Introduction to Soil Ecology & Management

Applying ecological principles to the management of soil is fundamental to sustainable production. Building soil resources provides the foundation for healthy farms, communities, the environment and future livelihoods. At Michigan State University we are developing new knowledge of the soil ecosystem , including the interrelationships of soil biological, chemical and physical processes. In partnership with Michigan farmers, crop advisors and a wide range of stakeholders, we strive to apply this knowledge to enhance efficiency, resilience and sustainability of agricultural systems.

This website addresses key principles of soil ecological management, including: biodiversity, vegetative cover and soil quality. Practical management tools in line with these principles include the use of cover crops, compost, manure and reduced tillage.

Nutrient management can be a significant challenge to farmers and gardeners who largely or completely rely on organic matter inputs and soil ecological management. The ideal is to build soil organic matter and soil nutrient pools which are available for mineralization processes, and uptake during periods of rapid plant growth. There may, however, be tradeoffs between management practices that prioritize nutrient efficiency and sustainability over the long-term, and management practices that prioritize maximizing yields and nutrient availability over the short-term. Alternative assessment tools and management practices can help guide the decision-making process for farmers and gardeners interested in pursuing soil management based on ecological principles.

MSU Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Web site

For more information on the MSU team responsible for this Web site link to ĎAbout Usí

*By sustainability, we refer to the stability of a system over time. Two related concepts are key here, resilience and resistance. Resistance is the likelihood that a system will respond to a disturbance such as drought or pest invasion. A stable agricultural system resists large fluctuations in productivity, nutrient losses and other responses to stress. Systems with greater resilience return rapidly and reliably to the original conditions. Biodiversity, vegetative cover and coupling carbon with nutrient management (e.g., through applying organic matter amendments and growing organic matter) are key components of building resilient and resistant agricultural systems.


© 2004 Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI

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