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Soil

I’m Not Going to Turn Another Clod

Plunging his shovel into a wheat field covered in soybean residue, Gary Hula hefts up a mound of crumbly soil with a grin. The county is under moderate drought and it’s just above freezing outside, but the soil in his shovel is full of moisture and riddled with worm holes—sure signs of healthy soil.

NIFA Programs Support Soil Health

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), one-third of the planet’s soils are degraded. This condition is caused by a number of natural factors, including wind and water erosion and nutrient imbalances, but people also leave an indelible impact on the earth. About 38 percent of the worlds’ surface is dedicated to agriculture to feed a population of 7.2 billion. That population is projected to increase to over 9 billion by 2050.

New Data Unveil Underground Detroit

Soils experts from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently completed a five-year project to map underground Detroit.

“Now planners, developers and others in Detroit can use our soils data to understand their soil’s ability to support green infrastructure, development and urban agriculture,” said Luis A. Hernandez with NRCS’ soil science division. “Knowing what’s under the city helps decision-makers prioritize their planning based on soil features and other specific needs to soundly achieve their land use goals.”

Earthworms Work Wonders for Soils

Think earthworms are only good for fish bait? Think again! Earthworms play a valuable role in soil health and viability in forests, prairies, gardens and even on farmland.

Earth Day is a good time to recognize earthworms as environmental helpers. They feed primarily on organic material in soils, eating fresh and decaying material from plant roots, including crops like corn and soybeans. As they feed, they move and mix their waste with the soil in a moist, microbe-rich environment. Earthworm tunnels bring in oxygen, drain water and create space for plant roots. Their natural feeding habits mean that small amounts of soil pass through their bodies and, surprisingly, when they excrete it, it is in better condition—what goes in comes out much better!

Five Signs You Might Be the Perfect 'Soil Mate'

The hope in healthy soil is taking root across America.

Farmers, ranchers, researchers, conservationists, non-profit organizations, foodies and others are all working to help regenerate our working lands by improving the health of function of our nation’s soil. So inspired by what they’re learning about the hope in healthy soil, there’s a whole new generation of “soil mates” working to unlock the secrets in the soil.