Comparison of soil quality of farms managed with sustainable and conventional soil management practices in Oklahoma

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kefyalew (Girma) Desta
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, cotton, sorghum (milo), grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: manure management, preventive practices, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: no-till, application rate management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, indicators, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, composting, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    We initiated an on-farm project to generate local soil quality information comparing soil quality of sustainable and non-sustainable systems, and develop soil quality assessment index and online tool. We collected soil physical, chemical and biological properties in spring and summer 2011. In about 65% of the fields we sampled, the owners participated in sampling and person-to-person discussion of the results we found. Overall, growers (particularly organic growers) were optimistic and showed interest to use on-site soil quality measurements. Data analyses of the collected soil samples are under way. Extension and outreach activities will be conducted in summer-fall of 2012.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We are proposing a project that (1) generate local soil quality information comparing soil quality of sustainable and non-sustainable systems , (2) develop soil quality assessment index that can be used to quantify overall soil quality status of a farm , and (3) develop an online soil quality assessment decision aide program. Item (1) involves collection of soil physical, chemical and biological property data relevant to assess soil quality from two contrasting current soil management practices, i.e., sustainable and non-sustainable. Item (2) will be addressed through development of a soil quality scoring framework and index (indices) and apply the data collected in item (1) to the scoring framework. Data will be used to develop soil quality assessment tool that can be used to monitor current and future conditions of soil so that timely intervention can be applied. The data generated will be documented and communicated to all relevant stakeholders including farmers. This will be through development of extension publications and conducting workshops. Item (3) will combine (1) and (2) into an online soil quality assessment system that is accessible to farmers/ranchers. The online sustainable soil quality assessment tool will be demonstrated several times a year. Involving farmers/ranchers in this effort will make the information dissemination easy and more adoptable. Of course, like any other recommendation, success of the project depends on socio-economic circumstances. To reiterate the objectives of this project:
    • We will document the difference in soil quality (physical, chemical and biological properties) in sustainably and non-sustainably managed farms and generate information needed to help farmers to move from less sustainable to a more sustainable soil management system.
    • We will develop Soil quality scoring system and online version of it that fits Oklahoma's conditions, and
    • We will disseminate the comparative soil quality information as well as the soil quality assessment system to educators through in-service training and to all growers in the State (conventional, transitioning and organic farmers) through workshop and demonstration.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.