Practicing good soil management can help limit the amount of soil that leaves a piece of property and increase the soil’s biology. Property owners can reduce the amount of sediment that leaves their property through consistent land monitoring and implementing conservation practices. Soil nutrient depletion, loss of healthy soil characteristics, reduced soil productivity, and water pollution are just some of the consequences of improper soil management.

Soil Erosion

Soil erosion and its impacts are some of the most important but poorly understood environmental concerns we face. Soil erosion can be caused by:

  • Water
  • Wind
  • Tillage Practices
  • Development
  • Agricultural practice

Soil erosion is a consequence of overgrazing or leaving land bare, combined with damaging rains and winds. Stream banks are highly susceptible to soil erosion when left bare because of the constant force of the waterway. Removal of riparian plants can cause large amounts of land to be washed away. Maintaining vegetation or residue on the land year-round is the best strategy against excessive soil erosion. “No-till” is another land management strategy that can greatly reduce the amount of soil that leaves your land.

Soil Compaction

Soil compaction is a change in the soil structure and not just an increase in soil density. This causes the soil to have smaller pores, limiting its ability to absorb water, and decreasing crop yields.
Compaction is primarily caused by wheel and animal traffic. The size, weight, and frequency of traffic directly relates to the speed and level of compaction that is occurring. Wet soil is the most susceptible to soil compaction, so limiting heavy machinery operations during these times is ideal but can also be a tough decision. If soil compaction is causing you problems, contact the NRCS, an agronomist or Marion SWCD.

There are different types of of compaction, each with different causes and treatments. The types are:

  • Surface Crusting
  • Surface Compaction
  • Deep Compaction
  • Plow Pan

Soil biology

Soil Biology is one aspect of soil that is commonly overlooked but is important to the soil’s fertility. Diverse and balanced soil biology creates a high-quality soil. Soil is an ecosystem where thousands of different creatures interact and contribute to the overall health of the soil. One simple indicator of healthy soil biology is the presence of earthworms and nematodes, the more the merrier. Soils that have a healthy biology are much more resilient to extreme environmental conditions and severe disturbances. Those soils can also produce healthier plants that are more resistant to disease. Many land management choices, like spraying and tilling, if done improperly, will disturb and damage the soil’s biology.