Soil Improvement

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

.Knowledge Nuggets

  • Soil is a non-renewable natural resource. A single gram of coarse sand has approximately 1,000 particles. A gram of clay has approximately 90 billion particles.
  • Soil is made from the weathering of rocks taking between 100 to 1,000 years to form one centimeter of soil. Many soil properties are determined by the original type of rock or parent material.
  • A single spade full of rich soil contains more species of organisms than can be found above ground in the entire Amazon rain forest. A teaspoonful of soil contains more than two billion microorganisms, more than the number of people on earth.
  • A healthy soil supports plant growth, protects air and water quality and ensures human and animal health.
  • Soil erosion causes redistribution of soil in the landscape due to the action of wind, water and tillage. The loss of one inch of topsoil is equivalent to 150 tonnes of soil per acre. Approximately 7 tonnes of organic matter, 400 kilograms of nitrogen, 300 kilograms of phosphorus and 3 tonnes of potassium are also lost.
  • Management practices to reduce carbon loss and increase organic matter include reduced tillage systems, continuous cropping, manure application and converting land to permanent cover. Plants protect soil from erosion by forming a blanket of vegetation that shelters soil from wind, rain, running water and sunlight.
  • Organic matter consists of decomposed plant and animal parts as well as millions of microscopic soil organisms that hold individual soil particles together in soil aggregates, thereby improving soil structure, workability, aeration, water penetration and water holding capacity and reducing the risk of erosion.
  • Organic matter reduces the risk of crusting on the soil surface which can reduces seedling emergence. Crop rotations with forages and application of manure result in higher organic matter levels because these strategies net more residues.
  • Soil compaction can develop in any type of soil and causes poor soil structure and unstable aggregates. Medium and fine textured soils are most susceptible to compaction.
  • Addition of organic matter can improve virtually all soil properties resulting in more porous soil, lower bulk density, higher water-holding capacity, greater aggregation, increased aggregate stability, lower erosion problems, greater soil fertility and increased electrical conductivity.
  • Erosion of one inch (2.5 cm) of topsoil per acre removes as much total nitrogen and phosphorus as 485 bushels of wheat. Blowing soil looses at least five tons of topsoil per acre. Soil losses of 50 tons per acre or more can occur in more severe storms. Wind erosion carries off the most nutrient-rich fraction of the soil.

Fact Sheets

Alfalfa in Annual Cropping Systems: A Producer Profile - available in PDF format only

Definition of Soil Organic Matter

Legume Green Manuring

Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures

Soil Improvements With Legumes

Soil Organic Matter

Soil Organic Matter, Green Manures and Cover Crops For Nematode Management

Research Papers

Barley yield and nutrient uptake in rotation after perennial forages in the semiarid prairie region of Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Effect of native prairie, crested wheat grass (Agropyron cristatum (L.) Gaertn.) and Russian wildrye (Elymus junceus Fisch.) on soil chemical properties - available in PDF format

Inherent responses to root-zone salinity in nine alfalfa populations - available in PDF format only

On-farm Assessments of Pasture Rejuvenation Methods on Soil Quality Indicators in Northern Alberta (Canada)

Pasture type and fertilization effects on soil chemical properties and nutrient redistribution - available in PDF format only

Soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in modified rangeland communities - available in PDF format only

Soil chemical properties during succession from abandoned cropland to native range - available in PDF format only

The green manure value of seven clover species grown as annual crops on low and high fertility temperate soils - available as PDF only

Let us know of more good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on January 21, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 24, 2018.

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