The CCC agronomy team asked Mario Tenuta, the University of Manitoba’s Canada research chair in applied soil ecology, if preserving soil health really matters, or can soil degradation be corrected simply by adding more fertilizer.
“If growers ignore soil health, input costs will go up. Increased inputs can compensate and keep up with soil degradation for quite a while — perhaps several decades. But the cost of compensation will continue to rise over that period, and soil degradation will reach a point where yield can’t keep up no matter how many inputs are added.
“Ask any grower to describe their best land for growing crops. It’s probably the land with the best soil structure and soil organic matter. Higher organic matter means higher productivity. It can also mean lower disease incidence. The higher the organic matter, the greater diversity of beneficial organisms that can increase a plant’s ability to tolerate infection.
“Following the 4 Rs of fertility management can also help to increase organic matter because of better crop productivity. So can leaving residue behind to form more humus. Of all the soil amendments to increase humus, I like manure and compost best.”
The Canola Encyclopedia has more on what growers can do to improve soil health.
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