Soil Isn't Just a Growing Medium — The Connected and Complicated Relationships of Soil

Red River Soil in Profile, Lyndsey Smith, 2013
Red River Soil in Profile, Lyndsey Smith, 2013

You’ve likely heard it said that we’ve got to stop treating soil like dirt. To take it a step further, Ray Archuleta wants farmers to start thinking about soil as much more than a growing medium and instead consider it a living partner of the farm.

Archuleta, a soil-focused agronomist, presented at this year’s SoilSmart conference at Waterloo, Ontario. Earlier on Real Agriculture, we posted his thoughts on the journey to soil health (find that here), and in this interview we build off that topic to delve into what Archuleta calls the philosophy of soil.

Archuleta explains how farmers can view each pass or management decision as applying a stress to the soil system — either as a physical stress or a biological one — and challenges farmers to think about reducing those stresses. He also likens plant roots to energy conduits or fuel for the entire soil system, which explains why cover cropping can have such a dramatic impact on soil health.

“Nature works in patterns,” Archuleta says, and the sooner farmers learn how nature works in relation to soil, the sooner they can apply the principles of soil health management to the benefit of their farm. He also says you may be surprised to learn where some farmers have derived inspiration for their soil management philosophy. Hear that and more below.

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