Tips to Monitor and Improve Soil Health
Taking care of your soil’s health is critical for your farm’s productivity and profitability. It can take up to 100 years for nature to produce one inch of topsoil, yet we are losing billions of tons of topsoil per year due to poor soil management practices. Covering the soil, keeping something growing in it, and increased diversity helps restore soil organisms and other organic matter. Finally, monitoring the health of your soils, the respiration, PH, fertility and other aspects help you find out exactly what your soils and crops need in order to maintain peak performance throughout the growing season.
- Reduce or eliminate soil disturbance. Loose, tilled soil leads to erosion and organic matter loss. Disturbing soils exposes microorganisms living underground to the harmful sun’s rays and heat, killing and irradiating much of the organic matter in soil. Reduce the amount, intensity or depth of tillage, or incorporate no till farming. True no-till farming avoids disturbing the soil with tools like chisel plows, field cultivators, disks, and plows. You don’t have to switch to no till, but if you use a moldboard plow, maybe switch to something that inverts the soil a little less, or try strip till.
2. Keep the soil covered. Use cover crops, many of which are legumes that convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into a soluble form that other plants can absorb. Some cover crops accumulate other essential nutrients like phosphorus, but all cover crops add organic matter to the soil. If you don’t want to make that jump, there are other ways to give your fields similar protection. One simple solution? Keep crop residue at the surface.
3. Keep the fields working as long as possible. In addition to cover crops, pre or post-harvest, have a winter crop mixed in. For example, this could be a rotation with a hay crop or root vegetables. Try to have live plants in the soil as long as possible.
4. Monitor soil health. Using our soil sensors at Teralytic.com, we can help farmers see their farm’s soil health and other properties, such as oxygen levels near the root level, PH levels, fertility and other indicators of healthy soils.
As our sensors and software monitor your farm’s soil throughout the year, we can help surface issues, predict soil properties like farmers can for weather today, allowing farmers to stay on top of soil health throughout the year. Using our artificial intelligence, we can make recommendations to help improve the soil properties, such as what fertilizers and other soil amendments are needed where. Go to Teralytic.com to learn more.