Soil health

Soil health is a topic of discussion by microbiologists and agronomists alike.

Soil is home to biotic factors: microbes, insects, spiders, worms; and abiotic factors: minerals, nutrients, water and air. The soil ecosystem is more important than ever in determining the yield of crops as well as the nutrition content of the food that we eat. These materials consider the aspects of soil health and how food production systems can maintain and bolster soil health.

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AFNR natural resources

3 lessons, 8 files
How do we impact natural resources by our activities? This unit helps meet some of the AFNR curriculum standards for natural resources. Students will learn how to test texture and other physical characteristics of soil, conduct water quality tests, …
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Agricultural microbiological products‍

Microbial products have many names including crop probiotics, bio-fertilizers, bio-stimulants, bio-controls, or bio-fungicides. They can be applied to the soil, seed, or as inoculants; with or without carriers like compost, peat, or stickers.
industry leader
industry leader

Alex Lindsey

Assistant Professor of Crop Ecophysiology and Agronomy at the Ohio State University
agronomy soybeans statistical analysis plant science soil science
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Biological nutrient uptake‍

Regenerative farming practices emphasize nutrient uptake from soils through natural soil biological cycles. This ecologically‐based agricultural approach uses microbes and carbon compounds to produce crops naturally rather than relying entirely on …
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Building soil carbon‍

Building soil carbon is dependent upon temperature, moisture, vegetation, tillage, soil texture, crop rotation, and microbial activity. Soil is a major storehouse for carbon and carbon dioxide.
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Can improving soil health improve yield?‍

“There are many types of management to combine to manage soil health. These typically include: keeping the soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance, keeping plants growing throughout the year, having a diversity plants, and incorporating livestock.”
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Compaction: where the rubber meets the road‍

It can be said that compaction occurs where the rubber meets the road, or in this case, the rubber meets the soil. “If you think about how roads are designed and built, they are constructed to handle heavy loads. It comes down to a function of the …
teacher leader
teacher leader

Courtney Bockbrader

Agriculture Education Instructor at Anthony Wayne High School and Penta Career Center
ffa agriscience career technical education
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Earthworms enhance soil tilth and fertility‍

Every farmer loves to see earthworms in their soil because it indicates good soil health and productivity. Earthworms, cover crops, and no-till together are a great way to improve your soil.
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Engineering solutions in agriculture

2 lessons, 2 files
How does modern agriculture use engineering to address soil compaction? Looking for an activity that combines robotics, coding, and engineering with a real life problem? This unit uses MakeBlock parts, Scratch programming, and modeling to help students design a solution …
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Healthy plants create healthy soils‍

When plants are healthy, they transmit more energy into the soil in the form of root exudates and sugars to feed the microbes. Unhealthy plants do the opposite which means soils become unhealthy.
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Healthy soils

1 lesson, 1 file
What makes soil healthy? What methods might farmers use to maintain healthy soil? “Soil” doesn’t just mean “dirt.” It is a mixture of minerals like rocks and clay, organic material like dead leaves, living organisms like worms, microbes, and insects, and even air and water. There …
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Healthy soils suppress insects and disease‍

Plants rely on soil microbes to feed them and keep them healthy. Most soil microbes are starving for carbon and plant sugars, so the area right around the root, called the rhizosphere is full of soil microbes that are competing for plant food (root …
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Healthy soils suppress pests‍

Farmers who improve soil health increase the amount of soil carbon being stored, and recycled. The increased carbon flow increases microbial numbers and efficiency leading to improved plant photosynthesis. The entire soil ecosystem functions at a …
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How no-till improves land values‍

While farmers own the land and have the right to farm it how they choose; long-term, society has an interest in preserving the land for future generations.
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Improving water infiltration and permeability‍

Poor soil structure due to excess tillage, a lack of active carbon, reduced soil microbial life (beneficial mycorrhizal fungi), and a lack of live roots year-round lead to dense hard-crusted soil that seals over easily, contributing to standing …
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Investing below the surface, soil health‍

Just because a farmer has raised cover crops for a few years, it does not mean they have all the answers. Sometimes the experience leads to more questions.
teacher leader
teacher leader

Jamie Brown

Science and math teacher at Miami East Junior High
middle school agriculture stem soil science
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teacher leader

Jeff Jostpille

Biology, Anatomy, Environmental Science, Botany, Zoology, 8th Grade Science teacher at Fort Jennings High School
biology environmental science
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industry leader

Kelsie Heath

Precision Solutions Specialist at Sunrise Cooperative
grains soybeans farm data soil science
teacher leader
teacher leader

Laura Ringler

Agricultural Science Teacher and FFA Advisor at Plymouth High School
ffa agriscience animal science plant science soil science agriculture education
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industry leader

Libby Dayton

Soil Scientist at the Ohio State University
ohio state university nutrients plant science water quality soil science
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Managing nutrient and pesticide needs in agriculture

7 lessons, 12 files
Why do farmers spend time and money to apply chemicals to their fields? In this threaded PBL*, (an effort to integrate agricultural understandings into the normal sequence of an Environmental Science classroom) students will conduct several “close reads” (reading for …
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New soil health measurements‍

Evaluating soil health is all about how well soil’s function. Functions such as water, carbon, and nutrient recycling are important for good plant productivity.
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Nitrogen fixation and legumes: say what?

