Soil management is the application of operations, practices, and treatments 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. Using biochar may decrease N2O emissions from soils by an average of 54%.
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. Similar practices such as arable land conversion to grasslands, crop residues and cover crops have been proposed in Europe
- 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 is the breaking of soil, such as with a plough or harrow, to control weeds. 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.
Advantages of soil management
- Maintain soil fertility
- Restore soil fertility
- Make the agricultural process an economic one
- Help increase yield
- Reduce soil erosion
- "Agriculture: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions". EPA. 2015.
- "Biochar decreased N2O emissions from soils". Social Impact Open Repository. Archived from the original on 2017. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
- 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.
- Lugato, Emanuele; Bampa, Francesca; Panagos, Panos; Montanarella, Luca; Jones, Arwyn (2014-11-01). "Potential carbon sequestration of European arable soils estimated by modelling a comprehensive set of management practices". Global Change Biology. 20 (11): 3557–3567. doi:10.1111/gcb.12551. ISSN 1365-2486.
- Soilquality.org - Soil Management Practices
- Soil Management - Penn State
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