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Keeping your soil healthy

David Ekstrom Updated: 07/01/2013 @ 2:00pm

The weather has had a dramatic impact on the environment this year compared to 2012. With the amount of rain this season, Mhadi Al-Kaisi of the Department of Agronomy has a few suggestions that would be beneficial for preservation of the land.

“The high percentage of acres under wet conditions can force farmers to entertain the idea of prevented planting by using cover crops or leaving the ground bare. There is a possibility that some of the acreage may be left fallow without any cover crops or annual crops growing due to a shortage of cover crop seed at this time,” Al-Kaisi says. Cover crops are extremely important if the field is unable to grow a crop during the season or if it is left bare. When a field is left bare, the rich fertile top soil is subject to erosion unless there is an active root system present.

Another problem that may arise, as Al-Kaisi mentioned, is fallow syndrome. Fallow syndrome is the reduction of the population of fungi that are crucial for the next growing season. “Therefore, planting of any annual crop during prevented planting can have significant value in sustaining such microbial community known as arbuscular mycorhizae (AM), which is essential for nutrient cycling such as P. It was documented through research that corn grown the following season in fallow soils will exhibit P deficiency,” says Al-Kaisi.

Cover crops are very beneficial to soil health and preservation of the natural soil. Leaving a field bare is not only hurting the soil, but also the farmer by reducing loss of nutrients and surface runoff. The existence of any root system is recommended if a field needs to be left bare.

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