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

SDSHC Hires Communications Coordinator

SDSHC Hires Communications Coordinator

The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) proudly announces the hiring of Stan Wise as communications coordinator to assist in promoting soil health best management practices across the state. Wise’s duties include coordinating overall communications on behalf of...

Soil Health Practices Revive Salinity Areas Regenerating Dead Zones

Soil Health Practices Revive Salinity Areas Regenerating Dead Zones

White desert is how Frederick farmer, Don Nickelson, used to describe the saline patches on his land. “Nothing would grow there,” says the crop and cattle producer. Hitchcock farmer, Scott Hamilton understands. Saline patches began showing up on his land in the 1990s....

Register For 2020 Soil Health School To Be Held In Mitchell

Register For 2020 Soil Health School To Be Held In Mitchell

The 2020 South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) Soil Health School will be held in Mitchell, S.D., on the Stehly Farm and at the Highland Conference Center (2000 Highland Way). Registration is now open for the School which is scheduled for August 31- September 2....