BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The ILSoyAdvisor CCA Soy Envoys are monitoring soil health this season, but with a twist. They’ve buried fabric in the soil across the state in an effort to observe soil activity. Each of the six Envoys buried one piece of the fabric in a field they felt has very good soil health, and another in a field with very poor soil health.
The fabric strips were buried four to six inches deep, where most soil activity takes place, and will be recovered at the end of the growing season prior to harvest.
“Understanding the potential growth of soil biological activity for Illinois fields is very exciting to measure. As we brainstorm what practices best promote increased microbial activity, we need to consider what living organisms need: water, air, food, and shelter,” says Abigail Peterson, ISA Conservation Agronomy Manager.
While buried, the 100 percent cotton material will be broken down and consumed by soil microbes. The more fabric that disappears, the healthier the soil. The Soy Envoys buried the fabric in both conventional till and no-till soil for comparison at the end of the growing season.
“By utilizing cover crops and/or reduced tillage, we can provide the biologicals with the optimal environment to thrive. Minimal soil disturbance from no-till and an added food source from the cover crops can make an immediate difference to your soil’s ecosystem. This experiment is a great way for farmers to visualize what is happening below the surface. It is eye-opening to see what systems are not capturing their full biological potential from this simple test. We have such great soils in Illinois, and it’s worth taking the time to evaluate your soil’s physical, chemical, and biological potential to maintain its health,” says Peterson.
Follow along with the Soy Envoys this growing season for updates on the soil health project and for crop updates by region at ILSoyAdvisor.com or follow them on Twitter.
Funded by the Illinois Soybean checkoff, the CCA Soy Envoy program is a partnership between ISA and Illinois Certified Crop Advisers. The CCA Soy Envoys commit to a one-year term to contribute actionable information, advice and in-season updates via the ILSoyAdvisor blog to support Illinois soybean farmers in their goals of increasing yields and profits while minimizing environmental impact.
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development and utilization efforts while the membership program supports the government relations interests of Illinois soybean farmers at the local, state, and national level, through the Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG). ISA upholds the interests of Illinois soybean producers through promotion, advocacy, and education with the vision of becoming a market leader in sustainable soybean production and profitability. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.
— Illinois Soybean Association
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