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Understanding soil biology is critical to improving the soil profile for no-tillers. Jill Clapperton, a rhizosphere ecologist and agro-ecosystem consultant from Florence, Mont., promotes an understanding of how soil biology and ecology interact with cropping and soil management systems to facilitate long-term soil quality and productivity.
As a former leader of the Rhizosphere Ecology Research Group out of Lethbridge, Alberta Canada, Clapperton studies rangelands and cropping systems under low-input and organic management systems emphasizing no-tillage and reduced tillage. The aim of this research is to understand how soils function biologically so as to effectively manage and benefit from the long-term biological fertility of the soil.
The rhizosphere is the narrow region of soil that is directly influenced by root secretions and associated microorganisms.
“The rhizosphere is the plant root, the soil attached to the root and all the soil that is influenced by the root,” Clapperton says.
Building and protecting that zone is Clapperton’s goal. And the more roots, the better and faster soil builds.
“When there’s no disturbance and you have something growing in the rhizosphere at all times, it just keeps improving,” Clapperton told attendees at the 2008 National No-Tillage Conference.
Many producers first realize this after seeing the response of land put in the Conservation Reserve Program.
“If you can put a pasture in for even 1 year, you wouldn’t believe the amount of difference that makes in building soil. If you can put it in for 2 years, it’s amazing,” she says.