In this installment of the Soil Works video series, Glen discusses the importance of in-field soil health assessments throughout the growing season. Many soil testing laboratories are offering soil health assessments by sending a sample in for analysis. These tests provide important data, however, they are costly and time-consuming. Typically, a grower can only perform this test once or twice a season. In-field soil health testing is better, cheaper, and faster. You can quickly improve the efficiency of your management decisions by monitoring your soil health throughout the season. Make the right decision the first time with Soil Works LLC. 

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"Soil EC is an easily measured yet reliable indicator of soil quality, crop performance, nutrient cycling, and biological activity and can serve as a quick indicator of plant-available nitrate-N" 

Electrical conductivity moves through the
soil via three pathways

(1) a liquid phase pathway via dissolved solids contained in the soil water, (2) a solid-liquid pathway via exchangeable cations associated with clay materials, (3) and a soil pathway via soil particles that are in direct and continuous contact with one another.

For the farmer, management decisions have the greatest impact on the liquid and solid-liquid pathways of the soil as it relates to electrical conductivity (EC). In an effort to increase the EC of the soil two main management strategies have proven the most effective. 

1. Soil Structure. Increasing the liquid phase pathway by improving the soil's structure. Dispersive, compacted, soils contain very little pore space and water holding capacity. These soils tend to exhibit high levels of shrink-swell and a low EC. A flocculated soil which contains ideally 25% air and 25% water will hold more water and thus an improved electrical conductance. The in-field testing of your soil's compaction and electrical conductivity can yield great insight into your soil structure and EC. 

2. Biological Activity. Once you have established pore space and increased the pathways for electrical conductance, saturating the soil with microbial communities and minerals can boost your soil's electrical conductivity. A higher concentration of dissolved solutes provides much needed bio-available nutrients for your crop. Along with feeding the crop, these dissolved solutes provide nutrition to soil microbial communities which populate the liquid fraction of the soil. Each microbial cell acts like a small battery in the soil. As these "batteries" grow and replicate they increase the electrical charge in the soil. A soil with active soil microbes should yield a steady state EC throughout the growing season. Maintaining a steady state EC is critically important to your crops production, health, and profitability and is driven by soil microbes. 

Figure credit: Corwin and Lesch, "Apparent soil electrical conductivity measurements in agriculture"., (2005). 
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Farmer First
Soil Works LLC always puts the farmer first. We do not have a board of directors or investor group to answer to. We answer to the farmer. So... we want to hear from you. We design products to increase your profitability and soil resiliency. If there is anything you need, we will do our best to help you or direct you to someone who can. Together we can all grow and improve farming for the future. 
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