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The sustainable solutions at our feet

By Ron Nichols

To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service 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, set for April 22 this year, you should “root” for soil health farmers:

5. A lot of people are coming to dinner. We all rely on the soil for our food and fiber. By the year 2050, an estimated 9 billion people will join us at Earth’s dinner table, meaning we’ll have to grow as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the past 500.

The Soil Health Solution: Improving soil health increases the productivity and function of our soil (including nutrient uptake to plants), which offers increased food security in a growing world.

A lot of people are coming to dinner. We all rely on the soil for our food and fiber. By the year 20

4. There are fewer acres of land to grow the food we need. Globally, millions of acres of cropland are lost to development or resource degradation.

The Soil Health Solution: Improving soil health naturally can protect our working lands from erosion and desertification and ensure that our food-producing acres stay fertile and productive.

There are fewer acres of land to grow the food we need. Globally, millions of acres of cropland are

3. Weather extremes like drought and climate change pose increasing food production challenges.

The Soil Health Solution: Healthy soil is more resilient soil, with greater infiltration and water-holding capacity, which make farms more resistant to periods of drought. And since it holds more water, healthy soil helps reduce flooding during periods of intense rainfall.

Weather extremes like drought and climate change pose increasing food production challenges.

2. There is growing competition for water and other food production resources — and many resources are limited (or in some cases finite) in their supply.

The Soil Health Solution: Healthy soils help optimize those inputs and maximize nutrient use efficiency. In addition, healthy soil keeps production inputs like fertilizers and pesticides on the land and out of our streams, lakes and oceans.

There is growing competition for water and other food production resources — and many resources are

1. We can repair and rebuild it. For years, it was believed that a certain amount of cropland soil erosion was inevitable.

The Soil Health Solution: By using conservation techniques like cover crops, no-till and diverse crop rotations, an increasing number of farmers are proving that we can build our soils — and, in some instances, increase soil organic matter by as much as 3-4 percent. In the process, farmers are actually using less energy, maintaining or increasing production and improving their bottom lines. Meet some of those farmers.

We can repair and rebuild it. For years, it was believed that a certain amount of cropland soil e


In fact, there are many more reasons why soil health is important to all of us on Earth Day — and every day. Learn more about the basics and benefits of soil health and how NRCS is helping our nation’s farmers “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.”