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Soil Health

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Soil is a living and life-giving natural resource. 

As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. By farming using soil health principles and systems that include no-till, cover cropping and diverse rotations, more and more farmers are actually increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity. As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while harvesting better profits and often better yields.

The resources on this soil health section of our site are designed to help visitors understand the basics and benefits of soil health—and to learn about Soil Health Management Systems from farmers who are using those systems.

New: Soil Health Web PSA

Astronomer Laura Danly, Ph.D., is lending her voice to a new series of television public service ads that encourage viewers to “Reach for the stars, but cherish the soil.”Noted astronomer urges viewers to unlock the secrets in the soil
Dr. Laura Danly of California’s Griffith Observatory is helping USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service promote its “healthy soils” campaign. But why is an astronomer talking about soil, rather than the stars?  “Studying Earth is just like studying the planets. Earth is a planet, and it’s the most amazing planet we know. It’s the only one we know that has life on it, so it’s a natural for me to want to talk about Earth and share some important messages with people about how we can make Earth healthier,” Danly says. Watch the video (2:20)

'The Hope in Healthy Soil' Video Series

The hope in healthy soil—Off-farm benefitsThe hope in healthy soil—Off-farm benefits
On the farm, healthy soil provides many benefits. But that’s only part of the story. Chapter seven outlines just a few of the off-farm benefits we also get from healthy soil including improved water and air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and stable food supplies. Watch the video (2:37). DVDs of the series may be ordered free-of-charge through NRCS’ National Distribution Center by e-mailing (specify “looped” or “chapter” versions).

Resources for landowners

Soil Health KitLandowners: Get the ‘scoop’ on soil health investment basics
Landowners and farmers across the nation increasingly realize that healthy soils are the key to fostering more productive, profitable and sustainable farms—for healthy, sustainable, long-term returns. This Soil Health Information Starter Kit will provide you with the basics and benefits of soil health, and ideas on how you can work with your farmer to build soil equity by using soil health management systems that include cover crops, diverse rotations and no-till practices. Click here to order your free kit today, send an email request to or call 1-888-526-3227. Or click here to download an electronic version of the kit.

Soil Health Across the Nation

NEW Soil Health map 2014

A growing number of America’s farmers are using soil health management systems to improve the health and function of their soil—and we’re working hand-in-hand with these producers through our technical and financial assistance programs and services to help ensure their success. Click here to use the interactive map and find out what’s happening in your state regarding soil health and learn more about some of the farmers who are unlocking the secrets in the soil.

Zack Yanta & Zachary Yanta II, Runge, TXFeatured profile in soil health
Zack Yanta & Zachary Yanta II, Runge, TX

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Other fun features

Cow-cam provides bovine view of cover crop grazingBon appetite! Cow-cam provides bovine view of cover crop grazing
Ever wonder what a cow would eat when dining at a cover crop “salad bar?” Thanks to this under-“cover” cow-cam, now you can. Watch the video. (3:02) Be sure to keep watching the video to its conclusion to see the story’s surprise happy ending.