Limited Disturbance

Soil Health: Principle 2 of 5 – Minimizing Soil Disturbance

Soil disturbance comes in three varieties, with each form impacting important soil functions.

Physical Disturbance: The most obvious form of soil disturbance is by tillage. Compared with soils under no-till soil health management, tilled soils have:

  • Decreased water infiltration and storage. Tillage destroys soil aggregates and severs natural pathways and pores created by roots, worms and soil biota. When these pathways are broken, precipitation slowly seeps into the soil, often at rates slower than the rate of rainfall. Soil water storage is decreased because the aggregates that create pore space for water to be held are destroyed, and organic matter is reduced. Soil organic matter can hold up to 20 times its weight in water (Reicosky, 2005).
  • Reduced organic matter. Tillage destroys organic matter by exposing it to air. When exposed to air, organic matter is consumed by opportunistic bacteria, and lost through erosion.
  • Increased Erosion. Water erosion increases because of reduced infiltration rates; and wind erosion increases because tillage leaves less protective residue on the surface.

Biologic Disturbance: While not as visually obvious as a physical disturbance such as tillage, biological disturbance also impacts soil function. All soil life needs energy to survive. That energy is provided by plants. Plants harvest CO2 and sunlight through photosynthesis to produce energy, namely sugars, some of which is transferred via roots to below ground life. A living root in the soil as much as possible is important. Cover crops in your crop rotation are a great way to extend and diversify living root presence. Proper grazing management will also increase the ability of perennial plant to harvest sunlight.

Chemical Disturbance: Chemical disturbance occurs with overuse of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. A diverse cropping system can help reduce reliance on pesticides and fertilizers.

 

News & Events

Bus tour to feature soil health, conservation practices

Bus tour to feature soil health, conservation practices

PIERRE, SD – A two-day bus tour beginning in Spink County on Aug. 3 is sure to appeal to people with an interest in soil health, conservation practices and regenerative agriculture. The tour will visit Menoken Farm, a conservation demonstration farm near Bismarck, ND,...

Workshop to help producers manage saline soils

Workshop to help producers manage saline soils

PIERRE, SD – Many producers have unproductive areas in their fields due to saline or sodic soils. If not managed correctly, those areas cost producers money and can grow larger over time. On July 28, the Opportunities for Saline Cropland workshop will be held near...

Soil Health School: Changing farms, changing lives

Soil Health School: Changing farms, changing lives

By Stan Wise South Dakota Soil Health Coalition It’s hard to know which events will change the course of a person’s life. For Austin Carlson, one of those events was Soil Health School. In 2018, a neighbor invited him and his father to attend the 3-day School. Now,...