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What Actions Can Improve Soil Heath?

Updated: Jun 5

There are five soil health principles that can be followed to improve soil health.

  1. Maximize Soil Cover - Largely through alternative tillage practices, these can reduce compaction and suppress weed growth, shade soil to keep it cool during the summer months, and improve water infiltration.

  2. Minimize Disturbance - Overuse of tillage, fertilizer, pesticide, overgrazing, and leaving land fallow all disrupt the ecosystem and negatively impact the soil microbial communities, which are necessary for nutrient cycling.

  3. Maximize Biodiversity - Increasing rotation diversity can improve nutrient cycling, reduce pests, and increase microbial diversity.

  4. Maximize Continuous Living Roots - Incorporating cover crops or native prairie onto the land increases living roots, which exude carbon into the soil, increasing soil organic matter, improving water infiltration and storage, and stabilizing soil.

  5. Integrate Livestock - Livestock can graze cover crops and crop residue, and in doing so, increase soil microbial activity and improve nutrient cycling.

By implementing these principles, soil can become healthier, resulting in decreased runoff, increased nutrient cycling, and increased water storage capacity, which is both good flooding and drought conditions.

For this information and more, see the NRCS soil health website.

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