Soil Health

Elucidating relationships between the soil food web, soil processes, and agroecosystem function is a critical step toward a more sustainable agriculture. Soil and crop management practices can alter these relationships, and their effects can persist even after imposing new management practices. In 2005, the Cornell Organic Grain Cropping Systems Experiment was established in central New York. Four cropping systems that varied in fertilizer inputs, tillage practices, and weed control were compared: High Fertility, Low Fertility, Enhanced Weed Management, Reduced Tillage.
More meaningful and useful soil health tests are needed to enable better on-farm soil management. Our objective was to assess the relationship between field management, soil health, and soil microbial abundance and composition (phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA)) in soil collected from two fields (farmer-designated ‘good’ versus ‘poor’) across 34 diverse (livestock, grain or vegetable cropping) farms in Maritime Canada.
Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health. Anthropogenic reductions in soil health, and of individual components of soil quality, are a pressing ecological concern.