Soil management concerns all operations, practices, and treatments used to protect soil and enhance its performance (such as soil fertility or soil mechanics). It includes soil conservation, soil amendment, and optimal soil health. In agriculture, some amount of soil management is needed both in nonorganic and organic types to prevent agricultural land from becoming poorly productive over decades. Organic farming in particular stresses optimal soil management, because it uses soil health as the exclusive or nearly exclusive source of its fertilization and pest control.
According to the EPA, agricultural soil management practices can lead to production and emission of nitrous oxide (N2O), a major greenhouse gas and air pollutant. Activities that can contribute to N2O emissions include fertilizer usage, irrigation and tillage. The management of soils accounts for over half of the emissions from the Agriculture sector. Cattle livestocks account for one third of emissions, through methane emissions. Manure management and rice cultivation also emit emissions.
Methods that significantly enhance carbon sequestration in soil include no-till farming, residue mulching, cover cropping, and crop rotation, all of which are more widely used in organic farming than in conventional farming. Because only 5% of US farmland currently uses no-till and residue mulching, there is a large potential for carbon sequestration.
- Controlling traffic on the soil surface helps to reduce soil compaction, which can reduce aeration and water infiltration.
- Cover crops keep the soil anchored and covered in off-seasons so that the soil is not eroded by wind and rain.
- Crop rotations for row crops alternate high-residue crops with lower-residue crops to increase the amount of plant material left on the surface of the soil during the year to protect the soil from erosion.
- Nutrient management can help to improve the fertility of the soil and the amount of organic matter content, which improves soil structure and function.
- Tillage, especially reduced-tillage or no-till operations limit the amount of soil disturbance while cultivating a new crop, and help to maintain plant residues on the surface of the soil for erosion protection and water retention.[clarification needed]
Advantages of soil management
- Maintain soil fertility
- Restore soil fertility
- Make the agricultural process an economic one
- Help increase yield
- "Agriculture: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions". EPA. 2015.
- Susan S. Lang (13 July 2005). "Organic farming produces same corn and soybean yields as conventional farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides, study finds". Retrieved 8 July 2008.
- Pimentel, David; Hepperly, Paul; Hanson, James; Douds, David; Seidel, Rita (2005). "Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems". BioScience. 55 (7): 573–82. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0573:EEAECO]2.0.CO;2.
- Lal, Rattan; Griffin, Michael; Apt, Jay; Lave, Lester; Morgan, M. Granger (2004). "Ecology: Managing Soil Carbon". Science. 304 (5669): 393. doi:10.1126/science.1093079. PMID 15087532.
- Soilquality.org - Soil Management Practices
- Soil Management - Penn State
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