2 lessons, 7 files
How do legumes fix nitrogen? If the atmosphere is about 80% Nitrogen (N2), but plants cannot use that form, how do they get nitrogen? In this unit, students plant and care for soybeans under one of five different …
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Not your grandparent’s soils‍

“You are not farming the same soils your grandparents farmed,” said Hans Kok, Program Director for the Conservation Technology Information Center in Indiana. Over the past 100 years, farming practices employed in America have led to a deterioration …
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pH in soil

3 lessons, 5 files
What is the variability in pH of soils across a field? Soil tests show the pH and nutrient amounts in a field. Soil chemistry determines the amount of root growth, the amount of nutrients that can be held in the soil, and the ability of plants to take in …
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Reading weeds to improve soil health‍

When weeds die, they often improve the mineral nutrition of the soil. If farmers can understand what the weeds are telling them, they can change their management to reduce weed populations.
teacher leader
teacher leader

Rob Niedermeyer

Science/STEM Specialist at ESC of Central Ohio
problem-based learning design thinking teacher coaching program development
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Smart farming: using data to make decisions

5 lessons, 27 files
What kind of data do farmers use to make decisions? Where does that data come from? Become a "farmer" on a journey from pre-planting to harvest to see what decisions farmers are making every year as they farm. Growers across the country are gaining access to more and more data about …
student research project
student research project

Soil compaction and fertilizer run-off in soybean crop

Jul 27, 2020
The purpose of conducting this experiment was to learn more information about the problem of fertilizer runoff and its relation to soil compaction as well as exploring possible solutions to both of these issues. A variety of research has been done …
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Soil health, micronutrients, and macronutrients (part 1)‍

“When there is a nutrient deficiency, it is important to make changes to help plants maximize photosynthesis,” said Jim Hoorman of Hoorman Soil Health Services. Healthy soils lead to maximized photosynthesis and healthy plants, which lead to higher …
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Soil health, micronutrients, and macronutrients (part 2)‍

Macronutrients can impact micronutrients. Carbon is a key macronutrient. “Carbon is probably the most limiting element in our soils.”
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Soil health indicators‍

How do I know if my soil is healthy and what are indicators of soil health ? Plants thrive in healthy soils and are not overtaken by pests (weeds, insects, diseases).
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Soil temperature and early planting conditions‍

Many farmers will agree that the planting process is the most critical to get correct on the farm.
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Soybean cyst nematodes‍

“Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) is the most important nematode in soybeans because it causes the most damage. It is the number one yield robbing soybean pathogen in North America,” said Dr. Marisol Quintanilla, Michigan State University Extension …
e-learning
e-learning

Soybeans 101

What do you know about soybeans? This course provides an overview of soybeans. Students learn about the parts of the soybean plant and the many uses of soybeans. Information is also provided about the process of growing and exporting soybeans.

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The dirt on soil health‍

“Farmers need to grow the ‘herd’ of organisms below the soil surface, and help regenerate the soil,” said Brown. There are a number of factors that go into growing the ‘herd’ or organisms. The use of cover crops is one key to feeding the organisms.
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The role of soil microbes‍

Soil microbes are abundant, making nutrients available to plants. There are more soil microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth.
e-learning
e-learning

Today’s agriculture

How do today’s farmers continue to increase productivity? Farmers are continually implementing management practices in order to increase food production in a sustainable manner. Learn how these good stewardship practices have resulted in reduced soil erosion and lower amounts of pesticides, water and energy used while increasing yield.

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Understanding soil health terms‍

“Soil health” is defined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.
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Using electricity to assess soil health‍

A new break-through in soil health testing—researchers are using small electrical currents to assess soil microbes and soil health impacts.
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What does a soil scientist do?

Mar 18, 2022
In this video, Lydia Jennings shares her journey to become a soil microbiologist and how her research is part of her passion for land stewardship. Help your students learn about this STEM career pathway!
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What is Bioinformatics? It’s a BLAST

2 lessons, 3 files
How can we identify individual organisms in a complex mixture of DNA? What computer tools are needed to decode the source of a DNA sequence? Have you ever done a DNA extraction? Most DNA extractions are done with a known source and students can visualize DNA. The favorite items are strawberries or students’ own cheek cells. This unit …
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What is soil health?‍

Soil Health is a term that everyone seems to be confused about or have their own opinion. Soil health is about three things: soil organic matter (SOM), soil microbes and organisms, and plants. Good soil and soil health are dependent upon the …
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Where does our food come from, anyway? Sustainable ag systems

3 lessons, 7 files
How do growers’ decisions affect the sustainability of agricultural systems? Understand and appreciate food producers through this case study and determine what decisions must be made on a yearly, monthly, or daily basis to maintain an environmental system that will continue …
teacher leader
teacher leader

Whitney Short

Education Program Specialist at Ohio Department of Education
ffa agriscience biotechnology outreach agriculture education ohio department of education