Soil Health

Dig a Little, Learn a Lot: Soil Health 

 

 Managing for soil health is one of the easiest and most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment.

Results are often realized immediately, and last well into the future. Using these four basic principles is the key to improving the health of your soil.

1. Keep the soil covered as much as possible

2. Disturb the soil as little as possible

3. Keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil

4. Diversify as much as possible using crop rotation and cover crops

 

Soil Health Benefits

Farmers who manage their land in ways that improve and sustain soil health benefit from optimized inputs, sustainable outputs and increased resiliency. Healthy soils benefit all producers – managers of large, row crop operations to people with small, organic vegetable gardens. Healthy soils provide financial benefits for farmers, ranchers and gardeners, and environmental benefits that affect everyone.

Healthy soils lead to:

  Increased Production

Healthy soils typically have more organic matter and soil organisms which improve soil structure, aeration, water retention, drainage and nutrient availability. Organic matter holds more nutrients in the soil until the plants need them.

Increased Profits

Healthy soils may require fewer passes over fields because they are only minimally tilled and they aren’t over-reliant upon excessive nutrient inputs to grow crops. Healthy soils can increase farmers’ profit margins by reducing labor and expenses for fuel, and optimizing inputs.

Natural Resource Protection

Healthy soils hold more available water. The soil’s water-holding capacity reduces runoff that can cause flooding, and increases the availability of water to plants during droughts. Good infiltration and less need for fertilizers and pesticides keep nutrients and sediment from loading into lakes, rivers, and streams. Groundwater is also protected because there is less leaching from healthy soils. Additionally, fewer trips across fields with farm machinery mean fewer emissions and better air quality.

There are amazing things going on underground.  Is your soil healthy?

More resources are available  from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

 

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