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Soil science helps boost agricultural success

To most people, dirt is dirt. To those who study soil science, though, every type has different physical properties and individual characteristics.

Two of those soil scientists – Dr. Robson Armindo of the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil and Dr. Ole Wendroth of the University of Kentucky – thought the standard soil physical quality index just didn’t offer enough information to those who depend on the land, such as farmers.

They decided to take a closer look at interactions between soil, air and water to see if they could do a better job.

In a new study, the pair looked at crop needs, land use and climate to develop a new set of evaluations that could replace the quick and dirty methods already in place to determine soil quality. They considered questions such as how water flows over a soil’s surface or is absorbed, and how hard it would be for roots or farming equipment to go through a soil type.

Armindo and Wendroth tested their resulting five indices and two functions to test soil in Germany, the U.S. and Brazil, and found that they could give an accurate picture of a particular soil’s quality.

The new evaluation methods can help determine if property is good for farming or would make a good foundation for a building. For farmers, it goes farther, helping them to determine which crops would do well on a piece of land.

The equations will help land managers and farmers determine how land can best be used, and can help to save the time and money that often goes into trial and error, Armindo and Wendroth said.

Research funding came from the U.S. National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the State of Kentucky and the Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel. Armindo and Wendroth’s findings were published in Soil Science Society of America Journal.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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