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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #395728

Research Project: Developing Strategies for Resilient and Sustainable Crop, Water, and Soil Management in Semi-Arid Environments

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

Title: Soil Health Assessment and Management Framework for Water-Limited Environments: Overview of Studies from the Great Plains, USA

Author
item GHIMIRE, RAJAN - New Mexico State University
item THAPA, VESH - New Mexico State University
item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item SCHIPANSKI, MEAGAN - Colorado State University
item SHUKLA, MANOJ - New Mexico State University
item ANGADI, SANGAMESH - New Mexico State University
item FONTE, STEVE - Colorado State University
item Mikha, Maysoon
item SLAUGHTER, LINDSEY - Texas Tech University

Submitted to: Review Article
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/20/2022
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Soil health refers to the capacity of a given soil to sustain productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health. Soil organic matter (SOM) is the central focus to assess soil health due to its impact on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils. There is increasing evidence that integrating multiple conservation practices could increase SOM and ultimately increase crop production. However, soils in the arid and semi-arid regions of USA are characterized by low SOM content and low fertility, with limited precipitation and high ambient temperature that affects plant growth. In this publication we reviewed current soil health assessments and highlighted the need to develop a soil health assessment for dry climates. Specifically, we established sensitive indicators to water management practices that could provide valuable information to assess soil health and to identify sustainable management for arid and semi-arid regions.

Technical Abstract: Healthy soils provide the foundation to sustainable agriculture. The soils in water-limited environments, such as arid and semi-arid regions, are often characterized by low soil organic matter (SOM) content, low fertility, and poor vegetation growth. Soil health degradation has been a significant challenge for agricultural sustainability and environmental quality in arid and semi-arid regions. Soil health assessment frameworks developed for more productive, humid, temperate environments that emphasize soil organic matter (SOM) as a key to soil health have not been very effective in identifying best management practices. Building SOM in arid and semi-arid regions is a slow process. This study reviewed existing soil health assessment frameworks, discussed their potential to assess soil health in water-limited environments, and highlighted the need to develop a framework that links soil health with key ecosystem functions in dry climates. It also discussed management strategies for improving soil health, including tillage and residue management, organic amendments, and cropping system diversification and intensification. There is increasing evidence that integrating multiple conservation practices complements each other to increase SOM accrual, improve soil structure, and ultimately increase crop production. Assessment of indicators sensitive to water management practices could provide valuable information in designing soil health assessment and management frameworks for arid and semi-arid regions.