SNEAK PEEK: Studying the impact of a cropping system on soil health

Top Crop Manager
August 31, 2017
By Top Crop Manager
While the benefits of cover crops for soil health have long been touted by extension staff, it’s been difficult for researchers to determine how exactly cover crops affect the soil. But last year, an elaborate soil health monitoring system ­– the first of its kind in North America – was installed at the Elora Research Station, near Guelph, Ont.

Prior to installation, 18 soil columns were outfitted with multiple sensors at multiple depths for sampling soil water, nutrients and greenhouse gases. The measuring devices, called lysimeters, will be used to compare the environmental impact of two different long-term cropping systems. A conventional (non-diverse) corn-soybean rotation will be compared to a diverse rotation where cover crops and intercrops are included in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation.

In addition to evaluating how cropping systems impact soil health, the project will also measure the impact of crops on soil ecosystem services.

These are the benefits to society, such as increased carbon sequestration, reduced nutrient leaching and reduced greenhouse gas emissions....

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