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Soil health is the ability of soil to perform functions that support life on earth. It provides food, fiber, and energy to sustain human life. Soil also protects our natural resources by filtering water and decomposing harmful chemicals.
Properties of a Healthy Soil
The Role of Soil Organic Matter
Soil consists of four components: minerals, air, water, and organic matter. Organic matter is comprised of carbon-containing compounds from dead and living plant and animal materials. Organic matter performs many functions that support soil heath, such as increasing the amount of plant-available nutrients and water a soil can hold. It also improves soil structure and decreases risk of soil compaction. Soil organic matter is a source of "food" for microorganisms. One handful of soil contains more microorganisms than there are people on earth. These microorganisms in soils are important for recycling nutrients for plant growth, purifying water, and controlling pathogens. Many soils in Alabama are depleted in soil organic matter due to the warm climate, coarse-textured soils, and intensive farming practices historically used in the state. It is important to rebuild soil health to conserve this natural resource for use by future generations. Practices such as reduced tillage and cover cropping can increase organic matter and improve soil health in Alabama.
To read about improving soil health and measuring soil, please see the full article here.
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