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Posts tagged: soil

Discover the Cover: Farmers Realize Benefits, Challenges of Soil-Improving Cover Crops

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

A growing number of farmers throughout the nation have “discovered the cover” — and for some very good reasons.

They’re recognizing that by using cover crops and diverse rotations, it’s possible to actually improve the health and function of their soil, said David Lamm, a soil health expert with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers are also reaping the benefits healthy soils bring to their operations in the form of better nutrient cycling, improved water infiltration and more consistent yields over time. Read more »

NIFA Signs Pact to Promote and Support U.S.-Israeli Agricultural R&D

NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, right, and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 22.  The MOU promotes, supports and expands the robust agricultural research and development on-going between the two countries.  (Photo by Julia Lewis)

NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, right, and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 22. The MOU promotes, supports and expands the robust agricultural research and development on-going between the two countries. (Photo by Julia Lewis)

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 portfolio.

On November 22, the United States and Israel came one step closer to renewing agricultural research and development activities that could produce new knowledge and innovations beneficial to both countries and increase the economic bottom line for farmers and ranchers.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote collaboration via NIFA among U.S. and Israeli scientists and engineers. BARD and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s intramural research agency, have cooperated on research together since BARD’s inception. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A New Report Shows the Critical Benefits of Farm Bill Conservation

America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have led the way in recent years to conserve and protect our soil, water and wildlife habitat.

With the help of Farm Bill programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked with a record number of producers since 2009 – more than 500,000 of them – to get this important work done.

Ever since the Dust Bowl, we’ve known that investments in conservation on working lands and other wild areas is important. And this week, a new report amplified our understanding for the critical importance of the Farm Bill in protecting natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Read more »

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 »