Healthy, living soil and its functions are created and maintained by fungi, bacteria, plants and by invertebrate animals as diverse as annelids, springtails, and firefly larvae, among others. Soil invertebrates are fundamental to soil health and create soil structure, cycle organic matter, consume weed seeds and prey on crop pests.
This online short course is intended for NRCS staff, Soil and Water Conservation staff, Extension Educators, farmers and other agricultural professionals. Participants will learn about common soil invertebrates, their ecology and roles in soil health, scouting methods, and management strategies to increase beneficial soil animal populations.
Online Course Learning Objectives:
a. Gain an expanded understanding of soil animal diversity, including the ability to recognize the 12 most common groups of soil macroinvertebrates and to describe their role in soil health
b. Have greater, in-depth exposure to the life cycles and ecology of soil invertebrates, including the ability to describe the basic life cycles of at least 12 invertebrate groups and their role in the food web
c. Receive training in how to recognize common groups of soil invertebrates, particularly those with agricultural importance, including the ability to describe basic invertebrate body parts and physical characteristics
d. Learn to conduct hands-on field scouting and sampling of soil animals to evaluate species diversity in agricultural settings. This training will guide them toward being able to carry out that same scouting and sampling independently after the course
e. Learn how invertebrate diversity may be used as a rough bioindicator of soil health, and learn to compare the diversity of soil animals across fields with differing management practices; be able to draw general conclusions about soil health based upon the invertebrate groups present in a soil sample
f. Understand practical, science-based strategies to help increase soil life abundance and diversity