Job offersmore »

Tweeting Growers

Top 5 - yesterday

  • No news has been published yesterday.

Top 5 - last week

Top 5 - last month

Exchange ratesmore »

New research looks at how soil health changes over time

What’s in healthy soil?

Do the best yields come from the healthiest soil? Not necessarily. But new research suggests farm management practices can impact soil health – and improve a crop’s chance of thriving when times get tough.

By Lisa McLean for AgInnovation Ontario

Dr. Amanda Diochon, a professor in the Department of Geology at Lakehead University, is part of a multi-partner research study that aims to develop an improved soil health test for Ontario.

The project focuses on how different management practices impact soil health from four Ontario sites – in Ottawa, Delhi, Elora and Ridgetown. For Diochon’s part, she’s tracking how components of organic matter change over time.

“It’s possible for a farmer to optimize fertilizer levels and optimize yield, but that doesn’t necessarily mean soil will be healthy,” says Diochon. “And sometimes yields may be consistent across seasons or crop locations, but soil health in different fields can be variable.”

So if it’s possible to produce a high-yielding crop with less-than ideal soil, why does soil health matter? Diochon says the answer is simple: insurance. Healthy soil will be more productive when conditions are less than ideal.

Photo source: Lakehead University

Healthy soil is more resilient and can deal with stressors brought on by a changing climate. For example, soil with healthy levels of good quality organic matter will hold on to more moisture when climate is dry. And soil with a more diverse and productive microbial community is better able to buffer change.

Diochon is evaluating the effects of crop rotation and tillage on the different properties of organic matter. The key, she says, is in finding indicators in organic matter that are sensitive to change.

“We know what soil health is, but can we measure it? Nobody has that nugget yet,” says Diochon.

Her research team has zoned in on seven key indicators that she says will respond over time. Together, the indicators allow her to measure the physical, biological and chemical properties in soil.

“It’s hard to detect change by measuring organic matter or organic carbon,” says Diochon. “But by looking at certain attributes in organic matter, such as light fraction or sand fraction, we see they are sensitive to change.”

By examining soil samples from four sites in Ontario, Diochon says researchers will have a more comprehensive understanding of how organic matter responds across location and soil type.

“The hope is this research will identify best management practices to maintain or enhance soil health,” says Diochon. “We want to make it as profitable as possible for farmers while minimizing the impact on the environment – and ultimately enhance the resiliency of the entire system.”

This research is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Source: Ag Innovation Ontario

Publication date: 11/22/2016



Other news in this sector:

3/2/2018 Magnesium deficiency of hydroponic and container grown basil
2/23/2018 US: Four scientists join Inocucor Scientific Advisory Board
1/29/2018 Local raw material provides alternative to coconut products
1/25/2018 Portugal: Asfertglobal wins Green Project Award 2017
1/23/2018 PRO-MIX is launched in France
1/19/2018 US (NC): Yara opens new warehouse facility in Wilmington
1/18/2018 UK: Amendments to AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209)
1/18/2018 US (CA): WISErg raises $19.2 million to build California plant
1/9/2018 Video: Why your controlled release fertilizer didn't work as expected
12/21/2017 Levity CropScience appoints American distributor
12/7/2017 Use of biostimulants to increase in the UK, says survey
12/6/2017 "UK fertiliser industry faces twin challenges of being in the EU and leaving it"
12/5/2017 Chinese growers show interest in Italian expertise in biostimulants
11/30/2017 China: Price of winter storage fertilizer continues to rise
11/24/2017 AkzoNobel breaks ground for European micronutrients expansion project
11/17/2017 US (FL): Effect of phosphorus rates on tomato in calcareous soil
11/7/2017 Yara signs Ethiopian mining agreement for potash production
10/31/2017 UK: New soluble powders plant for Omex Agrifluids
10/25/2017 "UK is 30-40 years away from 'eradication of soil fertility'"
10/25/2017 Foliar applications increase yield but modulate tomato fruit quality