00:01– [Kari] There’s more microbes in a teaspoon of soil
00:04-than there is humans on the planet.
00:09– [Sarah] Soil is a very key thing to our life.
00:11-We walk on it every single day.
00:14-It is vital for us as a community,
00:16-as researchers, as farmers,
00:18-and as the general public to support the soil
00:21-that we rely on and that we thrive on.
00:30-When you think about soil,
00:31-a lot of times we talk about soil ecosystem services.
00:34-So what is the soil doing?
00:36-Recycling nutrients, sequestering carbon,
00:39-they’re minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
00:41-They’re holding in water
00:43-and actually microbes are really at the center
00:45-of all of those things.
00:53– One of my interests was astrobiology
00:55-and looking for planets with other soil life on it,
00:58-but I figured it was more important
01:00-to focus on our home planet earth
01:02-and correcting the mistakes that we’ve made
01:03-to the soil profiles.
01:06– Microbes are really complicated
01:07-and they’re really hard to study in the lab,
01:10-but I’m really interested in is what the microbes are doing
01:13-out in the field, and in order to do that
01:15-we have to actually get out in the field and sample soil.
01:18-And a lot of times what we’re doing is taking that soil
01:21-and trying to freeze the microbes
01:23-in whatever state they’re in, in the fields.
01:26– My master’s thesis
01:28-looks towards a long-term field experiment
01:33-and the focus of this project is to see how
01:36-more sustainable practices
01:38-are going to impact a field in the long-term
01:41-because this plot was established back in 1995,
01:44-so I can determine how 25 years
01:47-of sustainable agricultural practices
01:50-change the soil microbial community,
01:52-both for bacteria and fungal communities.
01:55– I think sometimes farmers talk about
01:57-having the most microbes,
01:59-so trying to get the biggest microbial population.
02:01-And I think that’s maybe less important
02:03-than a really diverse microbial population.
02:06-Part of it is understanding how different practices
02:09-influence different microbes
02:10-and promoting the ones that are good
02:11-and try to minimize the ones that are bad.
02:14-And what we’ve seen is that tillage really differentiates
02:17-the types of microbes that are growing.
02:20-We’re looking at the bacteria and the fungi,
02:22-and we see that totally different fungi can grow
02:24-when you have tillage in your system compared to no tillage.
02:28– Right now, I’ve been able to look specifically
02:30-at the sequencing data from fungal
02:32-and bacterial communities.
02:35-Tillage as well as a corn-soy-wheat rotation
02:39-have the most impact on how the community structure changes.
02:46– Some of the bigger challenges with soil health is a change
02:49-in the thinking of how things have always been done.
02:52-There’s a lot of people out there
02:54-that are hesitant to change because we’ve always plowed.
02:57-We’ve always done these different practices.
02:59-Tillage is the equivalent of a tornado, a hurricane,
03:04-and a fire all at the same time.
03:06-It rips apart the soil and kills a lot of your biology.
03:09-We’ve adapted our farming practices
03:11-by moving completely out of primary tillage.
03:14-We now no-till or minimum-till or strip-till.
03:19– Yeah, I think for every farm
03:20-there’s different soil management practices that can work.
03:23-We need to kinda take a toolbox approach where
03:25-different management practices can be integrated,
03:29-minimizing tillage as much as possible,
03:32-increasing the number of crops that you grow,
03:34-adding things like cover crops
03:36-so that you don’t have any bare soil on the ground.
03:39– The impact of crop rotation is that
03:41-the root structures of the plants
03:43-will promote different microbial life
03:46-that are more geared towards that host plant itself.
03:50– So even if we’re sampling in a corn plot,
03:52-you can tell that there’s different microbes there
03:54-depending on the types of crops
03:56-that were grown in previous years.
03:58– [Thomas] We grow corn, soybean, wheat rotation,
04:02-utilize cover crops whenever possible.
04:04-Those roots do a lot of the till action for us.
04:06-That’s some of the nicest seed beds I’ve ever planted.
04:09– [Kari] Something that we’ve been thinking about
04:10-a lot lately is using animals in the system.
04:14-So using either pasture or manure,
04:17-and incorporating manure into the system
04:19-so that you’re taking those nutrients from
04:22-an animal system and putting them back onto the soil
04:25-and adding carbon and nutrients.
04:27– [Thomas] We aim to spread manure over the entire farm
04:29-in rotation now instead of just the convenient farms.
04:33-Manure is high in nutrients, so nitrogen, potash,
04:37-phosphorus. So you get all different nutrients.
04:40-Our yields are increasing,
04:43-but also we’re more consistent with our yields
04:45-across our fields.
04:47-It really surprised me how rapidly
04:50-we did start to see changes in our soil.
04:53-I would advise other farmers to start small, but start now.
05:00– What we’re trying to do, at
05:01-the university is find ways that we can increase yields
05:05-and increase production and also increase profitability
05:08-while still protecting the environment.
05:10-And I think if the general public understood the role
05:13-that soil played in sustainable agricultural systems,
05:16-they would want the healthy soil.
05:19– [Thomas] I hope that the next generation continue to study
05:22-and realize the impacts of some of our practices
05:26-and continue to push towards a more sustainable way
05:29-to raise crops.