The extreme weather of the last few years has highlighted the importance of managing soil health.
Natural Resources Conservation Service Minnesota Soil Health Coordinator Doug Miller says topsoil is the vital part of soil, but is also the most susceptible to the effects of weather. As a result, protecting topsoil is crucial.
Miller notes clay content and soil organic matter are the top two components of topsoil. He says the amount of clay content cannot be changed. The percent of organic matter in topsoil, on the other hand, can be increased. One-percent or organic matter in the top six-inches of soil can hold about 27-thousand gallons of water per acre. By increasing organic matter, landowners can increase the holding capacity for water, making the land more resilient to extreme weather.
Keeping soil covered as much as possible, using plant diversity to increase diversity in the soil, keeping living roots in the soil as long as possible and disturbing the soil as little as possible are four principles NRCS has identified for improving soil health.
According to Miller, two farms separated by one road with the same soils, same crops and same precipitation saw different results during last year’s drought because of the management of the land. He says one farm thrived, while the other lost corn plants, soil and water.
Miller says keeping soil productive now and in the future starts with soil health.
He adds that managing for soil health can help increase productivity and profits, decrease inputs and improve sustainability for farms and ranches. The NRCS soil health website provides in-depth knowledge and experiences from landowners across the nation.
To see how soil health is making a difference - visit your local NRCS office or go online to www.nrcs.usda.gov.