Improving Soil Organic Matter Takes Time and Effort

Feb 14, 2024


handful of rich soil
“It’s a moving target, but I did it!” he said. “I increased the soil organic matter on my farm,” said Kevin Carlson, Federated’s agronomy sales manager, after reviewing his farm’s soil sampling data from the past 10 years.
 
Carlson was pleased to discover that conservation (minimal till and no-till) and sustainability practices had improved the soil organic matter in his fields by an average of 1% in the decade between 2012 and 2022. His east-central Minnesota fields were in a regular corn-soybean rotation for most of those 10 years, with some wheat and cover crops rotated in during the early part of the decade.
 
A 1% organic matter improvement may not sound like much, but when you consider the massive amount of soil (millions of pounds) being improved, “1% is a lot when you do the math,” said Carlson. It’s worth noting that his fields are mostly Cushing loam soils.
 
With the media buzz about carbon sequestering and sustainable farming, making these improvements to the soil is significant. Soil organic matter is comprised of 58% carbon; when soil organic matter improves, so do the carbon levels.
 
And with that comes a greatly improved water/moisture-holding capacity. Carlson explained that with 1% greater organic matter, the soil gained appx. 1-1.5 inches of rain holding capacity.
 
This is local data based on local practices, and results for other farms may be different, but the fact of the matter is this: Conservation and sustainability practices do make a difference. “It’s a long-term process,” Carlson said, but it’s worth it for future generations of crop production.
 
Carlson would be happy to share his findings, and your Federated Agronomist can help develop your soil testing and improvement plans going forward.
 

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