Weather Forecast

Close

opinion

Soil Health Minute: Thanks to healthy soils

With the Thanksgiving holiday still fresh in our minds, it's a good opportunity to recognize functions that a soil health system provides. To have a little fun, I think I'll write this in a "Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes" style - I'm sure I will not be as funny but I'll try to put some good info in my notes.

Dear Soil Health Systems,

Thank you for:

Keeping my boots clean with your residue cover, amazing soil aggregation and effective water management through reduced tillage, crop selection and cover crops. I love being able to walk into fields after a couple inches of rain and not have to scrape my boots before I get back in the pickup. Your residue on the surface gives me something to walk on other than soil. Your connected soil pore space created by stable aggregates, roots and earthworms helps water move down into the soil through continuous channels rather than pooling on the surface or running off because of disconnected pores created by tillage. Your cover crops help manage moisture through transpiration, giving me something green to walk on and use water more efficiently with soil depth.

Keeping my skin from being exfoliated by soil on a windy day in the winter or spring. I appreciate not having soil blown in my nostrils, ears and eyes because your soils are covered and not as exposed to high wind speeds as other uncovered fields. I'm sure your neighboring fields are jealous! Having cover on the surface from crop residue or a living cover crop can really help keep your soil in place and have good field access in the spring when managed correctly.

Limiting plants that I can't identify by having residue to smother weeds and cover crops to outcompete weeds pre-planting, in skips or post-harvest. I'm not great at identifying weeds, but I can sure identify cover crops and that makes me feel smart when I walk into a field. I'll bet you prefer having an intentional cover crop seeded instead of weeds that show up whenever they see an opportunity. When used along with a solid herbicide plan, you have multiple modes of action working for you.

Giving me a healthy snack in October. I appreciate you feeding me peas, radish and other random cover crops in your mixes as I walk through fields. This helps me keep a balanced diet when I'm on the road! It also helps you keep the soil biological community well fed with root exudates and organic material inputs.

Keeping me on my toes with having some management approaches work well one year and maybe not as well the next. This keeps my brain actively working to modify approaches and gets me out in the field often to see what's happening. But, the farmers and I are on to you and keeping up with your twists and turns!

In the meantime, stay covered and stay put this winter. I'll be talking about you in the 2019 Café Talks and be back digging in your soils next spring!