Sunday, March 29, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Dig a little, learn a lot’

By
From page A6 | April 05, 2013 |

As spring temperatures go up, it’s an excellent time for farmers, ranchers and gardeners to focus their attention down to the soil below them. A spring check-up of your soil’s health gives clues of your ground’s ability to feed plants, hold water, capture carbon and more. No fancy equipment required. Just grab a spade or shovel and prepare your senses to dig a little and learn a lot.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of landowner you are,” says State Agronomist Dennis Chessman with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Small farmers, large farmers, organic farmers and even home gardeners can all benefit from this simple discovery project of one of their most important resources. And in the process you can reap big rewards for your crops and the environment around you,” Chessman said.

With your shovel, nose, eyes and hands ready, Chessman suggests the following steps to investigate soil health:

Look first at the soil surface which should be covered with plant residue, providing organic matter and preventing erosion. Dig into the soil and observe the color and structure. It should be dark, crumbly, and porous — rather like chocolate cake. Healthy soil is full of air holes and live roots, and of course, you should see earthworms, our wonderful soil engineers! Poorer soils are lighter in color, compacted or unstructured, and lack living roots and critters.

Smell: Healthy soil should have a sweet, earthy smell, indicating the presence of geosmin, a byproduct of soil microbes called actinomycetes. These microbes decompose the tough plant and animal residues in and on the soil and bring nitrogen from the air into the soil to feed plants. An unhealthy, out-of-balance soil smells sour or metallic, or like kitchen cleanser.

Touch: Soil should be loose and crumble easily, indicating a porous texture. This holds water better, making it available for plants and stemming flooding and runoff. In healthy soil, roots can grow straight and deep, allowing plants to reach nutrients and water they need to produce the food we love to eat.

“We are blessed with productive soils in California,” Chessman said. “We want to keep them that way and even build them where possible.”

In addition to the vital production values of soil health to the individual farmer or gardener, Chessman explained that healthy soil has clear impacts on many of the larger agricultural and environmental issues of our day, from sustainable food production to water quality to mitigating climate change.

Healthy soil holds, filters and regulates water, mitigates drought and flooding, reduces runoff and erosion, cycles nutrients, sequesters carbon and suppresses weeds and pests naturally — all while supporting our homes and buildings. For all these reasons, NRCS recently has launched a nationwide effort to “Unlock the Secrets of the Soil.”

Not sure your soil passes the sniff-feel-see tests? Visit the soil health portal at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/soils/health.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Davis sewage to get new digs

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Where do Davis recyclables go?

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    UCD faculty receive lowest pay in the system

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1

     
    Motive for murder-suicide remains a mystery

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

    Human Relations Commission hosts Chávez celebration

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A2

     
     
    Davis Flower Arrangers meet Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    ‘Music as Medicine’ is radio show topic

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Friendship the topic on radio program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Forum

    Milt Prigee cartoon

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Some ‘survey’ …

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    These results were meaningless

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Survey not representative

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Answers on the green waste program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    A phone call could have fixed this

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    Universities need more funding

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Mayor’s corner: Looking ahead to spring

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: B5 | Gallery

    A Little Respect for Dr. Foster

    By Nicholas Kristof | From Page: B5

     
    Father of the bride snubbed

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Which experiences count as ‘once in a lifetime’?

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A8

     
    After a month of no TV news, I’m feeling much better

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A8

    Take a hike for your heart

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Sports

    Aggie softball splits doubleheader

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Republic stun Galaxy with repeated history

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Bad fourth quarter sinks boys lacrosse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggies’ walkoff win clinches series against Riverside

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Burns scores shootout winner to lift Sharks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    UCD women’s tennis dominates at home

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B10 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Millennials are changing our community

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

     
    With new owner, DAC will Get Fit

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Grant writing for non-profits workshop set

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, March 29, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8