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9: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality

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    There are multiple soil conservation practices that can reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality. In this module, you will explore what is meant by soil quality or soil health for agricultural production, as well as how strategic crop selection, crop sequencing, and reduced soil tillage practices in combination are most effective for improving soil quality for agriculture.


    • Describe different types of cropping systems types, soil tillage practices, and indicators of soil quality.
    • Interpret the effect of cropping systems and soil tillage approaches on soil conservation and quality.
    • Distinguish which crop and soil management practices promote soil health and enhanced agroecosystem performance.

    Learning Objectives

    After completing this module, students will be able to:

    • Define and provide an example of some cropping system practices (ex. monoculture, double crop, rotation, cover crop, intercrops).
    • Define soil quality and describe some indicators of soil quality.
    • Explain some tillage systems and how tillage practices affect soil quality.
    • Interpret how the integration of cropping and tillage systems can promote soil conservation and quality.
    • Analyze and prescribe some cropping systems and tillage practices that promote soil quality and other agroecosystem benefits.



    Module 7 Roadmap

    Detailed instructions for completing the Summative Assessment will be provided in each module.

    Module 7 Roadmap
    Action Assignment Location

    To Read

    1. Materials on the course website.
    2. Module 7.1: Chapter 1 (Healthy Soil) and Chapter 2 (Organic Matter: What it is and Why it’s so important?) from the book that you can download for free "Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3." Sustainable Agriculture Network, USDA. Beltsville, MD.
    3. Module 7.2: Chapter 16 (Reducing Tillage) from the book "Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3." Sustainable Agriculture Network, USDA. Beltsville, MD.
    1. You are on the course website now.
    2. Online: Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3
    3. Online: Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3
    To Do
    1. Formative Assessment: Soil Quality
    2. Summative Assessment: Interpreting a 12 Year Summary of Crop and Soil Management Research from New York
    3. Take Module Quiz
    1. In course content: Formative Assessment; then take quiz in Canvas
    2. Summative Assessment (Discussion) in Canvas
    3. In Canvas


    If you prefer to use email:

    If you have any questions, please send them through Canvas e-mail. We will check daily to respond. If your question is one that is relevant to the entire class, we may respond to the entire class rather than individually.

    If you prefer to use the discussion forums:

    If you have any questions, please post them to the discussion forum in Canvas. We will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.

    This page titled 9: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Karsten & Steven Vanek (John A. Dutton: e-Education Institute) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.