Impacts of conventional and organic management practices on soil health and water quality

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Mukherjee, A., R. Bier, E. Omondi, J. Kan, and M. Daniels. 2020. Rodale Institute website.


This report provides initial results of the collaborative study (WIT) started in 2018 using a long-term studied location (FST), and a recently established location (Stroud Preserve) in order to get insights of soil health, and consequent water quality under various agronomic management practices for row crop production. Initial results suggest that soil compaction and infiltration were significantly improved by long-term organic management practices as a direct result of significantly higher SOM under organic compared to conventional system. The trend of continuous soil health improvement under long-term organically managed plots at FST was only partially observed due to very saturated or, wet condition during the initial baseline soil sampling in January 2019 that affected soil physicochemical properties at the topsoil. In remedy, 0-10, 10-20, and 20-30 cm soils were resampled in October, and November of 2019 from both studied locations, and all these soil tests were repeated to make a comparison with the initial data.

Soil porewater may percolate through deeper soil profile before reaching the groundwater, and thus even more filtration by the soil profile is expected. Significantly higher nitrite-N, nitrate-N, and total N concentrations (data not shown) in soil porewater samples under conventional compared to organic system were observed, and these systems will continue to be evaluated over different parts of the growing season and with respect to total volumes leached to understand total loss of these compounds below the rooting zone. Long-term data from collected water samples on all these chemicals groups at multiple sampling points over the course of this project will depict a sound picture of the overall biogeochemistry of the studied nutrients.