There are six specific components that are biologically-based and can enhance your soils health and productivity. Different soil types respond differently to specific practices, so farmers must select best practices within each component.

Enhance organic matter

Adding new organic matter each year could be the most important way to improve soil quality. Practices that increase organic matter would include leaving crop residue, crop rotations that include high residue crops, growing cover crops, optimal nutrient and water management, applying manure or compost, and using low or no-till systems.

Avoid excessive tillage

Tillage can break down soil structure, speed decomposition and organic matter loss, cause compaction, and increase erosion. Reducing tillage protects the soil surface with plant residues.

Manage pests and nutrients efficiently

Test soil, practice integrated pest management, monitor soil and plant pests, apply only necessary chemicals in the right place at the right time. Use non-chemical approaches to pest management as much as possible.

Prevent soil compaction

Compaction reduces the amount of air, water, and pore space available for roots and soil organisms. High yielding corn roots need room to grow. Prevention of soil compaction is essential.

Keep the ground covered

Uncovered soil is subject to wind and water erosion, drying and crusting. Ground can be covered by leaving crop residue on the surface and planting cover crops. Ground covers must be managed to prevent problems in the spring with delayed soil warming and slow drying.

Diversify cropping systems

Increasing plant diversity is beneficial. Different plants each contribute unique attributes to the system. Diverse soil organisms can help control pest populations. Diverse cultural practices can reduce weed and disease pressures. Crop rotations, along with cover crops, help more species of soil organisms thrive. That will improve soil quality.

Growing 300-bushel corn will require a higher degree of management. By focusing on management systems that improve soil quality, you will be preparing your soils for higher yields and higher profits without adding acres.