With all the presentations I have to prepare for I thought it would be fitting to finally talk about agronomy. That way I can accomplish two tasks at once. Please do not let my husband know I am capable of performing multiple tasks at once. He will inevitably place expectations on me I really don't want to maintain.
The definition of agronomy is a science that deals with methods used by farmers to raise crops and care for the soil, taken from Merriam-Websters Dictionary. When you google the word agronomy you get the following....noun: agronomy - the science of soil management and crop production. If I had known it was that I'm not sure I would have gotten into this line of work! Just kidding, I get the best of both worlds, playing in the dirt and growing stuff.
Let's be serious now. What has always interested me is the relationship the plants and soil form and reactions taking place throughout the life of that plant. It can be short lived as in the case of a radish or lettuce that can be harvested with 25-30 days, or that of celeriac, which can take as long as 120 days to mature. The whole time the plant is in the ground it is forming a partnership with the soil to ultimately become food for someone or something. This brings me to the first presentation I have to give which is on soil health.
So, now I have to define soil health.......wait a minute! I should define soil first, I think I'm putting the cart before the horse and I don't want to upset all the pony lovers in the world. According to Wikipedia it is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and the countless organisms that together support life on earth. I have often thought I might run out of stuff to write, then I re-read the last sentence only to realize entire books have been written on each of the components that make up soil. And you thought you would get rid of me in a few weeks. Soil can be further defined by it composition, which is the varying amounts of sand, silt, and clay giving it structure. An ideal soil has balanced amounts of sand, silt, and clay and is called loam. Organic matter is another important component. It's essentially dead stuff and waste like bugs, animals, manures, and decayed plant material. Bugs are animals and that was really redundant. I didn't delete it so I could use the word redundant. I'm done now. Microorganisms in the soil convert the organic matter into nitrogen, enzymes, and other nutrients for the plant to use. It is also important for things like improving the soils drought tolerance.
This all brings me to what my presentation is about....soil health. The NRCS defines soil health as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Wow, it's like one big family and everyone has to do their part to maintain it. I believe soil health is dependent on and in direct response to how people manage it. It can be managed through tillage, crops, amendments, and fertilizer. Tillage is how you are preparing the soil to be planted, such as turning, stirring, plowing, or possibly planting a tillage radish to do the work for you. There are several ways to use crops as a management tool, two of them being cover cropping and crop rotation. Amendments and fertilizers are not the same. Amendments are just that, they are used to improve or enhance the soils physical properties. They are not necessarily supplying nutrients in the same way a fertilizer is. Fertilizers are made up of components or ingredients that supply nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the soil or plant and have assigned values to each nutrient, hence N-P-K.
I have to be honest....now the laundry is calling. Over the course of the next several weeks I'll break down in further detail soil health and how we can manage or even improve it. What this really means is I have to finish my power point presentation this week and you all will get to hear about it.