KSU – I Love Soil – Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz

(Dorivar) One of the most important functions of soil is to support agriculture in general. Especially in a state like Kansas where we have a very productive system, very multiple types of crops, both for human and animal consumption. Some of the main crops are, of course wheat for primarily human consumption as well as corn, soybean and sorghum perhaps are some of the main ones. (Dave) Soils are a very important source of nutrients for all the crops we produce here in Kansas. And part of that process where we try to figure out what lead nutrients may be needed and what the soils can provide involves soil testing. Here in the Soil Testing Lab we routinely look at things like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, sulfur, all required nutrients essential for plants, many of which can be supplied in large quantities or in total amounts by the soils that we work with here in Kansas. There’s alot of natural processes that occur that provide nutrients for our crops through the soil. For example we get free living organisms and legumes that are grown out there in the field that can produce nitrogen for the crops. We get the deposition of sulfur from the atmosphere. We can get nitrogen from the atmosphere. So there’s lots of different ways that we can get nutrients naturally plus in addition, we also apply nutrients in various forms either as fertilizers, animal manure, waste products from cities and industries. (Dorivar) There are many management options for improving the overall productivity of the soil and many maximizing potential environment issues. Producers are using crop rotation as one key tool as well as the use of cover crops. (Dave) Another really important function of soils is to store water. In addition to the nutrients we also store water in soils. Conservation tillage for example, is a tool that we use to keep the surface of the soil covered with crop residues which enhances the infiltration of water and reduces runoff. (Dorivar) Perhaps one of the main challenges that farmers and argronomists are facing is to try to increase the overall productivity of soils to meet the food demands of the growing populations. Now days we do have crops with highly productive genetics that require some very productive soil and I think our job as an agronomist and farmers, we need to make sure we maintain and improve that productivity.

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