Try new things, but don’t get snowed by one-shot soil health wonders

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Like with human health, maintaining or creating healthy soil is more about doing lots of things right vs. adding one product. And, just as with human health, there’s no magic pill to solve a problem — anyone who tells you there is, is probably selling something.

Dr. Don Flaten, soil scientist at the University of Manitoba, certainly encourages farmers to try new things when it comes to crop production and improving soil health, but also says that it’s important to stick with practices and products with decent trial results behind them.

Unfortunately, there are companies and people selling products promising miracles, seemingly in one season, if you’ll just apply it.

“It’s important to keep your head up. There’s no restriction on what products people can sell to you,” he says, and there are those that will sell a product as a cure-all. Soil health and crop production, however, is always a balance of biological, chemical, and physical aspects, not any one of those replacing the others.

Instead, Flaten suggests follow the less sensational (but far more reliable) system of soil testing, building soil organic matter, and ensuring solid soil nutrient management planning. Remember that crops remove nutrients, and that some of those, such as phosphorus, simply have to be added back in in some form (yes, nitrogen and even sulphur really can be added from the air).

Some people get caught up in the hype about something, or one specific aspect of soil, and can get fanatical about it — even those with research backgrounds. Soil is complex, and so our management of it has to be multi-layered, as well. There just is no silver bullet for soil health.

Listen on for more about thinking about soil health with a science-based approach: 

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