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News Release

Healthy Soils For Illinois

Paige Buck, State Public Affairs Specialist
(217) 353-6606

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2012

Champaign, IL—Just last month Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White visited a family-owned farm in Ohio to announce the start of an NRCS effort that highlights benefits of improving and maintaining America’s soil. “The Soil Health effort is well aligned with what is important to agriculture. I think it will help us meet current and future demands for American-grown agriculture by encouraging farmers to use good soil and natural resource practices that are beneficial to their operations,” said State Conservationist Ivan Dozier.

Thousands of conservation farmers in Illinois already work closely with NRCS to improve soil health. Many have experienced successful harvests despite extreme weather and challenging growing conditions this year. Good soil conditions and management practices contributed to some surprising yields, even though little precipitation fell across Illinois over the summer.

“Making farm decisions to improve soil health is what farmers do every day,” said Dozier. “And NRCS’ technical specialists, staff and partners are here to help you make that happen. According to Dozier, benefits of achieving healthy soil include:

-Improve water quality -Reduce disease & pest problems
-Regulate water flow & infiltration -Improve wildlife habitat & estuarine food production
-Cycle organic wastes; detoxify noxious chemicals -Save water & increase soil water holding capacity
-Improve income sustainability -Increase nutrient-rich food production
-Stabilize & in some cases increase soil organic -Improve plant health matter & improve carbon sequestration
  -Save energy

NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn heads up the Illinois effort but local NRCS staff are ready and working with producers. “There are many different conservation practices and solutions farmers can use on their farm to begin building up healthier, more productive soils,” adds Windhorn.

A number of Illinois farmers currently promote soil health by eliminating plowing and planting cover crop mixes. This has significantly reduced inputs required for many crops and improved the soil’s ability to hold and store water. Healthy soil is rich in organic matter that feeds crops and has a very high water-holding capacity. This additional moisture retention is believed to be the basis for better than expected yields and success many farms across the country saw, even in the face of the recent drought.

The NRCS awareness and education effort for Soil Health features farmers from communities across the nation-showcasing growers who have discovered how improved soil health benefits their operations. The agency is studying successes and identifying lessons learned in many states to share these 'secrets of the soil’ with farmers in Illinois.

Awareness and education components of NRCS’s soil health initiative includes interesting fact sheets, brochures, several short videos, web resources, radio and social media announcements, as well as local field days.

To “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil,” go to NRCS’s soil health page at or contact your local NRCS office.


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