The role of soil temperature in agricultural health is largely understudied, but recent research suggests that it can affect soil health in important ways. Researchers at Texas Tech University found that lower daily temperature ranges of soil in the Southern High Plains were associated with higher levels of soil microbes (which help make critical nutrients available for plants) and decreased nitrogen availability. These results suggest that climate variability may have implications for soil health and microbial content. In the South Central U.S., a more developed understanding of how management practices, climate variability, and soil health interact is essential for sound agricultural decision-making.
This project implemented demonstration fields in which various sustainable management practices can be tested and their impacts on soil temperature and health can be monitored. The demonstration fields focused on cotton production and will test management practices related to water use efficiency, carbon storage, and soil health. In addition to demonstrating the effects of various management practices, these plots were designed to determine how much variability cotton production systems can tolerate before ecosystems and the services they provide are negatively affected.
This demonstration system is in high demand amongst regional stakeholders and was implemented with the support of the South‐Central USDA Climate Hub, NRCS scientists, and Cotton Inc. It was expected to contribute substantially to our collective understanding of the interactions between climate variability, soil health, and agricultural productivity in the Southern High Plains while equipping stakeholders with the knowledge they need to make appropriate management decisions for optimal agroecosystem health.