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Posts tagged: soil health

Accountant to Farmer: Finding Moisture in Dry Soil Conditions

Douglas Poole in front of his tractor

Douglas Poole is an evangelist who saved his own soil. Now he wants to help others save theirs. Photo: Jennifer Cole.

“Nothing motivates me quite like being told I can’t do something. They told me no-till doesn’t work here, and you’re not supposed to be able to grow any type of canola. Well, look around. Here we are.”

When Douglas Poole speaks, you can hear the passion in his voice for healthy soil and how it has helped his farm. Poole wasn’t always a soil health proponent; he used to be an accountant. Read more »

Chicken Ranching Boosts Pasture Soil Health on Iowa Farm

A woman with the hens

The hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.

When bison roamed the Great Plains, prairie chickens and other fowl played an important role as the clean-up crew. They would follow the herds feasting on the larvae in bison manure.

In Doug Darrow’s 160-acre mob grazing system near Oxford, Iowa, his 300 chickens have the same job, but they ride in style from paddock to paddock in an old school bus that doubles as a chicken coop. “This means there are fewer flies to pester the cows,” said Darrow. This natural form of pest control, improves herd health and rate of gain, while providing another income source from the eggs laid by the clean-up crew. Read more »

Farming Nature’s Way

The left sample, after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The right sample, conventional tillage

These two soil samples are the same soil type. The one on the left is after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The one on the right is conventional tillage.

No-till farming used to be only about reducing soil erosion. Today, continuous no-till is the preferred tillage system in some areas. Why? It’s all about soil health.

The loss of organic matter in soil, which is the lightest soil component and the first to wash away, is the healthiest portion of our topsoil. It is the house where the biological systems in our soils live and includes everything from the tiniest organisms like bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa to the more complex nematodes, micro-arthropods (think tiny spiders), and the more visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants. They are all part of healthy soil. Read more »

Oregon Organic Farmer Unlocks Soil Health Secrets and Boosts Production

Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm with tomatoes

Becoming a certified organic producer presents a unique set of restrictions and challenges. Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm overcomes those challenges with the help of a powerful ally: healthy soil. Photo by Bob Stobaugh

For agricultural producers, it’s an age-old question: How do you grow the largest, healthiest, most-profitable crops possible? Oregon organic farmer Chris Roehm says the secret is in the soil.

Co-owner and operator of Square Peg Farm in Forest Grove, Roehm is among a growing number of producers, both conventional and organic, who are realizing the benefits of improving the health and function of their soil through working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Farmers Find Conservation Good for Dobbins Creek and Soil Health

Angus cows on Tom Finnegan’s farm grazing cover crops

Angus cows on Tom Finnegan’s farm grazing cover crops.

Last spring, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota named five watersheds eligible for funding through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Dobbins Creek, located in Mower County, was one of the selected watersheds.

About 25,700 acres in size, the Dobbins Creek watershed winds through prime farmland and flows along the northeast edge of the city of Austin. NRCS has committed $488,000 for conservation activities in the watershed over the next 5 years and obligated $51,402 through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in fiscal year 2015. Read more »

Heroes of the Harvest

Jonathan Cobb holding grain near his tractor

Jonathan Cobb says that with a new focus on soil health, "We got rid of all of the tillage equipment, and just dove in,” with cover crops. Photo: Ron Nichols.

NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American. For these reasons and more, America’s Harvest Heroes deserve our thanks.

Texas Producer Changes his Mind about Leaving the Farm

Jonathan Cobb had made up his mind. He was leaving the farm.

“I was disillusioned with farming in general because we were just pushing long days and chasing acres and it didn’t seem like there was very much reward,” Cobb said. “That quality of life was not very good. My wife was having to work a lot of hours full time and really support the family. Twenty-five hundred acres really didn’t support two families, and we weren’t living extravagant lifestyles by any means.” Read more »