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In this graph, we divided 94 sites into 3 groups: Zero-tillage sites like irrigated pastures, grasslands and forests (green bars); Reduced tillage sites using strip-till with herbicides, hand tools, or chisel plowing, (yellow bars); and Conventional-tillage sites using rototilling, moldboard plows and lots of mechanical cultivation (red bars). The height of each colored bar represents the soil health score at that site. You can start to see a pattern emerging in the rainbow of colors, with the red bars more at the bottom end with short bars and low scores and the green bars more at the top end of the graph with tall bars and high scores. The median scores confirm what your eyes see. Our zero tillage sites scored highest, with a median soil health score of 20.05 (green arrow). The yellow arrow shows the median score of 13.39 for our reduced tillage sites. The red arrow at the bottom shows the median soil health score of 9.76 for our conventionally tilled sites. As tillage intensity increases, soil health decreases, partly because tillage is very hard on soil fungi.
Elizabeth Black is the producer of the Citizen Science Soil Health Project