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Posts tagged: soil

Restoring Appalachian Soils to Restore the Forests

An American chestnut seedling being planted on the Wayne National Forest in Ohio

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 »

Healthy Soils Provide Foundation for a Healthy Life on National Forests and Grasslands

Challis National Forest Soil Scientist Jeremy Back monitoring forest soils

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.

Read more »

4 Innovations You Must Read to Believe from USDA’s Tech Transfer Report

A bowl of peanuts

People who suffer from peanut and wheat allergies may soon find relief thanks to USDA funded research.

The release of the USDA’s 2014 Technology Transfer Report highlights the groundbreaking discoveries made by USDA researchers, who continue to push the envelope and come up with new and exciting innovations. The scientific advancements in knowledge and the creation of new technologies directly impact Americans in that they create safer environments and provide efficient solutions for a wide range of issues. Here are just four of the transformative innovations that can be found in the USDA Tech Transfer Report: 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 »

Honduran Agronomy Students Tour Unique USDA Laboratory

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

This was not your typical class trip. The group of agriculture students from Honduras who visited USDA’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL) in Auburn, Alabama, were given tours of a one-of-a kind research facility that features, among other things, 13 soil bins, about the length of football fields, that look like huge outdoor bowling lanes. These gigantic soil bins have a special purpose: they are used to study the effects of farm machinery on the soil.

The NSDL, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has played a key role over the years in helping farmers in southeastern United States produce quality food in sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly ways. Built in 1935, the NSDL was the world’s first full-size outdoor laboratory for tillage tools and traction equipment. Work there has influenced the design of almost all modern agricultural equipment and is credited with spawning the scientific discipline of soil dynamics. The site has been designated as an historic landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. 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 »