Soil Health Background
Farmers across the country and around the world, in every climate and on every soil type, are seeing tremendous benefits both on and off the farm from making improvements to the health of their soil. Healthy soil can lead to increased crop yields, decreased inputs, improved water dynamics on the farm and water quality off the farm, better resilience to extreme weather events, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and even sequestration of atmospheric carbon. Soil health also forms the foundation of regenerative agriculture, a system of farm management which incorporates practices that (i) increase organic matter, biological activity, biodiversity, and carbon sequestered in the soil and (ii) improve soil structure, water quality, and the health of the ecosystem and community in which the farm is located.
The five principles of soil health, according to the National Resources Conservation Service, are:
1. Minimize soil disturbance
2. Keep soil covered as much as possible
3. Keep a living root in the soil as much of the year as possible
4. Maximize crop diversity
5. Integrate livestock where possible