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Organic farming improves soil physical properties

Jun 23, 2017

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The results from a 40-year study examining the sustainability of long-term organic management published in Agronomy Journal show that organic farming benefits soil health and makes soils more resilient to drought and compaction. Scientists from the University of Nebraska compared a number of physical soil characteristics among plots managed using standard conventional methods, conventional methods but utilizing diverse crop rotations, organic management utilizing animal manure for soil fertility, and organic management utilizing green manure (legumes cover crops that are later tilled into the soil to increase fertility). The study found that plots cultivated using organic management practices regardless of fertility treatment had significantly improved soil physical characteristics as compared to the conventional treatment.  Both of the organic treatments had cumulative water infiltration that was almost 10 times greater than the conventional treatment, suggesting they were able to store more water. Demonstrating significantly improved soil structural stability, the organic treatments are likely to be less susceptible to compaction. “Overall, organic farming can improve soil physical properties in the long term and provide a strategy for farmers to enhance soil physical quality and agricultural sustainability,” the authors wrote.

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