Soil Health A Top Priority for Minnesota NRCS

                                                                         News Feature                                                           1/29/2013

Soil Health A Top Priority for Minnesota NRCS

Minnesota NRCS is on a Health Kick! Healthy soil that is. The 2012 cropping season saw unusual weather patterns in the state. Wind and rain erosion was common on unprotected cropland.
The time could not be more right for Minnesota NRCS to begin a new era of conservation. Conservationists across the state will work not only to protect top soil but to enhance the quality and health of our state soil resources. This initiative is called Soil Health.

Soil Health utilizes the living components of the soil to conserve and improve the soil. Soil Health Management Systems include combinations of practices like conservation crop rotation, cover crops, no till, mulch tillage, and nutrient and pest management. These practices mimic nature as it existed before the land was tilled. They not only conserve topsoil, but build it, along with all the living organisms that are critical to healthy, functioning soil.

The foundation of Soil Health includes four main principles:

1) Keep the 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
4) Diversify as much as possible using crop rotation and cover crops

Microorganisms in the soil do not like disturbance of any kind, which includes both physical and chemical. These microorganisms, which number about 8 billion in one teaspoon of Minnesota topsoil, work to enhance soil organic matter and make nutrients available to plants and crops. These beneficial activities are reduced with any disturbance to the microorganisms.  Microorganisms make their home on plant roots. The microbes feed on sugars from the plant and the plant in turn feeds on nutrients made available by the microbes. They benefit each other in what is called a symbiotic relationship.

Healthy Soil (Doug Miller)Covering the soil with living plants like cover crops and dead plant residue protects the topsoil from the erosive effects of wind and rain. The cover also conserves soil moisture, increases organic matter, increases nutrient cycling, and protects microorganisms from fluctuations in soil temperature. Microbes have a desired range of temperature where they thrive at. 

Minnesota NRCS is looking forward to working with you on implementing our Soil Health efforts. Over the next few months, NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District Employees will be receiving Soil Health Training. We look forward to sharing our knowledge in the very near term.






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