Make plans to attend the fourth annual Southwest Missouri Soil Health Workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Sac River Cowboy Church Event Center, 6448 W. State Highway EE, Springfield.

The cost to attend is $20 per person, which includes lunch and snacks.

Topics covered will include how to select cover crop species, carbon sequestration in the soil, applying soil health principles and integrating livestock into cover crops.

To register, call the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District at (417) 831-5246, ext. 3.

Soil basics

No other factor can affect plant health like healthy soil can, according to Kelly McGowan, horticulture field specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Healthy plants need healthy soil much like humans need good nutrition," McGowan said.

Healthy soil can be achieved by a few simple actions.

The first is to keep soil covered. Soil exposed to the elements is more prone to compaction, erosion and die-off of soil microbes, has less water retention capabilities and is more susceptible to weeds. Soil can be kept covered with mulch, cover crops or plants with a living root system throughout the year.

If soil is poor, consider adding some type of organic matter, such as compost. Compost can be purchased in bags, by the truckload or made in one’s own yard.

McGowan notes that crop rotation is also very important in disease and insect management.

"Many diseases and insects over-winter in the soil. If the same plants or plants in the same family are planted in the same spot year after year, pest levels can build up and infest plants each growing season,” McGowan said.

More information

For more information, contact one of MU Extension's field specialists in horticulture serving southwest Missouri: Patrick Byers in Webster County at (417) 859-2044, Kelly McGowan in Greene County at (417) 881-8909, or Robert Balek in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158. Or call the gardening hotline operated by the Master Gardeners of Greene County at (417) 874-2963.

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