation decreases a soil’s production capacity to directly supply human demands and decreases a soil’s functional capacity to perform numerous critical services, which are valued in trillions of U.S. dollars (Pimental et al. 1997). The ability to reverse degradation of soil resources and improve soil services is intimately related to the ability to promote the biological functioning or health of the soil. Although this report primarily considers soil microorganisms, we fully acknowledge the importance of higher soil organisms to the maintenance of soil health and provision of soil services, but leave those phyla to future discourse. Emerging tools and technologies have become available to dramatically advance our understanding of microscopic soil biota and provide the foundation to manage soil organisms to enhance primary productivity, provide multiple ecological services, rejuvenate soil resilience and sustain long-term soil resource quality.