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Soil Health

The Next Frontier of Conservation

Harvesting on the Eastern ShoreThe time is right to talk about soil health for two very important reasons:

  1. The world’s population continues to grow, but our soil resources do not. We must ensure that our soil resources are stable and sustainable to feed future generations.
     
  2. The land best suited to produce food and other crops continues to be lost to development. Healthier soil has the potential to help our remaining farmers achieve a higher level of profitability and sustainability.What does soil health mean to Virginia?

What does soil health mean to Virginia?

Chris Lawrence and Jim Tate, HCSWCD, examine soil in a local field.

  1. Soil health can change the land. Improving soil health over a period of five to 20 years can dramatically change soil function, productivity, and water quality downstream. Leading farmers in Virginia have already proven this to themselves and to many of us by implementing soil health management systems.
     
  2. Soil health can change people. Soil health concepts can truly change people’s attitudes about the land. The idea of not just maintaining the land, but improving it to achieve higher levels of productivity with less reliance on outside inputs is refreshing and energizing to many farmers.

What are the first steps to healthier soil?

Core functions of soil include:

  • Supplying plant roots with water, air, and nutrients with minimum of inputs
  • Absorbing even the most intense rainfall with minimum of runoff
  • Breaking down and recycling "wastes" such as plant residues and manures
  • Functioning on the highest level possible with minimum inputs

Following these Core Principles of Soil Health Management will start you on the path to better soil health!

  1. Keep the soil covered

  2. Minimize soil disturbance

  3. Maximize living roots

  4. Energize with diversity


And Remember! Don't treat your soil like dirt!
 

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