What is the importance of soil management in an organic farm setting?

Some important soil management objectives include building and maintaining soil organic matter and biodiversity, preventing erosion, improving aeration, minimizing compaction, and providing sufficient nutrition to plants. It plays an important role in soil management practices that are carried out before sowing. Organic matter improves soil structure, improves water and nutrient retention capacity, protects soil from erosion and compaction, and supports a healthy community of soil organisms. Agricultural land management is very diverse, it develops over time and is continuously adapted, driven by socioeconomic, biophysical and technological factors.

It is recommended to measure the soil during the “rest” periods of the agricultural calendar, such as in the fall after harvest or in the spring before planting a crop. The Department of Agriculture's NRCS offers cost-sharing assistance for actions that lead to improving soil quality and provides guidance for creating a plan to manage nutrients and reduce runoff. The soil protection review should be updated annually and implemented as part of the cross-compliance requirements (GAEC1) (good agricultural and environmental conditions). The process of nutrient use by soil organisms is called immobilization and is an underlying cause of pale green leaves.

By analyzing their soil, farmers can see the exact amount of nutrients in the soil, the humus content and the pH value. Soil organic matter amendments promote soil aggregation and provide waste that helps form soil organic matter. Much of the carbon contained in soil amendments is lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide as organic matter decomposes. Applying chemicals in the right proportions is a matter of environmental and economic concern for farmers.

Ultimately, all the organic matter reserves in the soil, whether thousands of years old or recent, come from organisms that were once alive, such as plants, microbes and animals. Organic amendments generally release one-third to one-half of their total nutrients during the first year after application. Some farms are largely self-sufficient, producing their own compost and growing cover crops to increase soil fertility and organic matter. Soil organic matter is the organic component of soil that consists of all living organisms in the soil and previous living organisms in their varying degrees of decay.

This chapter contains practical information on managing nutrients to maintain adequate forage production while protecting soil and natural resources. There are several tillage systems, depending on the type of product, the condition of the soil, the crop planted and agricultural practices. Farm management cannot change soil texture, so it is important to consider soil texture when selecting a field site for crop production.

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