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Posts tagged: soil

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 »

Alpine Team Leading the Way to Stewardship Success in Texas

When the sign-up window opened for USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in 2012, the five-member NRCS Alpine Resource Team was ready. The team is responsible for more than nine million acres of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and protecting the region’s natural resources comes first.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers who are already participating in NRCS conservation programs to take their efforts to the next level. Participants address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner with financial and technical assistance from NRCS—not only by tackling new practices, but also by maintaining, improving and managing the existing conservation measures on their operation. The program, begun in 2009, was still fairly new in 2012. Read more »

Start A School Garden – Here’s How…

Teachers and students from Adams-Friendship Middle School in Adams, Wisconsin are growing a beautiful People’s Garden in the interior courtyard of their school.

Teachers and students from Adams-Friendship Middle School in Adams, Wisconsin are growing a beautiful People’s Garden in the interior courtyard of their school.

Numerous excellent school garden programs have sprouted up across the country. School gardens often provide food that improves a child’s diet and nutrition, areas for learning, places for pleasure and recreation, as well as a continuing lesson in environmental stewardship and civic pride. But how do they take root?

School gardens are sown with similar considerations but vary based upon its geographic location, funding, grade level involvement, size, type and purpose. For anyone looking to begin a gardening program at a school, here are some tips to consider before you get growing:

Read more »

Mudding On National Forests Is Illegal and Destructive

The aftermath of "mudders" driving their vehicles through a pristine meadow on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. Participants could face charges including malicious mischief and fines up to and including paying for the costs of restoration. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The aftermath of "mudders" driving their vehicles through a pristine meadow on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. Participants could face charges including malicious mischief and fines up to and including paying for the costs of restoration. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Mudders, take note: It is against the law to tear up forest roads and meadows for fun, and the legal and financial consequences can be steep. Tearing up high-country meadows with four-wheel-drive and off-road vehicles destroys wildlife habitat and ecosystems.

During a recent investigation, Forest Service law enforcement officers gathered information about mudding that occurred over Memorial Day weekend on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest at Buck Lake Campground, near Winthrop, Wash. Read more »