There is a growing recognition for the need to
regenerate and revitalize farmland soil.
Healthy soils produce high quality, nutrient dense produce. Furthermore, soils filled with strong rooted, organic matter are able to hold larger capacities of moisture. Moisture retention is not only better for crops, but also means less erosion. When the land retains water, it acts as a giant sponge, filtering and absorbing nutrients and contaminants that would otherwise enter water sources. Thriving soils, with abundant organic matter, stack benefits for farmers and their neighbors.
Exhaustion of organic soil matter, and a depletion of a diverse population of soil organisms is often the source of agricultural difficulties. Your local SWCD focuses on general soil health management and the strength of natural biological systems, which go a long way to preventing many agricultural issues.
Your local SWCD advocates for farming and grazing practices that rebuild organic topsoil matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity. Our goal is to see productive family farmlands, robust soils, and improved water quality.
Savvy agricultural professionals understand the significance of organic matter, including living organisms in the soil. Age old management practices like conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, and rotational grazing have come back into practice.
The reactionary farmer believes most soil-related problems can be dealt with by using external inputs, aka… fertilizers, irrigation, subsoilers, or pesticides. But problems like nutrient deficiencies, minimal moisture retention, compacted soils, plant disease or insect infestations are often simply symptoms of underlying problems. Problems that are literally right beneath our feet... in the soil.
Buffers of grasses, hedges, and trees are an effective soil conservation tool that can be used to improve water quality. They minimize soil erosion by reducing surface runoff.
Conservation buffer strips limit the movement of soil sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens through the soil from the field. Furthermore, they improve wildlife habitat and air quality by reducing chemical emissions.
These buffers have even proven to be effective at degrading pesticides and in lessening pesticide concentrations in subsurface water flow.
Irrigation water management plays a crucial role in the conservation of water, and it can also save ag producers money.
Agricultural water supply is emerging as a critical natural resource issue. Irrigated agriculture is essential in meeting our food and fiber production needs. As the Nation’s largest water user, agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s annual water consumption.
Irrigation water management encourages the application of water in an amount that meets the need of the growing plant in a manner that avoids extended soil saturation and runoff. By increasing application precision and reducing unneeded applications, water can be conserved and energy saved.
Over time, tillage reduces the pore spaces in soils; restricting infiltration and destroying biological glues. Limiting soil disturbance helps rebuild soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil glue, and organic matter. This is an essential step for long term soil productivity.
The harvest of crops, means the soil surface of a field is left bare until the next crop is planted. In the North, the next planting may be 5-7 months away. That's a long time for soil to be left bare. Cover crops will protect farmland during this vulnerable period.
Healthy plant roots are essential for good crop yields. Roots are good indicators of soil quality. Root systems help bind particles together. Furthermore, organic compounds are exuded by roots to provide nourishment for soil organisms.
Biodiversity is the driver of healthy soils. Soil biodiversity is the web of biological activity below-ground . It improves water retention, aids in resisting soil erosion, and helps plant nutrition, while controlling soil pests and disease.