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If you guessed that Dryland Grains would have the lowest average soil health scores, and that Trees, Wild Grasslands and Home Gardens would have the highest scores, you would hit the jackpot. Dryland Grains have no supplemental water, no organic matter inputs, the shortest days of living cover, and high pH, which all gang up to give the group some of the lowest soil health scores. Home Gardens have the most supplemental water available, huge organic matter inputs, very low tillage intensity and low soil pH, which raises them to the top. Although Grasslands and Trees have no supplemental irrigation water generally and no organic matter inputs, they have the most days of living cover, no tillage and the lowest soil pH, so they do very well too. The chart below has the average soil health scores of each of our 7 crop groups, for Soil Organic Matter, Soil Respiration, Organic Nitrogen, Organic Carbon, Soil Health Score, Total Microbial Biomass, and Number of Fungi.
Please remember that the numbers in these tables and graphs are averages, a mathematical construct. There is no grower named “Average”, nor a field called “Average”. We are talking about an imaginary mathematically constructed “average” site in these tables and charts. Our real world is much more varied and complicated.
Elizabeth Black is the producer of the Citizen Science Soil Health Project