Cover Crops Improve Soil Ecosystem

MAGNOLIA, Ill. — Soil health is among the most important foundations for sustaining plants, humans and animals.

Only living things can have “health,” so viewing soil as a living, breathing ecosystem reflects a shift in the way soil is observed and managed.

“We’re really looking at the soil function. Those are things like nutrient cycling, water infiltration and storage, plant protection, preventing erosion and storing carbon within our soils. All of these functions are the things we look at when we talking about soil health,” said Stacy Zuber, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service soil health specialist. “So, how we can take advantage of that and use those functions to help us in our systems?”

Zuber was among the speakers at the Nutrient Stewardship Field Day hosted July 6 by the Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau and partners at a cover crop demonstration site.

There are various tools recommended in the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy that focus on preventing phosphorous and nitrogen loss into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.