Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Latest Updates

February 9, 2014

Va. forage conference focuses on soil health

WEYERS CAVE, Va. (AP) — Joshua Dukart stood in front of an audience and posed a question.

“How many of you would like to leave the land better than when you found it?”

Every hand was raised.

During the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council 2014 Winter Forage Conference held at the Weyers Cave Community Center, Dukart talked about best practices for good soil health.

Dukart is a holistic management consultant from North Dakota and was one of two speakers at the conference.

The conference focused on forage plants and preserving soil. Forage plants grow continually and can either be harvested for feed or grazed by livestock.

Dukart said the key is how farmers treat the soil. If the soil isn’t healthy, the crop isn’t going to be.

“Land can put on a game face,” Dukart said. “Until we start digging below the surface . we’re not getting into that internal creature and really seeing what’s going on.”

Good soil comes from a good water cycle, mineral cycle and diversity of plants, he said. For example, having just one crop in an area could cause the plant to become dormant.

“Diversity rules,” Dukart said. “More diversity aboveground breeds more diversity belowground.”

Dukart said farmers also need to focus on feeding the soil.

“You wouldn’t expect your animals to perform unless you’re feeding them the nutrition they need,” he said.

Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, anthropoids and earthworms, which can all sound like bad things, actually help plants thrive.

Good soil needs five things: armor, diversity, continual plant root, appropriate disturbance and adequate recovery time.

Armor, which is land covered with vegetation, allows more nutrients to go back into the earth to the bacteria and other organisms within the ground, said J.B. Daniel, state grazing land specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“In the past, we’ve focused so much on the mineral content of the soil or the organic matter,” Daniel said. “Basically, we’ve somewhat ignored how our inputs and our management affect these living component, like these little microbes.”

More canopy or plant cover allows more organic matter to be deposited into the soil, creating a constant cycle — plant to soil to microbes back up through the soil to the plant.

Other factors are important, too.

“One of those things is longer rest periods, which allow the plants to grow,” Daniel said.

Rotating grazing allows the soil to recuperate and gain more nutrients, Daniel said.

That practice has been growing, said Matt Booher of the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“There is some set of people that are really changing the way they operate,” he said. “People’s awareness in this kind of practice, like rotational grazing, has increased more for everybody. There’s been more exposure.”

Laura Peters writes for The News Leader.

1
Text Only
Latest Updates
  • West Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    Security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for Ebola patients and others exposed to the disease as the death toll from the worst recorded outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa.
    U.S. health officials urged Americans not to travel to the three countries hit by the medical crisis:  Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 31, 2014

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Comiskey.jpg Sterling not the only bad owner

    As the Donald Sterling era in with the Los Angeles Clippers looks to be winding down, many are calling him the worst owner in sports history. From being cheap with the players to his most recent racist comments, it's hard to argue against.
    Yet, there are a few owners of athletic teams who can give Sterling a run for title of worst in history.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 1,100 layoffs planned at Alpha coal mines in W.Va.

    July 31, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Grandstands feel a little empty at NASCAR races

    Two decades after NASCAR started running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the crowds have thinned considerably. It's probably no reflection on the sport's massive following, which stretches from coast to coast, but it surely doesn't NASCAR's image help when the cameras pan across all of those empty seats.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • About 15 UMWA leaders arrested at EPA hearings

    July 31, 2014

  • More than 5,000 coal supporters protest EPA rules

    July 31, 2014