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Soil Tech Note 20A- "So how do we mess it up??"

"So how do we mess it up??"

Excessive tillage –

  • Destroys organic matter in the soil by oxidation and can create hard pan.
  • Tillage when soil is too wet creates a “puddled” condition with structure units “smeared” together.
  • Physically destroys the habitat needed for earthworms, microbes, etc. in the soil


Over application of inorganic fertilizers and chemicals-

  • Can actually destroy microbes because of toxicity, drastic change in pH, etc.
  • Can lead to excessive loss of nutrients in saturated drainage water.


Monoculture farming-

  • Biggest problem is the crop diversity that is needed for healthy soils is generally not present.  Surface is colder and wetter.
  • With no crop diversity, microbial diversity is also absent leading to many problems including much poorer breakdown of surface residue.


Soil erosion-

  • Sheet, rill and ephemeral erosion will remove nutrients needed by the crops, will remove in-place organic matter from the soil, and can lead to general decline of soil productivity.
  • Small silt and clay particles produced during erosion can physically “clog” soil macro-pores.


Soil compaction –

  • Can lead to soils remaining wet, cause poor air and water movement in surface, and form a root restricting zone in the subsoil.   
  • Creates a very poor microbial environment for all species.