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Posts tagged: soil health

Florida Discovers the Cover and Grows Soil Workgroup

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

It started as an informal gathering of interested extension agents, agronomists, farmers and staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, who came to Gainesville, Fla. to attend an Internet-based conference sponsored as part of this year’s soil health campaign.

But much of the information was based on Midwestern experience.  Everyone knows Florida is different, with sandy soils and a longer growing season.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising when the Gainesville group suggested taking the discussions further.  In a flurry of emails, the follow-up meeting evolved into a small tour of cover crop practitioner Kirk Brock’s farm, and then grew to include neighboring Fulford Farms. Read more »

Small Farmers Share Land, a High Tunnel and Knowledge

Phalla Nol, Nancy Faulkner and Jim Faulkner in front of the high tunnel.

Phalla Nol, Nancy Faulkner and Jim Faulkner in front of the high tunnel.

When Jim and Nancy Faulkner bought their small farm in Boxborough, Mass. in 2009, the place was a mess. Buildings were falling down, the soil was poor and the land was covered with invasive plants. Nonetheless, they wanted to turn it into a sustainable farm.

Help came from two very different directions: a government agency and another small farmer.

“I really needed a farm plan,” said Jim Faulkner, who wanted to ensure he complied with town bylaws. “I wanted to show that I was serious and that I had a plan.” Read more »

USDA Helps Landowners Manage for Soil Health, Buffer Drought Effects

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is.

“The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.

The top two components of topsoil are clay content and soil organic matter that hold nutrients and water for plant use and growth. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Cutting Edge Conservation

This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Read more »

Picture it! Conservation!

This month USDA will be highlighting the value of conservation with a different focus each week.

Sometimes the benefits of conservation can be abstract. For example, think a minute about the dollar value of a single tree. Can you come up with a number?

Did you consider that the tree creates oxygen, captures carbon and provides wildlife habitat? Or that the tree serves as a windbreak, shades and cools the surrounding area, and improves water quality? Don’t forget, these benefits extend for many decades over the lifetime of a healthy tree. Read more »

Cover Crops and Soil Health Awareness Gaining Popularity in South Carolina

Jason Carter is one of the five South Carolina farmers participating in a field study funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant. His tillage radishes are part of his multispecies cover crop mix. NRCS photo.

Jason Carter is one of the five South Carolina farmers participating in a field study funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant. His tillage radishes are part of his multispecies cover crop mix. NRCS photo.

Nearly 100 farmers recently gathered in Dillon County, S.C. to see why some farmers are raving about the benefits of cover crops. A few groups hosted a field day to illustrate first-year findings resulting from demonstrations made possible through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the three-year grant to the soil and water conservation districts in Richland, Dillon and Marlboro counties and the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute at the University of South Carolina (USC).

The project involves five farmers in three counties across South Carolina who agreed to plant multispecies cover crops each fall, vary the amount of nitrogen they apply each spring and record their cash crop yields. Read more »