The Dirt

Browse these helpful soil management resources to improve your soils health.

Why Should I Partner with a Soil Consultant?

Posted by Randy Darr on Aug 10, 2018 11:16:00 AM

One of the many factors that contribute to running a productive, successful farm is the soil. Partnering with an expert soil consultant is a great way to get a comprehensive understanding of the composition and health of your farmland and develop a plan to use it best.

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Topics: Soil Consulting

How Soil Microbes Can Improve Productivity

Posted by Randy Darr on Aug 9, 2018 12:14:29 PM

Successful, productive farming is a constant balancing act. Even below the surface, the composition of your soil is a big factor in the health and productivity of your operation.

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Topics: Soil Health

Microorganisms: The Engine That Drives Your Crop-Growing System

Posted by Jill Miller on Jul 15, 2018 9:31:00 PM

Successful farming depends on successful crop management, starting with the smallest building blocks. Microorganisms drive the crop growing system and ensure the success of your harvests for years to come. Learning about these tiny, important creatures can make an outsized difference in your farm’s success.

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Topics: Soil Consulting, Soil Health, Soil Testing, Soil Sampling

Soil Factors to Consider When Selecting Cover Crops

Posted by Randy Darr on Jun 5, 2018 5:52:00 PM

Modern Use of Cover Crops

One of the most controversial and politically abrasive topics that I have known in my entire career is this “new” practice of using cover crops. Shhhhh….there are people who think using cover crops is a 21st-century idea. Cover crops are merely a re-introduction of an old tried and true concept from the days when there wasn’t so much pressure to produce money-earning crops on every acre all the time.

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Topics: Soil Health

Why Would You Consider Annual Data Collection?

Posted by Randy Darr on May 17, 2018 5:20:00 PM

Many times throughout my career, I have been asked to answer the question, “Why should farmers consider annual soil data collection?” I get this question from individuals who seem to have the perspective that we know all we need to know about soil science, and soil chemistry can be reduced to a recipe to follow. While it’s true that we have learned much that is useful about soil composition and management, we should be careful not to rely too heavily on our powers of prediction.

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Topics: Soil Health

How Do I Use Base Saturations to Benefit My Soil?

Posted by Randy Darr on May 2, 2018 4:08:00 PM

There are a few competing philosophies concerning soil chemistry and interpreting soil test values. These include the “build up and maintenance” philosophy, the “sufficiency” philosophy, and the “base saturation” philosophy. Over the years, an almost fanatical line has been drawn, suggesting that a farmer must exclusively use only one of these methods. In my experience, I have found that all three methods have their pros and cons, but none of them is inherently wrong. Among the three, the base saturation method may be the most misunderstood.

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Topics: Soil Health

How GIS Services Improve the Use of Soil Inputs

Posted by Steve Shaw on Apr 4, 2018 7:58:00 AM

Computer data gathering and analysis can help improve many aspects of the world around us, including the efficiency and success of your farm. Geographic information systems (GIS) help farm operators use information about their farms to improve the use of soil inputs and, ultimately, to make more profitable and sustainable business and environmental decisions.

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Topics: Soil Health, Soil Sampling

Never Say Never About Soil Management

Posted by Randy Darr on Mar 22, 2018 12:09:00 PM

Many years ago, I attended a conference that included a presentation from a well known professor from a large Midwestern university. He made a comment that caused a handful of individuals to want to get up and leave the presentation—myself included.

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Topics: Soil Health

How Should I Prioritize Changes in Soil Health?

Posted by Randy Darr on Mar 19, 2018 7:46:00 PM

Soil health” has become a buzzword in recent years. Generally speaking, soil health refers to three main types of characteristics: physical, chemical, and biological. Until recent years, changing the physical and chemical aspects of soil has been the primary focus for enhancing soil health. In the past, measuring the biological life of soil was too expensive and labor intensive to be feasible for most farmers. Today, this is much more practical to accomplish. As a result, we can now look at all three facets of the soil when assessing its health.

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Topics: Soil Health

The Most Valuable Tools for Sustainable Land Management

Posted by Jill Miller on Mar 5, 2018 11:54:00 AM

Sustainable land management is a strategy to maximize the long-term productivity and resilience of land. To be most effective, such a strategy must take into account the resources of the land itself, the effects of the environment, and the impact of human activities.

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Topics: Soil Sampling