Many of us see crops growing in a field just as food for people and animals. The reality is that these crops would not exist if it wasn’t for the support of the soil in which they grow. A growing number of farmers are becoming more aware of the effects of soil health as it relates to crop production. As our population grows to 9 billion people by 2050, healthy soil is going to be the key to producing enough food to feed all these people.
The following are some soil health facts to consider:
1) Healthy soil is made of about 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 5 percent organic matter, and 25 percent air.
2) One teaspoon of healthy soil contains 100 million to 1 billion individual ‘good’ bacteria and organisms.
3) Earthworms consume nearly 2 tons of dry matter per acre per year, partly digesting and mixing it to form healthy soil.
4) Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. Every 1 percent increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 gallons of available soil water per acre.
To ensure soils are becoming healthier, there are a number of soil health management practices producers can adapt to their farming systems. Many Chisago County farmers are doing these things. Conservation crop rotation improves nutrient use efficiency by adding diversity so soil microbes can thrive. Cover crops add nutrients, provide food for the soil microbes, and increase organic matter. Reducing tillage through no-till or strip-till increases organic matter and improves water quality among other things. Nutrient and pest management follows a prescription of the nutrient and pesticide needs of the crop at appropriate stages of crop growth. It ensures nutrients aren’t wasted and water quality is improved.
If you would like more information on how to improve soil healthy and still grow profitable crops contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service in North Branch at 651-674-7160.