“If you care about your farm and you care about your farms success in the long run, building soil organic matter and soil nutrition is the most important crucial thing to do for the health of your operation.” Jason Von Kundra.

As part of the Appalachian Harvest Organic Growers Group, we’ll help you with the necessary paperwork to get your soil tested. All you have to do is drop off this paperwork with local extension agent. If you’re growing for commercial reasons, then there services are all free in Virginia.

In the meantime, it’s always a good idea to conduct a soil survey. You can do that here. Just click on the green “Start WSS” button and enter your address when you’re on the Area of Interest tab. Then click on the AOI button in the map toolbar and zoom in over your property. Next, click on the soil map. That will give you a breakdown of your soil or click on soil data explorer to provide insight into your lands productivity, as well as specifics such as depth, plant suitability and classifications.

When you get your soil test results, Appalachian Harvest will help go over the necessary actions to achieve maximum productivity. In our corresponding video online, Jason from Sprouting Hope Community Garden in Marion Virginia talked to me about the importance of a healthy soil. Jason recommends that the first place you will want to invest is your soil. He goes on to say that the health of your soil determines the health of your plants, the plants immunity to disease, how much they produce, their profitability and the success of your entire operation.

One of the most important factors to look at from your soil test Jason notes is your soil organic matter. This is mainly plant and animal residue at various states of decomposition. According to Penn State Extension, soil organic matter influences the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the soil in ways that are almost universally beneficial to crop production.

Some of the benefits of having a higher percent of soil organic matter include an increase of nutrients such as nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sulfur, as well as helping to reduce soil erosion and increasing the available amount of plant water. Some other benefits that Cornell mention include your soils ability to resist pH change, providing food for the living organisms in the soil and enhancing soil microbial biodiversity and activity which can help in the suppression of diseases and pests.

Think of soil organic matter as a bank account, cashing it in to create healthy more productive plants that require fewer inputs. Most farms today have anywhere of one to six percent of soil organic matter. A great way to increase your soil organic matter is cover crops. Our next episode and blog will be covering this topic more thoroughly. Some other ways to increase your soil organic matter include manures, compost, straw and cardboard.In the growers group, you will need to refer to documents 3.10 and 3.28 when applying raw manure and 3.28 and 4.13 when applying composted manure.Some things to keep in mind is that woodchips can be nutrient negative for the first three years and should be used only in pathways, as well as being weary of leaves since they impact the soil pH. Remember, the health of your soil determines the success of your entire operation.

Derrick Von Kundra