Soil is the foundation upon which South Dakota's number one industry is built, explained Doug Malo, South Dakota State University Distinguished Professor of Soils and Assistant Head of the Plant Science Department.
"The majority of income in South Dakota stems from agriculture production. All production, whether crop or livestock, depends upon the health of our state's soil resource," Malo said. "Maintaining soil health allows us to produce forage and crops which support food production for our growing population."
He added, "We can ill afford to have a negative impact on soil's health through inappropriate activities or practices."
To enhance and protect this valuable resource, Malo continues a 75-year legacy of SDSU faculty serving on a Multistate Research and Extension Committee dedicated making detailed soil survey data accessible to land users.
"In order to effectively manage our soil resource, we need to know the basic characteristics of the soil and understand how soils vary throughout our landscape," he said.
Established in 1940, the Multistate Research and Extension Committee, identified as NCERA-003, is made up of faculty and researchers from 12 Land Grant Universities, including; South Dakota State University, University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, Purdue University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, North Dakota State University, Ohio State University; as well as a conglomeration of governmental agencies and private consultants.
The participating members of the committee evaluate soil health and compare data they collect from sites across their states. The USDA-NRCS and the Cooperative Soil Survey develop soil maps from this data which are then made accessible to the public online or through a phone app. "If we can assist land users in understanding their soil resource, they can make informed, research-based decisions to enhance soil health and land-use," Malo said. "In the end, this information is used to enhance overall stewardship of our nation's soil resources."