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Soil Health

Unlock the Secrets in the SoilSoil Health is soil managed to its maximum potential through a system of conservation practices, including no-till, cover crops, advanced nutrient and pest management, and buffers and drainage systems where appropriate.

Managing for soil health is one of the easiest and most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment. Read our healthy, productive soil health checklist for growers and learn what might be a part of your soil health management system.

Why should you care about soil health? Read Farming in the 21st Century (PDF; 962 KB)

Soil Health Information

- Soil Health Fact Sheets

- How Does Soil Function? (PDF; 362 KB)

- Soil Quality Indicator Sheets

- Soil Health Assessment Card (PDF; 130 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Guide Sheet (PDF; 395 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Biological (PDF; 354 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Bulk Density (XLSX; 368 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Electrical Conductivity (XLSX; 17 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Infiltration (XLSX; 12 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Nitrogen (XLSX; 700 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - pH (XLSX; 326 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Phosphorus (XLSX; 174 KB)

- Soil Health Guide - Texture & Structure (XLSX; 549 KB)

- Does Glomalin Hold Your Farm Together? (PDF; 199 KB)

- Idaho Cover Crop Periodic Table (PDF; 39 KB)

- ARS Cover Crop Chart (PDF; 16 MB)

- Calibrating Your Drill for Cover Crop Mixes (XLS; 14 KB)

- Crop Rotation Intensity and Diversity Worksheet (XLS; 113 KB)

- Soil Health Video: Evaluating Aggregate Strength  offsite link image    Idaho NRCS Agronomist, Marlon Winger describes the soil aggregate test that helps define soil health.

Links to Useful Soil Health Publications

- National Resources and Publications

- Beyond the Beginning: The Zero Till Evolution (PDF; 3.16 MB) No-till systems and soil health

- The Biology of Soil Compaction (PDF; 728 KB)

- The Furrow February 2013 Issue is devoted to understanding the basics and benefits of soil health. Interviews with subject matter experts and farmers from across the country.

PowerPoint Presentations

- 5 Planning Principles of Soil Health (PPTX; 17 MB)

- Case Studies - 2013 – Soil Health in Action (PDF; 14.2 MB)

- Cover Crops for Soil Health by Marlon Winger (PPTX; 12 MB)

- General Soil Biology by Ray Archuleta (PDF; 30.4 MB)

- How Can I Tell if My Soil is Healthy?  (PPTX; 7.9 MB)

- Soil Chemistry by Rick Haney (PPTX; 13 MB)

- Soil Health 101 – The Basics  (PPTX; 12 MB)

- Soil Health 101 - Planning Principles  (PPTX; 7.4 MB)

Soil Health Related Videos

- Carbonomics, Keith Berns

- Earthworms Processing Crop Residue (AVI; 39 MB)

- Great Plains Drill Seeding Triticale into Cover Crop (3g2; 303 KB)

- Marlon Winger Teaching 3 Soil Health Demonstrations in Utah offsite link image    

- Marlon Winger Talks on Soil Health With a Demo on Soil Structure offsite link image    

- Microbes in the Soil.  The soil is a living biological system (WMV; 5 MB)

- Orchardgrass Response to Grazing (WMV; 6 MB) 

- Protozoa Mass Feeding  A glimpse of soil food web interactions simulated under a microscope (MP4; 52 MB) 

- Root and Microbe Interactions (WMV; 14 MB)  

- Soil Health and Potato Production by Brendan Rockey

- Strip till Implement Planting Sugar Beets into Wheat Stubble (AVI; 36 MB) 

- Saving Our Soil:

Profiles in Health

- Roots of a No-Till Legend Run Deep

- Idaho farm focuses on soil health to ensure productivity, sustainability

Soil Health References

- Names of Books and Websites (PDF; 195 KB)

- Soil and Health Library (PDF; 6.32 MB)

- Unpacking and Setup of the Travel-Lite (PDF; 4 MB)

National NRCS Soil Health Website

- National NRCS Soil Health Homepage

Idaho Soil Health Contact

Shawn Nield, State Soil Scientist, (208) 378-5728,

Regional Soil Health Contact

Marlon Winger, Agronomist, (307) 258-4610,