Continuous Roots Help Soils Hold Water

A meta-analysis conducted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that continuous roots are an effective agricultural practice for helping soil hold water. Researchers analyzed 89 studies across six continents to compare the effects of no-till farming, cover crops, crop rotations, perennial plantings, and cropland grazing on soil’s ability to capture water. They found that practices that put roots in the soil and kept them there continuously—such as planting perennials and cover crops— were most successful at soaking up precipitation. This helped those soils better withstand heavy rainfall and alleviated the most severe effects of flooding and drought. This analysis found that no-till agriculture and crop rotation did not increase water infiltration, and it found that livestock grazing reduced water infiltration, although there were few studies on that practice.