Chapter 4

Soil Management on Organic Farms

(book excerpts)

Soil quality or health is generally seen as the foundation of successful organic crop production systems. Sustaining and improving soil quality over the long term are frequently identified by organic farmers as their primary management goals. Soil is a critical resource—the way in which it is managed can improve or degrade the quality of that resource. Soil is a complex ecosystem where living microorganisms and plant roots bind mineral particles and organic matter together into a dynamic structure that regulates water, air, and nutrients. In an agricultural context, soil health most often refers to the ability of the soil to sustain agricultural productivity and protect environmental resources. A healthy soil provides many functions that support plant growth, including nutrient cycling, protect the soil from erosion, biological control of plant pests, and enhances water field capacity and drainage. These functions are influenced by the interrelated physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil, many of which are sensitive to soil management practices. By understanding how the soil processes that support plant growth and regulate environmental quality are affected by management practices, it is possible to design a crop and soil management system that improves and maintains soil health over time. Nutrient inputs to organic production systems are focused on carbon-based nutrient sources (e.g., crop residue, compost, manure) and non-processed mineral sources (e.g., rock phosphate, lime, gypsum). As such, nutrient management in organic production systems is fundamentally different from that in conventional systems

Click on the following topics for more information on soil management on organic farms.

Topics Within This Chapter:

  • National Organic Program Standard for Soil Management
  • Section 205.203(a) Manage Tillage and Cultivation Practices
  • Section 205.203(b) Manage Crop Nutrients and Soil Fertility Practices
  • Soil Properties
  • Physical Properties
  • Bulk Density
  • Soil Texture
  • Soil Structure
  • Soil Porosity
  • Soil Permeability
  • Soil Color
  • Chemical Properties
  • Soil pH
  • Buffer pH
  • Cation Exchange Capacity
  • Base Saturation
  • Electrical Conductivity
  • Sodium Adsorption Ratio
  • Exchangeable Sodium Percentage
  • Macronutrients
  • Micronutrients
  • Organic Matter
  • Biological Properties
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Nematodes
  • Arthropods
  • Earthworms
  • Soil Organic Matter
  • Benefits of Soil Organic Matter
  • Classification of Soil Organic Matter
  • Active Fraction
  • Stable Fraction
  • Factors Influencing the Quantity of Soil Organic Matter
  • Increases in Soil Organic Matter
  • Decreases in Soil Organic Matter
  • Mineralization
  • Factors Affecting the Rate of Mineralization
  • Management Practices to Improve Soil Health
  • Tillage
  • Conservation Tillage
  • Organic Amendments
  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Crop Rotation
  • Section 205.205 Crop Rotation Practice Standard
  • Cover Crops
  • Managing Soil Fertility in Organic Farming Systems
  • Nitrogen Management
  • Organic Sources of Nitrogen
  • Nitrogen Availability
  • Synchronization
  • Phosphorus Management
  • Organic Sources of Phosphorus
  • Mycorrhizal Fungi
  • Potassium Management
  • Organic Sources of Potassium
  • Management of Micronutrients
  • Organic Sources of Micronutrients
  • Chelating Agents
  • References