All About Soil Health

As stewards of the land, farmers are responsible for maintaining fertile land for future generations. A big part of this is preserving rich, healthy soil, which is important not only for a sustainable future but also for the crops these farmers grow. Soil health is a science and can be tricky to master, but there are plenty of resources available to farmers to help.

Not sure how the quality of soil impacts you? The Rodale Institute created a Soil Biology webinar to explain why healthy soil is important to individuals and the ecosystem as a whole. “The soil is not, as many suppose, a dead, inert substance,” J.I. Rodale wrote in Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Composts. “It is very much alive and dynamic. It teems with bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, molds, yeasts, protozoa, algae and other minute organisms.” The webinar goes on to explain what elements should be abundant in soil and how to maintain those levels.

A crucial aspect to preserving healthy soil is testing. Cooperative Extension offers soil testing resources and guides to help with this process. Click here to find an Extension agent near you. Many Cooperative Extensions provide online educational resources. University of Maine Extension offers this publication with a step-by-step guide to soil testing. Cornell University Cooperative Extension has an entire webpage for soil health, including the “Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual,” a soil health management plan and informative videos dedicated to proper soil testing. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension also offers a soil health webpage with various publications, updated news on soil health science and a list of websites that can provide further help.

While these organizations provide an overview of how to sustain soil health, there are many outlets that offer information on the nitty-gritty of related topics. The Rodale Institute compiled reports and publications related to soil health research discussing specific issues the organization is working on. Many of these can be viewed online here. Rodale also provides an informative, focused webinar, “Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes.”

ATTRA also compiled a list of publications the organization created that discuss specific topics surrounding soil health, ranging from “A Brief Overview of Nutrient Cycling in Pastures” to “Rye as a Cover Crop” to “Alternative Soil Amendments.” ATTRA also offers two educational webinars discussing soil health: “Organic Research and Needs: Cover Crops, Crop Rotation and Soil Health” and “Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health.”

Innovative Cover Crop Farm Tour in Ohio

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) presents a cover crop farm tour! Learn from one of Ohio’s foremost experts, David Brandt. He is a no-till farmer using cover crops extensively. David currently farms 1,250 acres of corn, soy, and wheat, and five acres of produce in Fairfield County, Ohio. He is funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to conduct research into nitrogen fixing cover crops, and also has a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant to study how cover crop species transport nutrients to the soil’s surface.

This Twilight tour will cover techniques for successful cover cropping on your farm. The tour is part of the 2013 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series from Ohio State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Team.

Details:

Tuesday, August 27th from 6 – 8 p.m. at Brandt’s Farm

6100 Basil-Western Rd.,

Carroll, OH 43112

(740) 756-4436, brandtsfarm@yahoo.com

Click here for more information.