Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

The School of Plant, Environmental Management and Soil Science

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

One of the biggest challenges facing the world today is the need to provide nutritious food to an ever-growing population in a way that does not compromise the ecosystem services of the soil that are necessary for life. The evidence for widespread degradation of the soil has been a major contributor in the increased interest in soil health. Most of the research in soil health has focused on field crops, which has led to a gap in the research of soil health on vegetable cropping systems. This objective of this study was to analyze the health of the soil on an intensive sustainable vegetable farm by measuring the chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil. Soil chemical assessments included macronutrients, micronutrients, pH, and soil organic matter (SOM). Soil physical assessments included particle size analysis and aggregate stability. Soil biological assessments included Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) and respiration. Key indicators of soil health were high in this system as compared to what other studies have reported in agricultural systems. These indicators included SOM, aggregate stability and a diverse microbial community as shown by FAME. An area to monitor in this system is the high nutrient levels, especially phosphorous, but the high aggregate stability, with an average of 93% in the areas in production at the end of the study, makes the possibility of runoff less of a concern. This study indicates that the management in this production system leads to positive impacts on the health of the soil.

Committee Chair

Motsenbocker, Carl

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