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ARS Home » Plains Area » Temple, Texas » Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #400926

Research Project: Contributions of Climate, Soils, Species Diversity, and Management to Sustainable Crop, Grassland, and Livestock Production Systems

Location: Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Creating a producer toolbox for in-field soil health assessment: Active carbon

item SCHOTT, LINDA - University Of Idaho
item Krecker-Yost, Jenifer
item OLSEN, DAVEY - Amalgamated Sugar Company

Submitted to: The Sugarbeet
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/4/2023
Publication Date: 2/1/2023
Citation: Schott, L.R., Krecker-Yost, J.L., Olsen, D. 2023. Creating a producer toolbox for in-field soil health assessment: Active carbon. In: Alder, C., Neher, O.T., editors. The Sugarbeet. pp. 46-49.

Interpretive Summary: Sugarbeet growers, in general, have a strong interest in maintaining or improving soil health on their farms. To evaluate if improvement is being made however, they must first be able to measure soil health. Only then can they understand what impact their management practices are having on soil health. Unfortunately, there is currently no universally accepted method of measuring soil health in Southern Idaho. This project aims to increase adoption of soil health enhancing practices by developing tools to enable the sugarbeet industry to measure and assess soil health.

Technical Abstract: Active carbon (also known as permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC)) has been used as an indicator of soil health in many other cropping systems and climates but has not been evaluated in Southern Idaho. Active carbon has been shown to be more sensitive to management changes than total C or total organic C. This sensitivity is critical for producers who want to use soil health metrics to guide management decisions. Further, POXC, once calibrated to local soils and management practices, is an affordable metric due to handheld instruments. The goal of this study was to develop a rapid, low-cost tool that can be used by Amalgamated Sugar’s Crop Consultants, industry advisors, and growers to evaluate changes in soil health by measuring POXC, and to assess its sensitivity considering the wide range of management practices and soil type. From this research, ' POXC is an affordable and easy to measure soil health indicator. Active carbon was sensitive to management practices in Southern Idaho, such as tillage, irrigation type, cover crop usage, and manure/compost application. With so much interest in soil health by growers, consumers, and the overall industry, having a metric to measure soil health that is sensitive to local management practices, is significant.