Top 3 Things to Consider for Better Understanding Soil Health

Two weeks ago, the Iteris ClearAg Team attended the 2017 World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in in San Francisco, CA that brought together major agribusinesses, technology developers from international hotspots including the US, Israel, Europe and Australia, and the VC investor community. Our very own Jeff Keiser, VP of Strategic Sales and Marketing, participated on “The Future of Soil Health and the Plant Microbiome” panel and spoke about the importance of soil health as it relates to crop production operations. So why is everyone trying to talk dirty in ag (including us)?

Dirt – or more appropriately, soil, is a limited commodity, as many already know. The amount of arable land continues to decrease and as such, we must do what we can to preserve the quality of the land (soil) that we do have today. Beyond visually assessing the quality of soil, we must understand the conversation going on underground. As we start to dig deeper into soil health (pun intended), we can quickly conclude that not all soil is created equal.

Below is Iteris ClearAg’s list of top three considerations to better understand soil health:

Soil Texture
The texture of your soil affects how quickly water moves through it and how much water it can hold. Sandier soils have bigger particles than clay soils. As a consequence, sandy soils cannot hold much water and water moves through them quickly, while the opposite is true for clay soils.

In addition to impacting the rate of water movement and water holding capacity, texture also determines how strongly the soil can hold onto water. So while a clay soil can hold a lot of water, it does not give that water up easily. The more clay you have in your soil, the wetter it needs to be to avoid stressing your crop.

Organic Matter
Organic matter not only affects water movement and storage much like texture does, but it also plays a key role in how much nitrogen will be available to your crop.

Cation Exchange Capacity
The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of your soil lets you know how big the “bucket” is for your soil nutrients. A large CEC means the soil can store a lot. If your soil already has good values of, for example, nitrate or potassium and a large CEC, then there will be plenty of nutrients available to your crop. A large CEC coupled with poor test results, though, means it will take more supplementation to keep your crop happy. Finally, a low CEC means there is a risk of nutrients being leached from the soil, and frequent but smaller supplementation may be needed.

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