The Soil is Alive!
Managing for soil health is one of the most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment. Positive results are often realized within the first year, and last well into the future. On August 25 and 26, the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District hosted workshops in Dawson and Americus, Georgia to emphasize the critical nature of soil health for both agriculture and the environment.
Richard Barrett demonstrates the difference between conventional tillage (left jar) and conservation tillage (right jar).
Richard Barrett, who leads the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Jimmy Carter Plant Materials Center in Americus, discussed the importance of soil health and cover crops. He demonstrated the difference between conventional tillage and conservation tillage with local soils, emphasizing the four components of managing for soil health.
Managing for Soil Health
- Minimize disturbance of the soil
- Maximize diversity of plants in rotation/cover crops
- Keep living roots in the soil as much as possible
- Keep the soil covered at all times with plants and plant residue
Richard also added that integrating livestock when possible would be beneficial in managing for soil health, which built the framework for Dr. David Wright’s presentation.
Dr. David Wright, a professor with the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Science, discussed an innovative conservation farm system which integrates cattle, grass, and row crops. Over the last several years, a team of researchers from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have been working to demonstrate the viability of sod-based rotation in regional farming systems. Dr. Wright presented multiple examples of increased water retention, higher yields, and enhanced soil health in sod-based rotation systems. More information about this farming system is available online at the following web address: http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/sod-rotation/
The Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District greatly appreciates the time of Mr. Richard Barrett and Dr. David Wright, as well as all of those who attended the workshop this week. Mr. Barrett and Dr. Wright’s presentations from the workshops are available below.
Soil Health Basics - Richard Barrett
Integrating Grass/Cattle/Row Crops into Conservation Farming Systems - Dr. David Wright
To learn more about soil health, please visit the USDA-NRCS Soil Health Portal.