Building Soils for Better Crops: Organic Matter Management

Overview

Farmers and gardeners face all sorts of difficulties in the course of growing crops—weeds and insect pests, low levels of fertility, lack of water, soil compaction, and erosion of topsoil. Usually seen as separate issues and dealt with individually, weeds, insects, nematodes, and plant diseases are controlled by pesticides; nutrient deficiencies are overcome through use of commercial fertilizers; drought stress is mitigated through irrigation; and compacted layers of soil are broken up by machinery. But all ...
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Overview

Farmers and gardeners face all sorts of difficulties in the course of growing crops—weeds and insect pests, low levels of fertility, lack of water, soil compaction, and erosion of topsoil. Usually seen as separate issues and dealt with individually, weeds, insects, nematodes, and plant diseases are controlled by pesticides; nutrient deficiencies are overcome through use of commercial fertilizers; drought stress is mitigated through irrigation; and compacted layers of soil are broken up by machinery. But all of these problems can be eliminated, or at least alleviated, by proper soil management that emphasizes organic matter build-up and maintenance.

At the forefront of a reawakening interest in sustainable agriculture, this book is written for farmers, gardeners, extension specialists, and others interested in the practical stewardship of our natural resources. Fred Magdoff, noted for his expertise in soil fertility, presents the latest information on soil organic matter and explains modern management techniques along with the best of the older practices. He opens with a discussion of the nature of organic matter and its function in the soil and then reviews practices for building up and maintaining soil organic matter, including reduced tillage, residue management, and crop rotations. A final selection offers an overview of the dynamics and chemistry of organic matter.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Francis

"This is a key resource."

—Charles Francis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Larry King

"Covers the complex topic of soil organic matter in a style that will be understandable to readers with little or no training in soil science."

—Larry King, North Carolina State University

Charles Francis
"This is a key resource."—Charles Francis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Larry King
"Covers the complex topic of soil organic matter in a style that will be understandable to readers with little or no training in soil science."—Larry King, North Carolina State University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803231603
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1993
  • Series: Our Sustainable Future Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176

Meet the Author

Fred Magdoff is chairman of the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont and the coordinator for the Northeast Region of the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Program. He has also developed a soil test for nitrogen availability in humid areas.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Preface
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 The Basics
1 What Is Soil Organic Matter? 7
2 The Living Soil 11
3 Why Is Soil Organic Matter So Important? 23
4 Organic Matter Levels in Soils 39
Pt. 2 Practices
5 Organic Matter Management - the Balancing Act 53
6 Animal Manures 63
7 Cover Crops 73
8 Crop Rotations 90
9 Reduced Tillage 103
10 Composts 113
11 Decreasing Soil Erosion 120
12 Putting It All Together 127
Pt. 3 Dynamics and Chemistry
13 Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Availability 133
14 The Chemistry of Soil Organic Matter 148
Glossary 161
Sources for Further Information 167
Index 171
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