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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #339535

Title: Soil agroecosystem health: current challenges and future opportunities

item Veum, Kristen

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2017
Publication Date: 6/10/2017
Citation: Veum, K.S. 2017. Soil agroecosystem health: current challenges and future opportunities [abstract]. Canadian Society of Soil Science Annual Meeting, June 10-14, 2017, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. ISSN: 0318-2169.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soil health is a broad concept that emphasizes the ecological importance of soils, including sustained plant and animal productivity, human health, and environmental quality. In the United States, soil degradation and associated water quality problems have been widely documented. Improvement and maintenance of soil health may contribute to enhanced resiliency, sustainability, and productivity in agroecosystems while simultaneously minimizing environmental impacts. Ideally, a national or global soil health assessment would identify where soils are not functioning to their potential and aid in prioritizing management decisions. However, transforming soil health research and methodology into a widely available, affordable, and interpretable soil health assessment for producers presents numerous challenges. The minimum dataset of indicators must include biological, physical, and chemical soil properties, be responsive to management practices, and be linked to environmental outcomes with optimal spatial and temporal sensitivity. In the Midwestern US, the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) has been used to successfully integrate multiple soil health indicators and comprehensively monitor changes as a result of land management over time. The SMAF uses nonlinear scoring curves that have been parameterized using site-specific characteristics, such as soil texture and mineralogy. Multiple studies in the Midwestern US have confirmed that higher SMAF scores are associated with diversified cropping systems that reduce soil disturbance and maximize soil cover. Further research is needed to validate SMAF scoring curves, account for regional differences in soils, climate, and cropping systems, and ultimately provide producers with informed management recommendations.