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
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.
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.