About My First Book Horizons and How to Order

Introducing My First Poetry Book, "Horizons"

  My first poetry book, Horizons (Atmosphere Press)  AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND AUDIOBOOK NOW!! SEE BELOW TO ORDER!!!! Embark on a captivat...

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Does Your Soil Have a Hangover?


Does your soil have a hangover?

An exploration into soil health

The result of being a two-time graduate of the agronomy program of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spending many hours as an undergraduate at the soil fertility research program working with Dr. Dan Walters, and slaving away at my graduate work with the USDA-ARS Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit associated with the agronomy department at UNL is that I have been lamenting the loss and retirement of many of the professors that taught me—the UNL soils team that was once so abundant seems to be sparse at the moment.  It is going through growing pains, awaiting reestablishment of its shaken foundation.  The Crop Production Clinic in Norfolk in 2020 was mostly geared toward pest management.  So when I saw an opportunity to view a soils presentation online given by a Lancaster County Extension Soils Specialist, I grabbed the chance.  Could there be hope? 

Aaron Hird spoke of soil health, and he used a good metaphor.  If he doesn’t mind, I’m going to “borrow” that idea and run with it.  Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. 

If you think of the soil as a body, then how do you take care of its health? 

Well, how do you take care of your own body? 

If you ate junk food, didn’t exercise, sat behind a desk all day and stared at a computer or laid on the couch and watched television or played on your smartphone constantly, how would you feel?  If you drank sugary drinks instead of water and ate only processed foods, how would your body respond?  You’d feel pretty cruddy, huh?  The more yuck you put into your body without building muscle, the more fat you will acquire—and the less energy you’ll have.  It doesn’t matter how much you sleep.  If you don’t put good stuff into your body, you won’t have the energy to do anything.  So your body will crave energy, but if you keep giving it the wrong stuff, it won’t use the food efficiently and won’t find the proper nutrients it needs.  You’ll get hooked on caffeine, eat more crap, and it’s a never-ending cycle. 

It’s the same thing with soil.  The microbes and plants living in the soil have certain requirements to stay healthy and living—the soil needs to eat healthy, too.  That’s why we soil sample and apply the correct fertilizer for the crop growing there each year.  But fertilizer isn’t enough.  You know how you feel when you wake up after a late night partying?  That’s kind of how the soil feels if you take too much out of it without putting the right stuff back.  Yeah, your soil’s going to get a hangover.  And just adding a bit of fertilizer doesn’t do the trick.  That’s like taking a vitamin and expecting to go back to normal.  That wouldn’t work for me! 

Soil needs the proper balance of air circulation, water, nutrients, ability to maintain and build structure, create habitats for microbes and other critters—a whole gamut of health considerations!  If you look at that list, it doesn’t look much different from ours—we need to breathe, drink, eat, build and maintain bones and muscles, and protect the microbiome in our gut, too. 

So when you are making your field plans this year—or just out tinkering in your garden or yard—please consider all of your soil’s needs!  It will thank you later, and you will reap the rewards. 

Thanks for reading!


February 5, 2020

Julie S. Paschold

Reference: Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County’s Successful Farmer Series, January 31, 2020: Soil Management:  https://lancaster.unl.edu/ag/successfulfarmerseries