Soil is made up of air, water, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living and dead organisms, and minerals, such as sand, silt and clay. Increasing soil organic matter typically improves soil health since organic matter affects several critical soil functions. Healthy soils are also porous, which allows air and water to move freely through them. This balance ensures a suitable habitat for the myriad of soil organisms that support growing plants.
It's not difficult to improve soil health. Here’s how: till the soil as little as possible; grow as many different species of plants as possible through rotations and a diverse mixture of cover crops; keep living plants in the soil as long as possible with crops and cover crops; and keep the soil surface covered with residue year round.
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. Positive results are often realized within the first year, and last well into the future.
So whether you're a farmer, a researcher, a conservationist, or an interested citizen, our partners - the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - can help you understand the basics and benefits of soil health. To "Unlock the Secrets in the Soil", you can contact our office or visit the NRCS soil health webpage.