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Soil Health

Soil Health in Nebraska

Soil is a living and life-giving substance, without which we would perish. As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. So much so that we believe improving the health of our Nation’s soil is one of the most important conservation endeavors of our time.

Nebraska farmers have been taking steps to improve the health of their soil. Meet some of Nebraska's "Soil Health Heroes":

Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability: Nebraska's Soil Health Partnership
Farmers, conservationists and others interested in soil health are working to inform and support other producers across Nebraska through a budding soil health partnership. Aaron Hird, NRCS’ soil health specialist in Nebraska, says the partnership helps everyone benefit from the experience and expertise of the group. “At this point in the youth of soil health we are having to learn this as we go. It’s definitely a two-way street as we work through each individual process with each farmer. Each case is different and we learn so much every time we put this on the ground,” Hird says.

Bill Nielsen, has been using cover crops and other soil health practices to improve his Kearney County farm in central Nebraska.

Farmer, Educator Sows Seeds of Sustainability on Nebraska Farm
He's an educator who loves to learn. And when it comes to his soil health-centric farming approach, Mike McDonald admits he doesn’t mind making a mistake or two along the way, as long as he learns something in the process.

Farmer/Retailer’s Adventures in Cover Crops Yield Multiple Benefits on and Off the Farm
Veteran no-till farmers Jason Degenhardt and his family farming partners, Kenny and Colby, have long witnessed the benefits of foregoing the plow in lieu of the no-till drill. Decreased erosion and increased moisture retention are at the top of that list.

Conservation Practices Help Saunders County Landowner Not Treat Soil Like Dirt
Some people are passionate about football, antiquing, travel or hunting. But, it isn’t every day you find someone who’s passionate about dirt. After visiting with Saunders County landowner David Hartman, it becomes obvious that he gets pretty excited about that stuff under our feet – and according to David – we’re taking advantage of it.

Nebraska No-Till Farmer Says, "Just Say 'NO!' to Tillage"

Tillage is a catastrophic event for the soil! You can see the difference between soil that has been tilled and one that has been no-tilled for over 11 years. See the difference between no-till vs. tilled soil HERE.

Hear Nebraska farmers talk about their Soil Health successes in the following episodes of Playa County Radio:

Good Soil Health Practices Benefit Playas
Playa wetlands benefit from practices that result in good soil health. The Natural Resources Conservation Service says there are four principles to improving soil health: 1) keep soil covered as much as possible; 2) disturb the soil as little as possible; 3) keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil; and 4) diversify as much as possible using crop rotation and cover crops.

No-till and Cover Crops Help Rainwater Basins
South-central Nebraska producer John Kinley has a three-acre rainwater basin in a crop field. He talks about progressive practices such as no-till production and cover cropping. Even though he farms through his wetland, no-till leaves the playa with cover year-round, and it now attracts ducks and geese as they migrate.

Nebraska Farmer Learns New Tricks With Cover Cropping
Nebraska farmer Bill Volkmer describes himself as an "old farmer." But this old farmer is willing to learn some new tricks. He started planting cover crops in 2011. Cover-cropping — the practice of keeping fields covered between cash-crops — leads to a healthier, more bio-diverse soil and better crop productivity, which directly helps the bottom line. By selecting specific plants, from amongst the broadleafs, the grasses and the legumes, producers can improve their soils. By keeping soil covered, there's less evaporation, and when it's windy, there's less loss of topsoil.

Improving Water Filtration through No-till and Cover Crops
Scott Gonnerman started no-till practices in 2005 and began cover-cropping his east Nebraska fields in 2009. He says he used to think of the soil simply as dirt. But he's seen with his own eyes how infiltration has improved in step with a healthier ecosystem immediately below the soil surface. 

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 across the nation regarding soil health and learn more about some of the farmers who are unlocking the secrets in the soil.

Explore the Science of Soil Health

Purdue’s Dr. Eileen KladivkoWhen we use tillage the soil ecosystem is disturbed on a massive scale.  Purdue’s Dr. Eileen Kladivko contrasted natural ecosystems with tilled systems and what we stand to lose when soils are tilled. Watch the video:The Science of Soil Health: What Happens When You Till?




Profiles in Soil Health

Rodney Rulon’s “Profile in Soil HealthRodney Rulon and his family were a little bit reluctant to get started with cover crops. They didn’t have any experience with covers, and so they started with about 60 acres their first year. But the Arcadia, Indiana family soon saw the benefits and now have about 3,000 acres “under cover.” More importantly, they’re very pleased with the results. Watch the video: Profile in soil health: Rodney Rulon.


Newspaper/Magazine Info-Graphics

Infographic Web CopyThere are a lot of interesting facts about healthy soil. Check out these informative graphics to unlock some of the secrets in healthy soil. Newspaper, magazine and newsletter editors are encouraged to download and publish these graphics (royalty-free) to help their readers discover some of the interesting facts at our feet.