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Posts tagged: soil

USDA Celebrates Soil’s Importance on its Special Day

In this photo from the 2009 Society for Range Management (SRM) Award tour, Soil Quality Specialist, Rick Bednarek, formerly of SD, explained the darkness of the soil was due to the organic matter which is the key indicator of the health of soil.

In this photo from the 2009 Society for Range Management (SRM) Award tour, Soil Quality Specialist, Rick Bednarek, formerly of SD, explained the darkness of the soil was due to the organic matter which is the key indicator of the health of soil.

Too often, it’s treated like dirt. But this week our living and life-giving soil is finally getting some of the respect it deserves today, for World Soils Day.

While soil may not enjoy the media attention of Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s, it can be argued that it shares importance with all three. Where would we be without soil?

This amazing resource is responsible for nearly all life on the planet. Naturalist Aldo Leopold describes soil perfectly, saying: “Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” Read more »

Mimic Nature to Harvest Benefits of Healthy Soil, Expert Says

NRCS joins others to celebrate World Soil Day on Dec. 5.

NRCS joins others to celebrate World Soil Day on Dec. 5.

In the minds of many, a freshly tilled field is picturesque – clean and ready for the next planting. But according to a soil health expert, what looks good to the eye, isn’t always good for the soil – or a farmer’s bottom line.

Thursday, on World Soil Day, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating the importance of healthy soils and sharing how farmers and ranchers can help care for it through conservation practices like no-till.

When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks from the previous crop are chopped, and the top several inches of soil structure are disturbed. Conventional thought suggests this fluffing action allows for better seed placement, but Ray Archuleta, NRCS conservation agronomist, said that no-till systems, especially when combined with cover crops, are better – and lead to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.

Read more »

Ancient Pacific Creation Legend Promotes Soil Health

Ancient Palauans feeding the giant child, Chuab. This painting is common on traditional meeting houses. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Ancient Palauans feeding the giant child, Chuab. This painting is common on traditional meeting houses. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Imagine talking about soil management to 50 farmers from Palau with a collective 1,500 years of experience. The Ngetkip Community’s minister of community and cultural affairs requested me, a resource conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Palau, to talk about soil.

These farmers mostly have no formal education or training. They still farm mostly with hand tools and as their parents and grandparents taught them. They know what to do, what works well and how to do it. But they don’t necessarily know why. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Taking New Steps to Care for the Land and Water

Natural resource conservation is paramount to the ongoing strength of our nation. Healthy soil contributes to agricultural productivity. Healthy forests clean our water and air. Vibrant waterways are critical for our health, for transportation and for trade. Investments into conservation spur job growth and community development, particularly in rural areas.

This is an uncertain time for USDA conservation activities. Congress has not yet passed a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would continue to invest in conservation efforts, while providing rural America with certainty regarding many other important programs.

As we continue urging Congress to provide a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, USDA this week took several new steps to strengthen conservation across the country. Read more »

USDA Researchers Working Together to Conserve Our Nation’s Resources

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

USDA researchers are working together to protect and conserve our beautiful nation and all of its majestic natural resources for generations to come.  As part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), more than 60 USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are working together to gain a better understanding of the role that agricultural conservation programs and practices play in achieving our nation’s environmental objectives of clean air and water, healthy soils and flourishing natural habitats.

USDA began the CEAP program in 2003 to study the environmental benefits of conservation practices implemented through 2002 Farm Bill programs.  As part of CEAP, ARS scientists are evaluating 14 watersheds across 12 ARS locations to provide the additional scientific basis for the CEAP National Assessment being led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Those watersheds were selected in part to address specific concerns, like manure management on animal feeding operations, water use on irrigated cropland, drainage water management, wildlife habitat and riparian restoration. These watershed studies also should help develop performance measures for estimating soil, water and air quality, and perhaps other potential benefits for specific conservation practices. Read more »

COMET-Farm™: Conservation Calculation

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

USDA’s new online carbon-capture calculator, COMET-Farm™, has nothing to do with comets. This tool is all about farms and their potential to help planet Earth. Since its recent release more than 4,200 visitors have already explored the new online COMET-Farm™ tool to learn how they can become part of the climate change solution.

Record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating climate change. Agriculture has the unique opportunity to help contribute to a solution, as demonstrated by COMET-Farm™.

“When farmers use conservation practices, they improve soil health,” NRCS air quality scientist Dr. Adam Chambers says. “Healthy soil captures and stores carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.” Read more »