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Applied Research

Allison Howell
CEA - Agriculture
UofA Division of Agriculture Research & Extension


Soil health is a term that is growing in popularity. This term is defined very broadly as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem to sustain plants, animals, and humans” (USDA-NRCS) and can be interpreted very differently depending on the context of its application. What can be more easily defined is the implementation of “soil health” practices, which consist of not disturbing (tilling) the soil while keeping living roots growing in the soil for as many months out of the year as possible. In the Arkansas row crop setting, this consists of implementing no-till as well as utilizing cover crops during fall and winter months. Many benefits can be achieved according to which cover crops are planted including improved soil structure, increased water infiltration rates, increased water holding capacity, decreased erosion, increased soil nitrogen content, decreased weed pressure for the following cash crops, and to decrease the effects of sand blows. These benefits can have positive economic implications, especially in years when environmental conditions are conducive, and the cover crop is properly planned/managed. With a side by side comparison of a cover crop versus a non-cover crop practice, economic and management differences can be observed. To track the effects of management differences on each side of the field, soil samples were taken to measure the change in soil structure (bulk density/aggregate stability), nematode populations, and soil fertility. A farmer in Clay County implemented a three-year cereal rye cover crop demonstration on one half of his cotton field while the other did not receive a cover crop. The goal was to see if there is a benefit to the cover crop as opposed to not having one, and to promote the use of cover crops throughout Clay County.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: A. Howell
  1. Howell, A. CEA - Agriculture, UofA Division of Agriculture Research & Extension, Arkansas, 72454