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Dynamic Soil Properties & Why They Matter

As a rancher or farmer, you know that healthy and productive soil is crucial for your livelihood. Soil health affects crop and forage production, which is the primary source of income for most ranchers and farmers. That's why understanding Dynamic Soil Properties is so important.

Dynamic Soil Properties are properties that change over a short time (e.g., a few years or a human life as opposed to geologic time) time due to natural or human-caused factors. These properties include soil organic matter, soil structure, soil water retention capacity, and soil biological activity. By monitoring these properties, ranchers and farmers can make informed decisions about land management practices to improve soil health and productivity.

Soil Organic Matter Soil organic matter is the amount of plant and animal material that has decomposed into the soil. This property plays a crucial role in soil fertility, nutrient cycling, and water retention. Soils with high organic matter content are more fertile, hold more water, and are more resistant to erosion than soils in the same series with less organic matter. By monitoring soil organic matter, ranchers and farmers can better understand and utilize the soil's nutrient holding capacity, water retention ability, and overall soil structure.

Soil Structure Soil structure refers to the arrangement of soil particles into aggregates (think of BB’s or cottage cheese, or grape nuts) or clumps. Good soil structure is essential for water infiltration and retention, air exchange, and root penetration. Soil compaction can lead to poor soil structure, reduced water infiltration, and decreased crop and forage production. By monitoring soil structure, ranchers and farmers can adjust tillage methods and implement practices that promote good soil structure.

Infiltration Rates Soil water infiltration refers to the process of water entering into the soil surface. This happens when rainwater, irrigation, or other sources of water come in contact with the soil surface and begin to move through the soil. The rate of infiltration is affected by the physical properties of the soil, such as its texture, structure, and compaction, soil moisture content, as well as by the intensity and duration of the water application. More recently, we see that factors like the presence of a plat canopy, soil organic matter, and soil structure also influence infiltration rates. The ability of soil to allow water to infiltrate is important for plant growth, groundwater recharge, and erosion control. Soil Water Retention Capacity Soil water retention capacity refers to the ability of soil to hold and release water. Holding and releasing water requires a diversity of pore sizes, larger pores allow water and air to flow through rapidly, while smaller pores tend to hold on to water. Soils with high water retention capacity can reduce irrigation needs and increase crop and forage yields. By monitoring soil water retention capacity, ranchers and farmers can adjust irrigation practices and implement practices that promote water conservation.

Soil Biological Activity Soil biological activity refers to the microorganisms (typically we think of bacteria, fungi, protozoans and nematodes) and other living organisms that inhabit the soil. These organisms play important roles in nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and plant health. Soils with high biological activity can improve nutrient availability and reduce the need for fertilizers. By monitoring soil biological activity, ranchers and farmers can adjust fertilization practices and implement practices that promote biodiversity. In summary, Dynamic Soil Properties are crucial for ranchers and farmers because they provide valuable information about soil health and productivity. By monitoring these properties and implementing appropriate land management practices, ranchers and farmers can improve soil health, increase crop and forage production, and promote sustainable and resilient agriculture.

If you want to learn more about Dynamic Soil Properties and their relationship to land use and management, I encourage you to watch this video:

In this video, you'll learn about the key factors that influence Dynamic Soil Properties, the importance of measuring and monitoring these properties, and how they can be used to predict soil change and inform land management decisions.

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