soil

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has partnered with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Texas Wildlife Association, and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association to highlight the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas. The statewide campaign, “LIFE IN THE SOIL: DIG DEEPER”, is the theme of this year’s Soil and Water Stewardship Week, which is April 28 through May 5, 2019.

The existence and livelihood of all Texas agricultural producers starts in the soil. Indeed, it is their life. It is also reasonable to assume that soil is the foundation for all life. Soil is the building block for the grassland and forest ecosystems that allows for livestock operations, timber production, and wildlife habitat. Our food and fiber crops are grown in the soil, backyard and urban gardens are planted in the soil, and our homes and communities are built on top of the soil.

But something that is unfortunately overlooked by many people is soil biology. Healthy soils are alive with complex communities of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes, plants, and animals. Amazingly, there are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on Earth. As conservation stewards, we all should manage our lands for the life deep within our soil, not only for those above it. We need to remember the five principles of soil health:

Minimize Disturbance – Ranchers utilize rotational grazing, farmers use high residue rotational crops and/or minimal or no-till systems where economically feasible, and foresters use Best Management Practices to protect the soil surface, balance wildlife populations with the carrying capacity of the land.

Armor the Surface – Keep the soil covered with vegetation, preferably native vegetation, and control invasive species. This cools the soil, slows water runoff and promotes water infiltration. Armor on the soil is essential during periods of drought or flooding.

Year-Round Roots – Having green plants year-round provides benefits from the plant roots, increases carbon in the soil, builds and recycles nutrients, attracts beneficial insects, provides physical protection from natural disturbances, and an opportunity to introduce grazers that bring so much biology to the system.

Diversity – Mother Nature loves plant diversity. Cool and warm season grasses with a good mix of broadleaf plants and trees are desirable to create, use, and recycle the nutrients and habitats that plants and animals need to grow. Control unwanted invasive species as they can disrupt soil microbiology, ecosystem health, and water resources.

Integrate Livestock – Including livestock provides beneficial biological inputs such as, urine, feces, saliva, hair, milk, and movement, that are important for healthy soils.

This campaign aims to bring more awareness and support to voluntary land stewardship because the way we manage our resources on private lands directly impacts all Texans. TPWD is proud to collaborate with conservation partners across Texas to promote the importance of land stewardship.

Rural working lands are crucial to protecting and preserving the natural resources of Texas. With the great majority of land in Texas being privately owned, voluntary land stewardship is vital to keeping these resources healthy.

Without healthy and productive soils, our rangeland, cropland, and forests will fail, production agriculture will fail, and our society will ultimately fail. Whether you’re a farmer, a rancher, a forester, or just want to plant an urban garden, it is up to you to decide how to run your operation. We need healthy soils, and we also need good stewards of our lands that protect and preserve the natural resources of Texas.

For more information on “LIFE IN THE SOIL: DIG DEEPER”, please visit: www.tsswcb.texas.gov

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