Getting Down and Dirty With Soil Developed by : Hudson Minshew, Oregon State University Extension Service Susan Donaldson, University of Nevada Cooperative.
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Getting Down and Dirty With Soil Developed by : Hudson Minshew, Oregon State University Extension Service Susan Donaldson, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension USDA NRCS
What you’ll learn today Soil texture and structure The living soil Understanding soil erosion Reducing soil erosion Improving your soil Taking a soil sample NRCS, Mont.
What describes a good soil? Drains well Doesn’t crust after planting Soaks up heavy rains with little runoff Stores moisture for drought periods Has few clods and no hardpan Resists erosion and nutrient loss Produces healthy, high quality crops
NRCS, Mont. Soil is a foundation for: Growing plants and crops Supporting buildings, roads and bridges Housing a septic system Storing and filtering water
Sheet Rill Gully Types of water erosion A. Miller
Severe water erosion occurred during the “dust bowl” era in the 1930s USDA NRCS Photo Gallery
Signs of water erosion Small rills and channels on the soil surface Soil deposited at the base of slopes Sediment in streams, lakes, and reservoirs Pedestals of soil supporting pebbles and plant materials
Erosion Note both compaction and rill erosion OSU Extension Service
How to reduce soil erosion Use common sense Retain existing vegetation whenever possible, or add protective cover such as cover crops or mulch and plant litter Time grading, construction and tillage to minimize exposure of soil to erosive forces
How to reduce soil erosion Fit development to the terrain Divert runoff away from bare areas Create a barrier to the erosive agent Keep runoff velocities low
How to reduce soil erosion Minimize length and steepness of slopes Trap sediment on-site Reduce tillage and number of passes Maintain drainageways to handle increased runoff
Use a buffer strip between water’s edge and cultivated or grazed land to help catch soil particles that may erode. USDA ARS
Ungrazed or unharvested buffer strips OSU Extension Service Create barriers Reduce velocities Trap sediment
OSU Extension Service Minimize length and steepness of slopes Slow runoff velocities Increase infiltration Contours and terraces
OSU Extension Service Sometimes the solution involves engineering
Overgrazing and letting water run across the disturbed ground is a surefire way to increase erosion Conservation District, Bozeman, Mont.
Plant windbreaks to decrease soil loss from wind erosion NRCS, Bozeman, Mont.
Soil quality An assessment of the capacity of a soil to: –Sustain plant and animal productivity –Maintain or enhance water and air quality –Support human health and habitation
Soil quality Soils vary naturally in their capacity to function, so soil quality is specific to each type of soil Soil quality is the dynamic quality of the soil. Soil quality is affected by management, such as increasing organic matter (increases quality) or tilling when wet (decreases quality)
How can I manage my soils to improve them? Avoid compaction by: Reducing tillage of wet soils Reducing traffic on wet soils Increase the organic matter content by: Adding compost and manure Growing and tilling in cover crops (green manure) Maintain cover with vegetation
Avoid walking or driving on wet soil OSU Extension Service
Composition of a compacted soil Note the reduced air space in a compacted soil. BeforeAfter 70% 50%
What information does a soil test provide? Soil textural analysis pH and salts Soil nutrient content Fertilizer recommendations
A fertile soil has: The right kinds and amount of nutrients to grow pasture or crops Low salinity and sodium Close to a neutral pH (about 7) Plenty of organic matter USDA NRCS
How often should I take a soil sample? Prior to seeding a pasture At least every 3 years for established pastures Frequently enough to make good decisions on fertilization When it is cost effective
How to take a sample First, select the site. Your soil sample should represent only one soil type or soil condition. OSU Extension Service
Each sample should consist of sub-samples taken from about 15 locations within the same soil type or sampling area. OSU Extension Service How to take a sample
Use the “slice” method for a representative sample. UNCE, Reno, Nev. How to take a sample
Summary Know your soil texture Remember that the soil is a living system and you need to support that environment Erosion is costly - protect your soil with vegetation or mulches
Summary Continually improve the soil quality by adding organic matter and practicing conservation management techniques Use soil tests to determine whether your soil has the necessary nutrients for good productivity
Homework Determine soil texture at several locations on your property by the look-and-feel method. Survey your property for signs of erosion. Can you design solutions? If you have not done so recently, submit a soil sample to a laboratory. The results will be used in other classes.