Healthy soil. USDA-ARS photo by Peggy Greb
You probably know that climate change affects how we grow food, but you might not know that how food is grown also affects our climate. This interplay is at the heart of an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) project called “Soil and Air,” a concerted effort to feed the Earth’s 7.5 billion people while protecting the planet.
Farmers and ranchers produce food at the intersection of soil and air, which in turn impacts soil and air quality. For instance, warmer air creates warmer soil, leading to different compositions of bacteria and other microbes in the ecosystem and to increased moisture loss through evaporation. Read more »
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 »
The donation of Important Soils of the United States, Bureau of Soils, 1916, was highlighted in a ceremony hosted at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland. Pictured are (l to r): Susan Fugate, Head of Special Collections, NAL; Sally Schneider, ARS Deputy Administrator, Natural Resources & Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Stan Kosecki, Acting Director, NAL; Jill Guenther, Schoolteacher; Kirk Hanlin, USDA-NRCS Assistant Chief, and David Smith, USDA-NRCS Deputy Chief of Soil Science and Resource Assessment (SSRA). USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.
Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated science teacher from New Jersey, a valuable piece of soil science history is now available for viewing and research among the special collections at USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) in Beltsville, Maryland.
Jill Guenther, who has taught Earth and space science for 29 years, discovered the antique soils collection tucked away in a classroom cabinet. “I knew it was something special, and I wanted to use it as a display when teaching erosion and conservation issues,” she explained. Read more »
The White House recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture.
The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring the Southeast’s William “Buddy” Allen and Donald Tyler.
Farmers, ranchers, and forest land managers across the Southeast are at the forefront of climate change and its various effects on their operations, yields, and profits. Many of these producers know that adaptive agriculture practices can benefit soil, air, and water quality and at the same time increase resilience to climate change and other environmental threats. Communities and businesses that support climate-smart agriculture in turn are creating jobs and growing the rural economy.
USDA’s Southeast Regional Climate Hub works to bring land managers in the Southeast the science and other tools that can help them adapt to changing weather/climate conditions. Many farmers, ranchers and land managers are already leading efforts to develop and demonstrate the value of sustainable agricultural practices that benefit soil, air, and water quality while helping to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions. Educators and advisors have also been crucial in bringing science-based, sustainable, and climate-informed agricultural practices to the agricultural community. Read more »
An American chestnut seedling being planted on the Wayne National Forest in Ohio. Photo credit: Jared M. Dort, US Forest Service
The land of forest-covered hills, mountain music and coal has a lesson for restoration: healthy forests require healthy soils.
The forests of Appalachia, a region that extends from southern New York to Georgia, are considered to be among the most diverse temperate deciduous forests in the world, with as many as 30 different tree species growing together. Coal has played an important role in the development of Appalachian culture, but mining for coal has also created a need for restoration in extensive areas of the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region. Read more »
Challis National Forest Soil Scientist Jeremy Back monitoring forest soils
Soils sustain life. Without soils there would be no life as we know it. Consider what healthy soils mean for the 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Soils provide the fertility needed to grow the plants, forests and grasslands that support and shelter humans and animals; they store water and carbon; they recycle and purify water, air and nutrients; and healthy soils can reduce nutrient loading, sediment production and runoff.
Healthy productive soils are critical to the Forest Service mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nations’ forests and grasslands to meet the needs of future and present generations. Many of the forests and grasslands we manage today were created as part of a national effort to protect soil and water resource degradation and restore forests and ecosystems. The original forest reserves were identified to protect and secure favorable flows of water and timber (Organic Act). This included the means to reduce or minimize soil erosion.
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