Author: Mark Watson
Adding carbon to the soil is critical to restoring health to the soil by increasing the organic matter content.
Producers in today’s modern agricultural systems are working with soils that contain far less carbon than our soils originally contained prior to the implementation of modern agriculture. All of our soils are now degraded.
The good news is we now know how we can regenerate our soils and put the carbon back in the soil. This is a very simple process, but at the same time, also very difficult.
So why is carbon so important? It’s the building block for soil health. As you increase the carbon content, you begin to improve the aggregate stability. These aggregates are formed by excretions from the soil microbes, which begin to stabilize the soil particles into larger aggregates. This provides the home for all the soil microbes living in these aggregates.
A healthy soil provides a healthy environment for these soil microbes. The microbes will provide the nutrient cycling of soil organic matter making nutrients available for the plants growing in the soil.
These aggregates also provide the pore space necessary to infiltrate and store water in the soil. In our semi-arid environment on the Plains, the ability to infiltrate and store water is critical to crop production.
Stable aggregates that can infiltrate and store additional water can also lower our irrigation pumping requirements by improving soil water efficiency. Lowering our groundwater consumption is critical to stabilizing the currently rapid decline of our groundwater resource.