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Posts tagged: soil

Seeing is Believing: Soil Health Practices and No-Till Farming Transform Landscapes and Produce Nutritious Food

Before image of Wasco County

Beginning in 1935, the agency helped countless farmers in the region install structures that would reduce soil erosion and prevent sediment from leaving crop fields. Photo: NRCS.

This month, we’re highlighting 12 important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and the future. NRCS’ mission is to conserve the full range of natural resources, but soil health is our foundation. And it’s the first conservation gift that we’re going to highlight. And without soil, we couldn’t celebrate with food. We encourage you to give the gift of conservation this season!

Curbing Soil Erosion

Soil is the foundation for a healthy environment. If you need proof that no-till farming works, look no further than the rolling hills of north-central Oregon.

For decades, this region was dominated by winter wheat farms that used extensive tillage to control weeds during fallow years. It was the conventional way of farming in the area, from the early 1900’s through the 1980’s. Read more »

World Soil Day – A Time to Celebrate the Foundation of Agriculture

Amy Overstreet holding soil

Amy Overstreet, NRCS Public Information Officer, created a video series for the 2015 International Year of Soils to raise awareness and appreciation for everything that soil provides.

Last year during the International Year of Soils (IYS), I had the incredible opportunity to help the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) spread the word about the many life-giving functions of soil. As part of this effort, I traveled to New York City to attend the kickoff ceremony for IYS at the United Nations, which was held on World Soil Day.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 5 as World Soil Day. It is observed this day each year to honor the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who passed away in October. He played a pivotal role in the promotion of soil science and conservation, and was a leader in sustainable land resource management. Read more »

‘Soil and Air’ – Where Crops Meet the Environment

A person holding soil in hands

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 »

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 »

Soils in the Classroom: Celebrating the Discovery and Donation of a Historic Soils Collection

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 and others

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 »

Southeast Regional Climate Hub Celebrates Agriculture Champions of Change

Champions of Change group in front of the White House

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 »