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Soil Management

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Heath standing in a field with soil testing equipment
  • Reduce soil disturbance.Tillage has long been used for weed control and seed bed preparation. Too much soil disturbance leads to compaction and destroys the soil structure. Good soil structure has pore space for water storage, reduces erosion, and does not inhibit root growth.
  • Add organic matter through amendments or living roots.Organic matter feeds the soil biological community that in turn builds soil structure. Increase soil organic matter through the direct application of amendments such as compost, manure or mulches, and through the use of cover crops. Frequent use of manure can result in high levels of soil phosphorus and potassium which can contribute to poor water quality. Keep living roots in the soil year-round.
  • Never leave the soil bare.The use of cover crops is a key soil-building practice. They protect the soil surface between cash crops or near perennials. Cover crops are planted to reduce erosion, attract pollinators, break up compacted soil, supply nutrients, smother weeds and discourage pests.
  • Support belowground biodiversity.Growing a mixture of plant supports the diversity of life below the soil. Some organisms prefer green wastes while others use woody brown debris for energy and body building. Provide a variety of plant materials to restock the soil organisms’ nutrient needs.
  • Use chemicals with caution.The overuse of fertilizers and pesticides can impact soil organisms. Understand the effects of chemicals before you apply them and follow the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Concept: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place.