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Soil Health

Unlock the Secrets in the Soil

Soil is a living and life-giving substance, without which we would perish.Unlocking the Secrets in the Soil logo

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 endeavors of our time.

By focusing more attention on soil health and by educating our customers and the public about the positive impact healthy soils can have on productivity and conservation, we can help our Nation’s farmers and ranchers feed the world more profitably and sustainably – now and for generations to come.

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.

So whether you’re a farmer, a researcher, a conservationist or an interested citizen, the information on this site will help you “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.”

Unlock Your Farm's Potential

Click (below) to download and print your 11"x17" soil health poster. Para Espanol, aqui.

Unlock your farm's potential image











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 Pennsylvania?

What does soil health mean to Pennsylvania?

  1. Soil health can change the land. Improving soil health over a period of 5 to 20 years can dramatically change soil function, productivity, and water quality downstream. Leading farmers in Pennsylvania 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.

Soil Health in Field and Forage Crop Production

Soil health is the continued capacity of soil to function as a living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Viewing soil as a living ecosystem that has 'health' reflects a fundamental shift in the way we think about soil. Soil isn't an inert growing medium that needs to be filled up with water and nutrients when it runs out. Rather, if the soil is healthy, it is teeming with large and small organisms that live together in a dynamic, complex web of relationships. Farm crops and animals become part of this unique 'cycle of life.' Click here to learn more...

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 manure
  • 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

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







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

Areas of Focus

The links below will be take you away from the Pennsylvania website!

Soil Survey | Soil Use | Soil Research | Soil Quality | Soil Education | World Soil Resources

Call your local USDA-NRCS Service Center for soil survey information.           






USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Yuri Plowden
State Soil Scientist
359 East Park Drive, Suite 2
Harrisburg, PA 17111
Telephone: 717-237-2207
Fax: 855-813-2861

Last updated:  May 26, 2021