NACD is committed to promoting soil health across the nation. In 2013, NACD signed an agreement with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to engage landowners, land managers, and our conservation district members and their state associations around promoting soil health. In 2014, NRCS granted NACD a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to partner with Datu Research to develop a series of agricultural case studies on soil health. Shortly after in 2015, NACD began building the Soil Health Champions Network—now famous for bringing farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and other conservationists together to share their stories and promote soil health.
SOIL HEALTH RESOURCES
On Working Lands
When it comes to building soil health on farmland, NACD and its member districts are strong advocates for the “big three” soil health practices: crop rotation, cover crops, and no or minimum tillage systems. These practices are proven to increase the organic content in topsoils, which in turn reduces the need for frequent applications of fertilizers and mitigates the affects of drought and excessive heat on crops.
Specifically, cover crops reduce weed pressure, soil erosion, and nutrient runoff, and can provide grazing for livestock. A diverse crop rotation reduces pest and weed pressure, too, as well as improving soil workability and water availability. Like cover crops and no-till, strip-till, or other minimum till systems, crop rotations effectively recycle plant nutrients in the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers and insecticides and saving farmers money. No-till, strip-till, or other minimum till systems also lower fuel costs – since no-till equipment requires less horsepower – and can save farmers time – because conventional tilling requires multiple passes across a field, while no-till only requires one trip to plant a crop.
Soil health is also a critical feature on the 575 million acres of public and private grazing lands nationwide. These lands are vital to the economic and environmental well-being of America, and the livestock raised on these lands provide protein to people around the world. If sustainably managed, grazing and rangelands can also help protect and enhance habitat for a diverse array of wildlife. Today’s grazing practices maintain and improve the health of rangeland soils while also allowing producers to meet the nation’s need for food and fiber.
Ranch land managers face a number of challenges today, including the effects of climate change, wildfire, invasive species, and land development. Addressing these and other issues in the West is often highly complex; however, NACD believes conservation-minded, responsible grazing practices remain the key to protecting the productivity of soils on private ranches and public rangeland.
Syngenta Pesticide Series via NACD
Cost Benefit Guide for Cover Crop Use via Benton Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon
Soil Health Resources via Burleigh County Soil Conservation District in North Dakota
Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health Training Manual via Cornell University
Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative via Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Working Group Report and Recommendations via National Working Group on Cover Crops and Soil Health
Healthy Soil Resources via Ocean County Soil Conservation District in New Jersey
Managing Invasive Plants: Prescribed Grazing via Fish and Wildlife Service
Holistic Planned Grazing via the Savory Institute
Soil Health: A Smaller Focus via Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District in Indiana
Soil Health Resources via Van Buren Conservation District in Michigan
Soil Health Management Series via University of Minnesota
Healthy Soils, Health Crops via NRCS
“Resilient: Soil, water and the new stewards of the American West,” via National Young Farmers Coalition
“John Crawford: Healthy soil, healthy world,” via TED
Mob Grazing series via South Dakota State University
Water and wind erosion occur anywhere the soil is exposed, including on developed and developing lands. Soil erosion and sediment runoff reduce the carrying capacity of waterways, increase the potential for flooding, stress aquatic ecosystems, and pollute the air. Click on the links and resources below to learn more about urban and community erosion and sediment loss prevention.
Dakota SWCD – The Dakota SWCD in the Minneapolis-St Paul conducts a well-rounded urban and suburban program including services in urban erosion and sedimentation control as well as other programs.
Ciudad SWCD – The Ciudad SWCD in New Mexico initiated, designed, and constructed the Juan Tabo Project in coordination with the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, the state’s environmental and transportation departments, and the City of Albuquerque. The demonstration site, on westbound I-40 at the Juan Tabo interchange, has reduced highway maintenance expenses and turned a liability – road runoff – into an asset used for highway beautification and resource conservation.