If you've ever wondered why healthy soil is actually important for your farm or ranch, you're not alone. Many farmers and ranchers don't realize the multitude of benefits that come with improving soil health. The truth is, healthier soils can mean healthier plants, increased yields, and ultimately, an improved bottom line.
Hear Ashley discuss how soil health impacts every aspect of your farm or ranch, even your family.
Soil itself is mainly made up of water, oxygen, organic matter, mineral particles, and living organisms. But when we really take a look at the health of our soil, we're going to be looking at organic matter. The more we can increase the organic matter, the healthier our soils will be. Organic matter helps improve critical functions of our soils, including:
- Increased water retention
- Better ability to convert nutrients for the plants to uptake
It's important to understand that soil is what helps deliver essential nutrients like water and oxygen to the plants. Soil also helps with root structure, which directly correlates with the production of that plant and health.
Building soil health essentially just means building the life in our soil, the structure of our soil, and increasing the organic matter in our soils.
Those 3 things are key to developing a good environment for that plant to flourish in, whether it's pasture, hay ground, row crops, or any other plant.
When we're building the health of our soil, we are building the capacity for land production today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.
Additionally, the healthier your soil is, the better it can infiltrate water. As they say, "it's not about how much rain you get, it's about what you do with the rain when it does come."
The healthier your soil is, the better it can infiltrate water. As they say, it's not about how much rain you get, it's about what you do with the rain when it comes.
When you're building soil health, you're building aggregates, which are essentially little clumps around the roots. Some people compare them to the texture of cottage cheese. Soil aggregates help with...
- Oxygen flow
- Water retention
- Building underground highways for biology
- Converting nutrients faster
- Getting nutrients into the root zone
According to the Food & Agriculture Organization, healthy soils and high organic matter can help store 20 times its weight in water!
Building aggregates is essentially like building highways for the biology underground. Aggregates enable soil microbes and nutrients to move more freely around, convert more nutrients faster, and get them to the root zone for that plant to uptake.
In the bigger picture, aggregates in the soil help plants become more resilient to drought, water erosion from water runoff, and even disease.
When plants are able to access and uptake more nutrients, it's obvious that the plant will become more nutrient-dense. Whether you have pastures for livestock grazing or row crops for human consumption, increasing nutrient density is hugely beneficial.
Equally as important, healthier soils promote an increase in production and yield. In fact, the Food & Agriculture Organization also states that healthier soils and higher organic matter can increase yields by up to 58%!
When the soil biology is more active and converting more nutrients and available to plant, that will eventually allow you to cut back on commercial fertilizer.
As we're all aware, fertilizer prices are trending up and aren't showing any sign of slowing down. Even being able to cut back just slightly on these expensive inputs will have a direct impact on your bottom line, without interfering with the production of your plants or yields.
We've talked about healthy soils creating stronger, healthier, more resilient plants. But did you know that increasing your soil health can also impact livestock?
Think about it. If healthy soil causes healthier plants, and livestock consume those plants... it's a no-brainer! They're getting more nutrients in every mouthful they take!
The more nutrients an animal gets, the healthier it will be and the more productive it will be! It's a full circle system that results in less animal sickness, better milk production, higher ability to maintain body weight, increased feed conversion, and more!
To crop farmers: healthier soils will increase your yields. Healthier soils can decrease your inputs. And that all leads to less financial stress.
Even more, if your crops are healthier, consumers are receiving healthier produce with better nutrient value.
To beef producers: you have healthier cows, that equals healthier beef. Who eats that? Your family and the end consumer!