Have you ever wondered why Illinois and the Midwest are huge agriculture producers?  What makes Illinois so special?  The answer come down to soil!  Productive soil is why agriculture does better in certain areas such as the Midwest.  This blog post is going to discuss the Soil Health Partnership as well as the importance of healthy soil.

soil-health-partnershipThe Soil Health Partnership is an organization dedicated to educating the public, specifically the farmers, about the benefits of soil management strategies.  They have four main methods of accomplishing their goal.  These strategies are setting examples, proper research, publishing finding, and support and assistance in decision making.  The Soil Health Partnership will take farms that have changed their soil management practices and seen improvement in nutrients and let other farmers see the good results.  They also do thorough research to see what types of soil management practices work best and what their impact is.  Any results found by this research will be published.  The Soil Health Partnership will be available to growers to answer questions and provide advice about soil management practices that would work best in their unique situation.

Ever notice how on sandy beaches there are few plants.  That is because the soil, in this case, sand, is poor quality for plant production.  A healthy soil will produce a healthy crop.  Proper soil maintenance is necessary for sustaining a healthy soil.  Soil stores and supplies crops or plants with nutrients for growth and basic plant functions.  If you have ever planted a seed, you usually follow these procedures: filling your pot with soil, placing the seed in the soil, covering the seed with soil, and watering it.   This is because soil is the foundation for roots to develop.  The soil keeps the seeds anchored and standing strong.  Soil hold water molecules between the soil particles, the plant roots will absorb these molecules to assist in photosynthesis. Soil is important for root development and water and nutrient absorbance in plants.

As I established in the previous paragraph poor soil is not going to produce the high-quality crops that we want.  In poor soil, the nutrient concentration will be extremely low, that fertilizers such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium will need to be added, so the crop can obtain the proper amount of nutrients.  Soil erosion affects soil health, but it can happen with good soil as well as poor soil.  Different soil management practices can be used to reduce soil erosion, and keep our topsoil, or nutrient-full layer of soil, intact.

With the help of the Soil Health Partnership, the IL Corn has had the opportunity to host different field days discussing the importance of soil health as well as present the different soil management practices.  These field days will help our farmers make educated decisions on how to manage their soil.  IL Corn is working hard to improve agriculture across the state of Illinois. If you are interested in learning more about this subject, please explore the Soil Health Partnership.

Mary Marsh
University of Illinois

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