- In general, everywhere is experiencing a warming trend. In many places that means a wetter winter.
- Summers will be warmer and drier in many locations
- Drier years will be intensified with many areas experiencing drought conditions more frequently.
- Longer growing seasons with increased demand on low summer water resources
- Possible yield reductions due to heat and/or drought stress
- Crops viable to a given region may change
- Possible yield reduction in forage crops
- Lower growth rates and milk production in livestock
What is Resilient Soil?
Some basic characteristics of healthy soil are:
- A soft, crumbly texture with clumps and pore spaces (like a sponge)
- Reactive to the environment, warms quickly in spring
- Maintains the capacity to soak up large amounts of water during times of heavy rains with minimal run-off
- Has the capacity to store water during drought periods
- Resists erosion and nutrient loss
- Produces high yields of healthy plant life without large amounts of chemical inputs
Building Healthy, Resilient Soil
In observing the environment, you may notice nature manages soils in the following ways:
- Soil is always covered - bare soil is a rarity
- Polycultures - many species living together
- Reliance on soil organisms to till the soil
- A closed loop of organic input, breakdown and re-uptake of nutrients
The following are ways we can manage our soils for increased soil tilth and productivity:
- Keep soils covered - use multi-species cover crops, dense crop plantings with companion crops, mulch and residue
- Diversity - diversity among plant communities builds symbiotic relationships, creates more complex exchanges of nutrients and natural pest controls, and increases diversity of life within the soil, thereby allowing the entire system to function better.
- No-till or low-till practices - these can be implemented in large scale cropping systems or small backyard gardens, but be sure to balance tilling practice with the minimal application of pesticides.
- Build organic matter by allowing leaves, expired crops or lawn clippings to decompose into the soil, add compost or manure, roll cover crops, and/or leave residue to decompose into the soil.
How to Improve Farms, Pastures, and Lawns
Lawns can be diversified with many different grass species as well as legumes and forbs. Cropping systems can be diversified through crop rotations, companion plantings and cover cropping.
Focusing on health and resilience of our soils will not only create a healthier system overall, but will prepare all our landscapes for changing weather patterns in the future.