Monday, January 16, 2012

Soil Cores

Soil coring is used extensively in soil classification and the teaching of soils and properties. Terry Taylor of Geff, Illinois brought a few soil cores from his farm to the notill conference to aid the discussion of his presentation on how cover crops have improved his farm.

Terry's soil is similar to the soil at the bottom of the hills of my rolling farms that lay on the glacial moraine between the Illinoian and Wisconsin Glacial Till. The soil is darker on top and blue to gray underneath. Those color show a lack of oxygen in the subsoil and tend to be acidic and anaerobic, not good for crops. Just think of the little roots sizzling in acid very slowly. They don't grow very much or very far.

With notill and cover crops, Terry and many of us have been able to increase the productivity of these soils a little more each year. Building richer soil on top of these subsoils increases productivity over time. In dry years the crops reach deeper into the soil profile for moisture and their decay increases the organic matter where they grew.

John Aeschliman of Washington state was impressed with Terry's soil cores and commented to me, wouldn't it be neat if we all brought a soil core from our farm to the conference? I agreed and wrote the idea down and gave it to the notill staff to consider for next year. We can bring them whether they adopt the idea or not but it is a good one.

I could bring in my best soil and a troublesome one I am working with to discuss. Terry was able to pull cores the week of the conference which was very unusual. We would have to time it before a heavy freeze sometime this fall. It is easier if you have a soil opened up to repair tile or just dig up the soil profile for easier coring. I think Terry just pounded a long 3 inch PVC pipe into the ground to get his cores but I will get more information on that.

One farmer asked me why all the interest in soil profiles and how each soil was formed and I said as we learn more about improving yields we have to get down to the core of it! Soil cores can help us see what we have and what we need to do to improve them.

I have a reply the last two days I can't read. Can anyone else read them and send them to me? Blogspot locks up when I click on those two comments.



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