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Posts tagged: soil

USDA Helps Landowners Manage for Soil Health, Buffer Drought Effects

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is.

“The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.

The top two components of topsoil are clay content and soil organic matter that hold nutrients and water for plant use and growth. Read more »

Earth Day 2014: The Hope in Healthy Soil

Conservation tillage practices like no-till allow farmers to plant cash crop seeds with little disturbance to the soil, which protects the habitat for billions of the soil’s microorganisms. NRCS photo.

Conservation tillage practices like no-till allow farmers to plant cash crop seeds with little disturbance to the soil, which protects the habitat for billions of the soil’s microorganisms. NRCS photo.

For years, it was believed that a certain amount of cropland soil erosion was inevitable. But by using conservation techniques like cover crops, no-till and diverse crop rotations, an increasing number of farmers are proving that we can actually build our soils and, in some instances, increase soil organic matter by as much as 3-4 percent.

In the process, these farmers are using less energy, maintaining or increasing production and improving their bottom lines. And that’s a reason to celebrate today—Earth Day 2014. Read more »

Top Five Reasons You Should “Root” for Soil Health Farmers on Earth Day 2014

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

Earth Day is next Tuesday.  To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers: Read more »

Earth Team Volunteers Help USDA Soil Scientists Collect Data in Remote Minnesota

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

A group of dedicated volunteers helped make it possible for soil scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to collect soil samples in remote parts of Minnesota.

Today kicks off National Volunteer Week, and NRCS is celebrating the hard work of Earth Team volunteers like the seven people in Minnesota who aided in the soil survey.

Earth Team volunteers, the agency’s volunteer corps, make a big difference, said Larissa Schmitt, a soil scientist with NRCS. “The volunteers’ wilderness skills were a huge time savings to the soil scientists,” she said. Read more »

Web Soil Survey Update Improves Data Delivery, Customer Service

Data on soils on the nation’s 3,265 soil survey areas are now updated and available free online from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“This update is a major step-forward in meeting the growing demand for NRCS soils data,” said Dave Hoover, NRCS national leader of Soil Business Systems. “Our soil scientists in every state helped us upgrade all our software and databases, improve our spatial data, and put together a complete suite of soil interpretations and other products our customers want.” Read more »

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 »