Matthew Summers on Soil Health

Testing soil health - rake in soil

Wenck technical expert Matthew Summers was volunteering at the USDA-NRCS soil demonstration “Can You Dig It? Get the Scoop on Soil” at the Minnesota State Fair Kemp’s Little Farm Hands exhibit. Partnering with senior soil scientists from NRCS, Matthew helped teach kids and parents all about the incredible world of soil, including several hands-on demonstrations highlighting soil health, soil biology, cover cropping, and farm management. Check out what he has to say.

Testing soil health

Did you know?

There are more living creatures in a handful of healthy soil than there are people on earth. It is one of the most dense and diverse ecosystems in the world, and needs to protected. In the photo you can see two jars of water, one cloudy and one clear. In the cloudy jar is a clod of unhealthy soil from a conventional tillage, no cover crop farm field. In the clear jar is a clod of soil from a no-till, cover crop field. The no-till soil stays together in water because of dense roots and billions of creatures whose waste glues the soil together. The conventional tillage soil is largely devoid of life and degrades rapidly in water. When you only grow one type of plant and turn the soil over twice a year, you destroy that fragile habitat.  The photo was taken around noon, and that no-till clod had been in the water since 8am. The conventional tillage clod had to be replaced multiple times. The difference in water clarity is striking. This was to highlight the impact soil management practices have on farm run-off, local water quality, and farm production. Topsoil is the lifeblood of a profitable farm, and keeping it on site is critical. Soil also can contain many farm chemicals, which can get into our lakes and streams if it leaves the field due to wind and water erosion.

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Wenck Author

Matt Summers

Soil Scientist