Heathly Soils Have Positive Impact on Crop Productivity and Resource Conservation
Marlon Winger, State Agronomist
Alexis Collins, Public Affairs Specialist: 208.685.6978
Boise, Idaho, September 12, 2013– The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service encourages farmers to improve soil health to increase their production and profits as well as protect their natural resources.
“Emphasizing soil health is one of the easiest and most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment,” said Marlon Winger, NRCS Idaho State Agronomist. “Healthy, functioning soil sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes, and beneficial insects.”
Soil is made up of air, water, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living and dead organisms, and mineral matter such as sand, silt, and clay. Healthy soils are porous and allow air and water to move freely through them. “Increasing soil organic matter typically improves soil health since organic matter affects several critical soil functions like nutrient recycling and water-holding capacity,” Winger said.
Winger says taking these four actions will improve soil health:
1. Disturb the soil as little as possible
2. Grow many different species of plants through rotations and a diverse mixture of cover crops
3. Plant cover crops around harvest to keep living roots growing in the soil for as much of the year as possible
4. Keep the soil surface covered with residue year round.
“Just doing one of these may improve your soil but will not provide all the soil health benefits. The more you do, the faster your soil will be rejuvenated,” Winger said.
Farmers that manage their land in ways that improve and sustain soil health benefit from fewer inputs, sustainable outputs, and increase resiliency. Positive results are often realized immediately and last well into the future.
Healthy soils benefit all producers – from large row-crop operations to small, organic vegetable farms. Visit our website for more information http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/id/home/and click on ‘Soil Health’ under Popular Topics.
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