Opportunities for Better Understanding of Soils

January 25, 2017 2:39 PM

“History is largely a record of human struggle to wrest the land from nature, because man relies for sustenance on the products of the soil. So direct, is the relationship between soil erosion, the productivity of the land, and the prosperity of people, that the history of mankind, to a considerable degree at least, may be interpreted in terms of the soil and what has happened to it as the result of human use.” - Hugh H. Bennett and W.C. Lowdermilk, circa 1930’s

I included this quote to acknowledge several good opportunities to increase our knowledge of soil health and fertility.

The Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management Short Course at ISU is a long-standing workshop offered by ISU Extension and Outreach that delves into principles of soil fertility and nutrient management and not just fertilizer recommendations. Understanding these principles is key to conducting solid research and subsequently being able to make sound fertility recommendations.  

The 2017 Soil Health Conference is the second of its kind in Iowa. This conference looks to build on success from last year as we continue to address needs for advancing soil health in Iowa and throughout the upper Midwest. 

It is not surprising the soil fertility workshop has been offered for over 25 years and we are only at year two for the Soil Health Conference. Our understanding of the impact of fertility in crop production goes back to the 1800s where reports cite the use of manures as fertility sources 34 centuries prior to the 1800s! And our body of knowledge of nutrient management impacts on water quality has grown exponentially in Iowa since the 1980s. Our knowledge of soil health and impacts on crop production and water quality is in its infancy and there is so much to learn and understand.  

Our understanding, knowledge and recommendations are only as good as you when you question the work, apply it to your farm or situation or learn to adapt or teach us to adapt. Everyone needs to be part of the conversation and the research. I hope I am around to see year 25 of the Soil Health Conference (retired, but still here). Come and join us!

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Angie Rieck-Hinz Field Agronomist in NC Iowa

Angie Rieck-Hinz is a field agronomist in north central Iowa for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

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