Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Posts tagged: soil health

Commitment to Innovation and Conservation Shapes the Littles’ Family Farm

The Littles in front of their cattle

The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.

When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.

Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »

Healthy Soil is Covered Soil

Bales on land

The crop nutrients removed by baling and removing corn stalks can be costly to replace.

Of the several practices USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends to improve soil health and sustainability one of the most important is to keep the soil covered. 

In corn and soybean fields, the starting point is maintaining the post-harvest crop residue on the soil surface. Crop residue is plant material remaining after harvesting, including leaves, stalks, and roots. Read more »

A Dream of Farming Becomes a Reality for this Kentucky Farm Mom

Emily Diamond's daughter on the farm

Emily handles the day-to-day operations on the farm, but everyone in the family does their part, which is what makes Diamond Family Farm such a successful family business. Photo courtesy of Emily Diamond, used with permission.

Emily Diamond is a wife, mother, and farmer. She and her family own and operate the Diamond Family Farm in LaGrange, Kentucky. Emily’s farm supplies meat for her family and to the surrounding community through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Through CSAs, the community commits to buying the farm’s harvest, sharing both the bounty and risk of farming.

As new farmers, the Diamond family had a dream of producing healthy meat for their family on their own farm.

After hard work and saving their earnings, the family purchased land and began farming. “We built it all from scratch,” Emily said, “but looking back, it would have been easier if we would have purchased land with fencing and a barn already in place.” Read more »

A Hedge against Drought: Why Healthy Soil is ‘Water in the Bank’

Niagra Falls infographic

As soil health improves, so too does its hydrologic function. This graphic illustrates how much additional water could be stored in the soil of all U.S. cropland with the addition of 1 percent of organic matter.

While most look to the sky for drought relief, an increasing number of farmers are looking to the soil. And for good reason: Healthy soils capture and store much more water – which can come in handy during dry spells.

Through its “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is leading the effort to get more farmers and ranchers to adopt soil health management systems for a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits – including drought resiliency.

So what’s the water-banking secret in healthy soil? Read more »

No-Till and Cover Crops from a Farmer’s Point of View

Jamie Scott participated in a roundtable on climate change and agriculture with USDA Secretary Vilsack in East Lansing, Michigan on April 23rd, 2015. Mr. Scott is the Chairman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and currently serves as the Vice-President of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Alongside my father Jim, I operate JA Scott Farms. Together we grow approximately 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Kosciusko County, Indiana. One-hundred percent of those acres are planted using a no-till conservation cropping system that incorporates cover crops every winter.

We use this approach to take advantage of the soil health benefits of no-till and cover crops. We have higher yields, richer soil, and improved water holding capacity. I am also encouraged that these practices can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. We have found that these benefits outweigh the added expense of labor and cover crop seeds. Read more »

The Earth Day Confessions of a Soil Health Geek

Unlock the Secrets in the Soil graphic

Farmers throughout the country are growing a new hope in healthy soil, which is cause for celebration on Earth Day 2015. Illustration by Catherine Ulitsky, NRCS.

I am a soil health geek.

I didn’t seek to become a geek. But the more I learned about our living and life-giving soil, the more I became convinced this miracle under our feet holds the promise of our future.

We are all connected to the soil. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. However, for years it was believed that the best hope for our precious soil was to slow its rate of erosion—to retard its inevitable decline. Read more »